REVIEW: Scorpions – Taken By Force (remaster)

The second review from Toronto Record Store Excursion 2013!  I paid $7.99 at Sonic Boom.

SCORPIONS – Taken By Force (1977, 2002 Hip-O/Universal remaster)

I don’t have all the Scorpions albums, but I’m filling in the blanks with some of the critically acclaimed early albums.  Through that process I discovered that I really like the Uli Jon Roth period!  Taken By Force was their last studio album with Roth, although it was followed in 1978 with the double live Tokyo Tapes.  Taken By Force was also the last Roth-era album that I needed in my collection.  Unfortunately, according to the Wikipedia, although this remaster contains a bonus B-side and live track, it also contains an edited version of “Sails of “Charon”, a flaw common with almost all CD versions.

Taken By Force immediately states its heavy metal purposes with “Steamrock Fever”; the sound of a jackhammer and pounding riff opens the album.  Its anthemic chorus, melded with some Roth six string trickery and that unrelenting jackhammer will knock you down.  The Scorpions are not winning any awards for lyrical poetry, preferring to take the sledgehammer route with their message too.

All this is well and good, because next is a respite.  At least for a few moments, “We’ll Burn the Sky” allows you to cool down, before a classic Schenker riff takes the fore.  “We’ll Burn the Sky” is classic Scorpions.  It combines their penchant for melody and talent for executing memorable guitar riffs.  Roth’s slippery classical-like licks are icing on the cake.

“I’ve Got to Be Free” is the first Roth composition and features the odd bluesy licks flickering in and out of an otherwise heavy rock song.  I really like the screamed verses.  The broken-English lyrics of “The Riot of Your Time” seems to refer to the death of Elvis Presley, while foretelling the future of “’94 or ’95”.  According to the Scorpions, if the world is still alive by 1995, it will “be the start for the riot of your time”.  I don’t know what that means exactly, but the guitar seems to echo The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” through a heavy metal filter.

The original LP would have been split there and side 2 introduced by wind-like sounds, before entering “The Sails of Charon”.  That windy intro is cut on this CD, so “Charon” commences with the riff.  Surely, “The Sails of Charon” must go down as Uli Roth’s greatest contribution to the Scorpions.  This majestic masterpiece is ambitious, elegant and exotic.  And heavy.  Let’s not forget that the riff, while highbrow, is as heavy as a load of concrete.  (Incidentally, Testament did an amazing cover of this.)

“Your Light” is a funky Roth composition, one of the most likeable on the whole album.  When I say “funky” I don’t mean Sly and the Family Stone, think more the Deep Purple variety of funky.  There is also common ground here with sounds that Van Halen would later inhabit.  Then, “He’s A Woman – She’s A Man” resumes the sledgehammer assault that dominated side one.  New drummer Herman Rarebell had his first writing credit on this single.  Album closer “Born to Touch Your Feelings” is a ballad, with a long outro and overlapping voices.  It’s a solid, dramatic closing to an album that grabbed my attention at every turn and every song.

This 2002 remaster contains two bonus tracks.  First is “Suspender Love”, which was originally the B-side to “He’s A Woman – She’s A Man”.  It’s a slinky tune, fun and all, but very much unlike Taken By Force as a whole.  Still, I have no problem with the inclusion of relevant B-sides, so I’m glad to have this. The other bonus track is “Polar Nights”, originally from Virgin Killer but included here in the Tokyo Tapes version.  This was done because when Hip-O reissued and remastered Tokyo Tapes, they did it as a single disc meaning this song wouldn’t fit.  It was included here so you could still buy a complete Tokyo Tapes.  This is kind of sloppy, but at least the whole package is still available.  Also, since “Polar Nights” is a showcase of Uli’s bluesy, funky fingering, it’s also a nice way to close his final album with the Scorpions.

5/5 stars

As usual, the Scorpions courted controversy with their album cover.  The original “graveyard gunfight” photo was replaced in many regions with a plain cover with band photo.  This remaster unfortunately has the alternate artwork.  Shame about that.

Record Store Excursion 2013!

PART 1

PART 2

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27 comments

    1. Scorpions have a long standing tradition of controversial cover art. The only one I don’t like is Virgin Killer. The rest of them don’t bother me. I did have one teacher who was extremely offended by the Scorpions Love at First Sting cover art.

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  1. I had a English teacher (male) who was offended by ACDCs Sink The Pink video…
    Hahaha….we spent one class talking about the merits of Acdc and what the problem was….

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  2. Nice review. I picked up In Trance, Virgin Killer, and this CD — also with the edited version of Sails of Charon — in one of those three-pack “original album series” reissues with the mini-LP sleeves; no bonus tracks unfortunately. I definitely share your positive view of this album. As for the Scorp’s covers, it was always Lovedrive that I had to hide away so Mom wouldn’t see it.

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    1. Interesting — I have a 3 pack of Fly to the Rainbow, In Trance and Virgin Killer. Weird that there would be different 3 packs with almost the same albums (but not quite)!

      Lovedrive had a bland cover here for the moms, but I have an original cover Lovedrive from Japan!

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  3. Taken By Force, Virgin Killer and In Trance – a genius threesome. I love those records. Can’t really tell which one I like the best, but this one’s got Sails Of Charon, which in my book is the best Scorpions track ever. And Tokyo Tapes… So awesome. Everybody’s going on about Made In Japan, Kiss Alive and Live And Dangerous as the live masterpieces, but Tokyo Tapes seems to be forgotten all the time.
    I dig the 80’s Scorps as well. But after World Wide Live things started to go downhill, sadly enough.
    Have you listened to the two latest Scorpions albums, Humanity: Hour One and Sting In The Tail? I can highly recommend them if you haven’t.

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    1. Yeah I agree. The downward slide started after World Wide Live although I have a soft spot for Savage Amusement, it’s clearly a bit inferior.

      I have Humanity: Hour One (only played once) but not Sting in the Tail. I’m willing to give their forthcoming MTV Unplugged a shot.

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      1. Yeah, Savage Amusement has its moments, but it’s a bit too uneven. And the same goes for Crazy World. But none of them can be compared to stuff like Animal Magnetism or Lovedrive or Blackout.
        Maybe you should give Humanity a couple of more spins. In my book it’s their best since World Wide Live and Sting In The Tail isn’t far behind. I actually have a couple of friends that are song writers who co-wrote a couple of songs for SITT.

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        1. Actually I think Crazy World was a really low point. There are some great songs like Send Me an Angel and Don’t Believe Her, but I think most are shit. Sorry that’s just how I feel :) That won’t stop me from upgrading to the deluxe edition, which of course will allow me to revisit and review.

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    2. Oh, and by the way, welcome back! I promise from now on there won’t be any more disruptive comments from anyone in the state of Florida who seems to have a hard on for Geoff Tate :)

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      1. Haha. That f**king moron. He finally seem to have left my site as well, but you should have seen some of the comments he made that I didn’t approved. I gave him a chance to start over in an adult way but he kept sending those childish comments. Even though I said I wouldn’t approve of anything he wrote – and he could clearly see that none of his comments were showing – he still kept commenting things. He has a screw loose for sure.

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  4. Great album! For some reason Your Light is one of my favorite Scorps songs of the era even though it is so different. Although so much cool stuff with Uli.

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    1. They really changed after Uli. Of course they also had mega success so I think they were happy with the change. I just don’t think Love at First Sting has the quality of Taken By Force…

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      1. Do you ever listen to Lonesome Crow? That is an incredible album. I think Michael Schenker was 16 but it doesn’t really sound like him at all. It’s a very trance-ish sounding record. Lovedrive is my fav from the Mattias Jabs years.

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        1. Oh yes I love Lonesome Crow. I didn’t always love it! I used to rank it about 1 or 2 stars out of 5. Now I rank it higher. It’s very psychedelic but as you mentioned Schenker is on there, sounding very different.

          Lovedrive is probably my favourite too from the Jabs years, that or Blackout.

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      2. I think Love At First Sting is equally as good, it’s only different. Scorps with Uli and Scorps with Jabs sometimes feels like two different bands, kinda like Van Halen with Dave and VH with Sam, but I really love both and I can’t choose.

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  5. Will have to check out some pre-Matthias Scorpions after having seen Uli with his “Scorpions Revisited” show two-and-one-half weeks ago (featuring 2 guitarists apart from Roth, one very young). I saw him about 30 years ago with Clive Bunker in Hamburg in an Electric Sun incarnation.

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      1. Well, I suppose that this DVD qualifies as recent for us old fogeys. By the way, Michael Schenker is in great form now and I have read only good reviews of his latest Temple of Rock CD.

        Also have tickets for the Scorpions’ MTV Unplugged concert in Cologne on 1 May.

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