Face the Heat

REVIEW: Scorpions – Face the Heat (Japanese and Canadian versions)

Part 2 of 2 — for yesterday’s instalment, click here.  For Aaron’s review of the domestic CD, click here!

FACE THE HEAT_0002SCORPIONS – Face the Heat (1993 Polygram, Japanese and Canadian versions)

1990’s Crazy World was a huge hit, but before Keith Olsen produced it, Scorpions had approached Canada’s Bruce Fairbairn.  Pleased with his work on their Who cover “I Can’t Explain”, Scorpions prepared to convene in Vancouver with the producer.  They were disappointed when Bruce changed his mind at the last minute when forced to choose between the new Scorpions and AC/DC projects.  Fairbairn chose AC/DC, and the result was the five times platinum (US) Razors Edge album.

Since Crazy World ended up selling two million in the US and another five million worldwide, I’m sure there were no hard feelings between the two parties when they finally did hook up together on the followup album, Face the Heat.  Personally speaking I felt Crazy World wasn’t heavy enough.  I was hoping for more in Face the Heat.  Additionally, this album was the Scorpions’ first since 1972 without bassist Francis Buchholz.  Replacing him was five-stringer Ralph Rieckermann who ended up spending almost a decade with the Scorpions.  Rieckermann was a very different player and added new elements such as slapped bass.

The first single “Alien Nation” showed promise.  A menacing, metallic riff ushered in a tune with some slamming drums (thank you Herman Rarebell), and that ultra-low fifth string on the bass guitar. I preferred “Alien Nation” to just about any song on Crazy World. The year was 1993 and a heavy groove was exactly what the doctor ordered.

“No Pain No Gain” exhibits the Scorpions’ knack for naff song titles. Thankfully it too is a grinding metal groove, showing off Matthias Jabs’ talkbox skills on the guitar. With the Scorpions post-Schenker and post-Roth, you have to expect a certain amount of boneheaded metal. I think these guys genuinely love givin’ er on that trademark, simple sound. I believe they like playing this kind of thing with earnest, so good on them.

Three songs in and “Someone to Touch” is another great little Scorpions rocker. This speedy one won’t tax your brain cells in the lyrical department, but you will find yourself singing along to the chorus without realizing it. The chorus bears the stamp of Fairbairn with its answering lines. After this much firepower, I don’t mind a ballad and “Under the Same Sun” (perhaps a sequel to the worldwide hit “Wind of Change”) is a good one. Besides, Scorpions follow it by firing off another rocker called “Unholy Alliance”, another knockout with a great chorus. This helps lessen the impact of the next ballad, “Woman”. “Woman” is very different from “Under the Same Sun”, being dark and mournful. Another success.

Unfortunately, Face the Heat stalls in a major way on side two. A number of boring songs in a row (“Hate To Be Nice”, “Taxman Woman”, “Ship of Fools”, “Nightmare Avenue” boast only a few surprises and memorable moments. Jabs sports a nice fatbody jazz guitar solo on “Hate To Be Nice”, a trick that Fairbairn later encouraged Eddie Van Halen to use on his band’s next album, Balance. Unfortunately, a cool unique solo like this is within the same song as these lyrics:

“Hey baby, listen up,
I’m not in love with you,
You keep runnin’ off at the mouth,
And someone else can scratch my back,
And I could care less about your legs,
I just wanna see ’em walk all over me!”

The last listed track on the domestic CD is the ballad “Lonely Nights”, another really good ballad. Who cares that they just copied the way they ended Crazy World, with a slow dark ballad like “Send Me An Angel”?  All well and good says I, but as I mentioned in yesterday’s instalment of Getting More Tale, the US and Canadian versions of the album have a hidden bonus track!  Way back in ’89, the Scorps and Fairbairn discussed recording an Elvis cover.  Tucked away unlisted after “Lonely Nights” is Elvis Presley’s “His Latest Flame”.  It is a pleasant surprise!  The trombone and trumpets are the perfect added touch.  I’m sure Scorpions grew up listening to a lot of Elvis Presley records, and this version is faultless.  It’s gleeful and authentic sounding despite the fact that it’s the Scorpions!

FACE THE HEAT_0003Neither of the two bonus tracks on the Japanese version of the CD are as good as “His Latest Flame”.  Both are ballads:  “Kami O Shin Jiru”, and “Daddy’s Girl”.  They are inconsequential to casual Scorpions fans who don’t obsessively collect all their songs.  Additionally, they are disappointing to Scorpions collectors who buy these things hoping the extra tracks will be better.  I dig Rieckermann’s fretless bass on “Kami O Shin Jiru”, but these songs only serve to end Face the Heat on an excessively mellow note.  “Daddy’s Girl” is particularly depressing; I don’t want to listen to songs about child abuse — I already know it’s bad!  Scorpions tackle the subject in their usual subtle-as-a-brick fashion.

If only the second half of Face the Heat was as strong as the first.

3/5 stars

#397: Face the Heat (Mail From Sydenham)

Part 1 of 2 — First the tale, tomorrow the review!  This tale itself is a direct sequel to Aaron’s story “Mail From Jedi Master LeBrain”.

PARCEL FACE THE HEAT

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#397: Face the Heat (Mail From Sydenham)

I collect Japanese imports, especially when there are bonus tracks afoot. A year ago, I found a Japanese copy of Scorpions’ Face the Heat CD with two such bonus tracks. I bought it from one of my favourite vendors, at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale. It was $15 and complete with obi strip. A steal. (Who says Japanese imports are very expensive anyway?)

TOP OF THE BILLBecause I try to avoid redundant copies in my collection, I donated my original CD of Face the Heat to Aaron. He reviewed it and called it “a collection of strong songs that gets better as it goes along”. I played my Japanese copy, and filed it away without giving the album much thought until recently. Martin Popoff’s excellent Scorpions tome, Top of the Bill, reminded me of an Elvis cover that Scorpions did as a hidden bonus track.

The Scorpions almost recorded “His Latest Flame” back in 1989 for their hits compilation, Best of Rockers ‘n’ Ballads. It was between Elvis and The Who’s “I Can’t Explain”. “I Can’t Explain” won out, but the Scorps gave it another go in 1993 for Face the Heat. (Incidentally both tracks were produced by the late Bruce Fairbairn.)

“His Latest Flame” was one of the first “hidden bonus tracks” in my collection. It’s very unlike anything the Scorpions had done before, but they did a damn fine job of it in my opinion. I love the horn parts. I’m sure that was Fairbairn’s doing, a trumpet player. It was buried unlisted after the end of “Lonely Nights”, the final song on the CD, as part of the same track. When I read Popoff’s book, I realized, “When I gave Aaron my original CD, I didn’t check if the Japanese CD retained that bonus track…”

Indeed, “LeBrain” the Bonehead did fail to check if “His Latest Flame” was on the Japanese CD, and it is not. It’s very rare to find a domestic CD that has a bonus track not included on a Japanese version, but it does happen, and it did happen on Face the Heat!

Gratefully, when “LeBrain” the Bonehead asked if he could have the disc back, Aaron immediately said “no problem”! He knows the kind of collector I am. He sent it back to me as a part of a recent parcel exchange that we enjoy doing from time to time!

I do appreciate that he was willing to send this “gifted” CD back. It just goes to show how two collectors understand one another! As for Face the Heat, look for my review of both CDs right here tomorrow!

The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale

My thoughts are with those in Boston tonight.
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Yesterday, T-Rev, Wes and I attended the  The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale.  T-Rev went specifically hoping to find Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake by the Small Faces, on vinyl, with the original round cover in displayable condition.  He came home with that record for the price of $30.

I hit paydirt.  I came with $200 and I left with $0 (there was a $5 entrance fee).  I also left with seven (7!!!) Japanese import rock albums all with bonus tracks, five 12″ records, a 7″ single, and a rare book.  Today I’ll show you the CDs, which I am most excited about!  You can see the rest another day.

You can’t find Japanese imports anymore around here.  And many of these are long out of print.  I’ve been looking for the Pistols’ Filthy Lucre Live since 1996.  Blackmore’s Rainbow is one that I’d seen before.  The HMV store at Fairview Mall in Kitchener had one…in 1995.  Rob Vuckovich used to try to goad me into buying it, but I couldn’t pay the $50 price tag for just one bonus track.  $15 though?  With obi strip intact?  Hell yeah!

So here’s the list of Japanese imports and what I paid.  I believe most of these have to be half of retail.

HAREM SCAREM – Live at the Gods.  This is a Japanese exclusive live album.  I paid $20, sealed.
SEX PISTOLS – Filthy Lucre Live.  I’ve been waiting a long time.  I love this album.  Two bonus tracks:  “Buddies” (“Bodies”) and “No Fun”.
SCORPIONS – Face the Heat.  I paid $15, for 2 wimpy bonus tracks called “Kami O Shin Jiru” and “Daddy’s Girl”.  Both are ballads, but for $15, no bother!
IAN GILLAN – Gillan’s Inn.  This one was a bit more expensive:  $30, because it had the DVD (that won’t play in this region).  But it also has the bonus track “Eternity” that isn’t even on the Tour Edition.
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – Wiseblood.  I paid $20, has the bonus track “The Land of Free Disease”.
RAINBOW – Stranger In Us All.  Bonus track: “Emotional Crime”.  Paid $15.
WHITESNAKE – Good To Be Bad.  Paid $20, sealed.  Two bonus tracks:  “All For Love (Alt mix/Doug solo)” and “Summer Rain (Unzipped)”.