Francis Buchholz

REVIEW: Scorpions – Box of Scorpions (2004)

SCORPIONS – Box of Scorpions (2004 Universal)

Don’t worry – this Box of Scorpions cannot hurt you!  If fact if you allow yourself to be stung, you will find your reality injected with musical ecstasy.

This isn’t a box set to buy if you are looking for unreleased treasure.  It’s strictly a compilation, although you may be able to get a few tracks you didn’t have before.  Box of Scorpions covers every album from the debut Lonesome Crow, beyond 1999’s Eye II Eye, going as far as 2002’s Bad For Good: The Very Best of Scorpions.  That compilation CD included two new songs called “Bad For Good” and “Cause I Love You”.  They were recording specifically for Bad For Good, but it makes sense to get them on the beefier Box of Scorpions instead.

The first disc of this set is inaugurated by “I’m Going Mad”, the same technicolor workout that opened their first album.  The early psychedelic Scorpions songs are only represented by a couple, with “Fly to the Rainbow” being the second.  Stone cold classics form the bulk of the disc, with “Speedy’s Coming” being an obvious focal point.  “In Trance”, “Steamrock Fever”, “We’ll Burn the Sky”, and “Virgin Killer” are all essential cuts.  You can’t fit ‘em all in, of course, but the live album Tokyo Tapes fills in some of the most obvious blanks.  “Top of the Bill”, “Dark Lady” and “Robot Man” are great live inclusions.  The disc ends with the first steps into the modern Scorpions sound with a pair from 1979’s Lovedrive.

Disc two showcases the 80s and all the big Scorpions hits.  The band streamlined their sound.  Some may say “dumbed down”.  The Scorpions of the 80s were massive, but certainly were not challenging your grey matter with complex music like the 70s band were prone to.  They also lost the regality of the Uli Roth era, something his guitar brought to the band.  It was replaced by solid 4/4 hard rock, with plenty of hits.  There is only one live song (from World Wide Live) here, “Another Piece of Meat”.  The rest are all studio originals:  “Big City Nights”, “Still Loving You”, “Rhythm of Love”, “The Zoo”, “No One Like You”, and of course that unstoppable “Hurricane”!  Deeper cuts like “Coast to Coast” and “Dynamite” provide some serious meat.  This disc would make a pretty good standalone compilation.

The third disc concentrates on the 90s, which saw the Scorpions reborn by the success of “Wind of Change”.  Unfortunately, this ushers in a slew of ballads.  The few rockers like “Tease Me, Please Me”, “Alien Nation” and “Don’t Believe Her” are almost drowned by the ballads.  There are some songs you may have missed the first time around.  In addition to the aforementioned “Bad For Good” and “Cause I Love You”, you’ll also get “Over the Top” and “Life Goes Around” which were released in 1997 on Deadly Sting: The Mercury Years.  “Cause I Love You” is really the only keeper of these four obscurities.  It was originally written in 1978 for Lovedrive, and recorded in 2002.  That’s how it sounds, too.  As for the rest, at least getting by these songs all in one place, you don’t really need the other two compilations.  Disc three also contains the unfortunate “Mysterious” from the dreadful Eye II Eye album, and the soul live song “Hurricane 2000” from Moment of Glory with the Berlin Philharmonic.  Neither are really essential though “Hurricane 2000” has its fans.

Box of Scorpions adds up to a good set with plenty of value and a few minor surprises.  If you don’t own all the albums already, this is a good buy.  Be sure to get a copy with the outer plastic slipcase still intact!

3.5/5 stars

 

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VHS Archives #24: The Scorpions discuss Crazy World (1990)

Usually Scorpions interviews involve Klaus, Rudolph and Matthias.  In October 1990, Dan Gallagher got to talk to Herman “Zee German” Harebell, Rudolph Schenker and Francis Bucholz.  Topics discussed include replacing producer Dieter Dierks with Keith Olsen, and Canada!  “You know how to rock and roll!” says Herman.

Roger Waters’ The Wall – Live in Berlin had just been released.  The Scorpions were asked to open the show with the first song “In The Flesh?”  Dan inquires about that gig and playing behind the Iron Curtain, and then asks them to say “apple strudel”!

Check out this cool interview with the Scorpions, another great example of the kind of quality television we got with the Pepsi Power Hour.

REVIEW: Scorpions – World Wide Live (1985 vinyl)

SCORPIONS – World Wide Live (1985 Polygram, 2 record set)

The first waves of CD releases generally sucked.  Double live albums like World Wide Live, Live After Death, Stages and Exit…Stage Left were edited down to fit on a single CD. One way to ensure you got the complete album (with great sound) was to just go and buy an original vinyl.  That is still the best way to enjoy World Wide Live.

The Scorpions were at a peak in 1985.  The Love at First Sting tour was one of the biggest metal shows of the decade, but the band hit a speed bump after.  This double live album was culled from five shows (three in the US and two in Europe), and sequenced for impact.

“Coming Home” and “Blackout” are a pair of bruisers.  One can detect vocal overdubs (sounds like two or three Klauses singing at once on the choruses) but they are largely unobtrusive.  Surely most of the album must be live.  You can appreciate why the Scorpions were (and still are) huge.  Riffs slice from one side to the other, while Klaus Meine dive-bombs like a screaming Stuka.  They also had the music.  Love at First Sting produced a number of hits (all here).  Nothing from the early (Uli Roth) days though, which means the album leans towards the streamlined-style Scorpions.  Older stuff would have been nice, but also would have overlapped with their prior double live, Tokyo Tapes.  None of that material was in their current set either.

This is a minor quibble.  These are the ultimate live versions of classic tunes like “Loving You Sunday Morning”, “Make it Real”, “Coast to Coast”, “Big City Nights”, “Can’t Live Without You” and all the rest.  The ballads (“Holiday”, “Still Loving You”) are awesome too, and stacked together so you can get the ballads out of the way and back to rocking again.  Scorpions must surely be one of the definitive ballad bands in metal.  These two are legendary.

Side 4 is pretty epic:  “The Zoo”, “No One Like You”, and an extended “Can’t Get Enough” with Jabs solo.  Klaus Meine has an endearing German accent; everybody loves when he tells California that they really know how to partaaaay!  (This was immortalised by Sebastian Bach in Season 7 of Trailer Park Boys where he performs a killer Klaus impression.)

Your wisest course of action should be clear.  Pick up both Tokyo Tapes and World Wide Live, on vinyl, and get all the best Scorpions tunes done up live.  This is good stuff.

4/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Scorpions – Animal Magnetism (2015 deluxe edition)

The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
Final review in this series! Mike and Aaron did simultaneous daily reviews of albums that they sent to each other. Mike gifted the original CD of Animal Magnetism to Aaron when he upgraded to the deluxe edition.  This time, we are joined by the mighty DEKE from Stick it in Your Ear!
Aaron’s review:  Scorpions – Animal Magnetism

Scan_20160402SCORPIONS – Animal Magnetism (2015 BMG deluxe edition, originally 1980)

Post-Lovedrive, the Scorpions were on a roll.  American chart success had finally come their way, and the pressure was on to follow it up.  Rather than break under the strain, the Scorpions thrived in that atmosphere and put together another solid Euro-metal album with commercial tendencies.  Newest member Matthias Jabs was now integrated with the band, and they were ready to roll.

The modern Scorpions thrived on simple, heavy metal riffage and melodic vocals.  “Make It Real”, the opening track on Animal Magnetism, exemplifies these qualities.   Chunky chugs and soaring guitar melodies are only topped by Klaus Meine’s voice of power.  “Make It Real” remains one of the classic, unforgettable Scorpions rockers today and it’s easy to hear why.  It’s a perfect concoction of what melodic heavy metal can be.

I don’t like to be too hard on the Scorpions for their lyrics, because their English is a hell of a lot better than my German!  With that in mind, “Don’t Make No Promises (Your Body Can’t Keep)” is one of those Scorpions titles that makes me cringe.  Thankfully it’s a blitzkrieg of a track, full steam ahead and dripping sleaze.  Scorpions had easily mastered the fast metal stylings that put them in similar territory as Judas Priest, but they also had a knack for slow and relentless riffs.  “Hold Me Tight” is one of these, like a slow Dio-era Sabbath prowler.

The album is strong throughout.  “Twenthiest Century Man” continues a chopping onslaught of rock, but the Scorpions also have a knack for a ballad.  “Lady Starlight”, acoustic with a full-on string section with woodwinds, is one of their finer early examples.  It’s bizarre to hear a song this tender on the same album as “Don’t Make No Promises (Your Body Can’t Keep)”.

Scan_20160402 (4)

In case you were worried the Scorps had lost it, “Falling in Love” continues the bruising on side two with another simple and effective riff.  “Only a Man” is about the only stumble, an off-kilter track that rests in the shadows of the songs before and after.  The chorus is great, but next to amazing metal classics like “The Zoo”, there is no contest.  And speaking of “The Zoo”, has there ever been such a slow yet so menacing track?  Written about their time spent in America, the lyrics are pretty silly.  “We eat the night, we drink the time, make our dreams come true.  And hungry eyes are passing by, on streets we call the Zoo.”  You don’t want to be hard on the guys for their skills with the language, but at the same time…this is also bizarrely catchy!

The title track “Animal Magnetism” is saved for last, an exotic slow crawl preceded by thunderclaps of noisy guitars.  Zeppelin meets Black Sabbath on this one, and it’s over and out.  Unless you own this deluxe edition….

“Hey You” is tacked on as the first bonus track, a strangely catchy pop rocker with Rudolph Schenker singing lead on the verses.  It has a remarkable uniqueness.  It was first released as a single, but most of us didn’t hear it until 1989’s Best of Rockers and Ballads.  That’s the easiest place to find this fun little tune.  A slew of rare demos end the deluxe CD:  “Animal Magnetism” (not at all like the album version), “American Girls”, “Get Your Love”, Restless Man”, and “All Night Long”.  Some of these songs are exactly what they are — outtakes!  Some are better than that.  “Get Your Love” was reworked on 1995’s Live Bites CD as “Heroes Don’t Cry”.  “Heroes Don’t Cry” has better lyrics and more meat on the bones, but “Get Your Love” has a raw basic quality.  “Restless Man” is an early version of “Twentieth Century Man”, all but complete including prototype guitar solos.

There will always be those fans who think albums like Lovedrive and Animal Magnetism were the beginnings of a long slide in quality.  When Uli Jon Roth left the band in 1978, he took with him their adventurous side.  Their post-Uli music was streamlined and more calculated.  Animal Magnetism remains one of their finest albums since.

4/5 stars

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