CD Reviews

Scorpions - 'Taken By Force' / 'Tokyo Tapes' / 'Lovedrive' / 'Animal Magnetism' / 'Blackout' / 'Love At First Sting' / 'World Wide Live' / 'Savage Amusement' - 50th Anniversary Editions Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     October 25, 2016    
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When you talk about genuine world class, multi-platinum superstars I'm sure the Scorpions are not he first band to spring to mind, however irrespective of how many albums, or should we say "downloads", artists sell today to people in the comfort of their own living room by clicking a little button, the Scorpions did it the hard way. They went out and toured themselves silly building a massive following around the world, at a time when selling albums meant people actually going to a record shop and actually buying a physical product, they managed to sell almost one hundred million albums worldwide racking up over fifty gold and platinum awards, not just a "click here" award as I like to call it.

These re-issues have not only been completely re-mastered but are packed full of bonus extras which all in all, if you are a Scorpions fan, makes this series utterly and totally indispensable. As there are eight albums involved, I'm not going to bore you with a blow by blow of each album plus bonus features, I'll for the purposes of time and space attempt to concentrate on the additional features contained on each release,

'Taken By Force', released in 1977 and featuring early live staples such as 'Steamrock Fever', 'He's A Woman – She's A Man' and 'We'll Burn The Sky', has six bonus tracks include five previously unreleased demos worth checking out – particularly if you are a fan of the earlier version of the band. '...Force' would be Uli Jon Roth's final studio album with the band.

'Tokyo Tapes', recorded in Japan on the '...Force' world tour, is a double live item that failed to set the world on fire, scoring moderate chart success in the bands native Germany, France (traditionally a large market for the Scorpions) as well as Japan and Sweden. The additional tracks, of which there are six, include 'Polar Nights', 'Hell Cat', 'Catch Your Train', '...Man', 'Robot Man' and the Japanese national anthem. These provide a rather splendid trip down memory lane back to when I literally played the grooves off the original vinyl album during the summer of 1979. In my opinion, a great album, perhaps not their best live performance, but they would rectify that just a few years later.

With 1979's 'Lovedrive', the Scorpions moved towards the big leagues giving the band their first chart entries in both the UK and Billboard Charts. A brief recording return for Michael Schenker who found himself recently departed from U.F.O. saw the mad axeman contribute lead guitar on three tracks, in tandem with the recently arrived Matthias Jabs before leaving again and going solo. Of the bonus material, apart from two previously unreleased tracks (one a demo version of 'Holiday', the second called 'Cause I Love You'), the good stuff is on DVD and consists of not only eight live tracks recorded in Japan in 1979, but also a forty odd minute interview with the band on the making of the album as recalled from the muddy depths of time.

'Animal Magnetism' emerged in 1980 and was a patchier affair than its predecessor, the two standout moments being the gritty 'Make It Real' and the future live set-list staple 'The Zoo'. Having provided the band with increased chart action and sales in key markets such as the USA, UK, and Germany, the band continued to gain market share despite the absence of any further top quality tunes. The bonus tracks consist of five previously unreleased offerings from the sessions as well as the originally "UK Only" B-side 'Hey You' as sung by Rudolf Schenker.

If things were beginning to look up for the boys from Hanover, then with 'Blackout' they were about to have their first taste of serious stardom. Hitting Number 1 in France, as well as Top 10 in the USA and Germany, the album just stalled shy of the Top 10 in both the UK and Canada where it peaked at Number 11. Driven by the singles chart success of the monster anthem 'No One Like You' and ably backed by live (latterly) favourites 'Blackout', 'Dynamite' and 'Can't Live Without You', the album marked the start of a serious ascent into the world of Rock superstardom. The bonus material contains four demos, one of which 'Running For The Plane' could have easily made the album, as well as a DVD of the band live in Dortmund in 1983 where they are in exceptional form; there is also a forty minute interview recalling the album recording sessions.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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'Love At First Sting', hitting double platinum in the USA by the end of 1984, was powered by the all-time classic 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' (with its fist pumping, testosterone anthemic chorus) and equally driven by another all-timer in the mega ballad 'Still Loving You' which made the Top 5 singles charts in France, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium. The ride had begun, now it was a case of hang on for dear life as the bands fortunes soared into territories new, particularly in the US where packing out stadiums and Rocking them to the core with their high energy stage show became the daily normal. Five bonus tracks, two of which made the final cut, and three unreleased start off the bonus material. The addition of a full live show from Madison Square Garden from 1984 which catches the band in particularly fine fettle is most welcome as is the DVD portion featuring the original video clips for '...Hurricane' and 'Still...' as well as 'Big City Nights' and 'I'm Leaving You'. Just when you thought it was safe to move on, a further band interview/discussion regarding the recording sessions for the album appears.

There is absolutely nothing to be said about 'World Wide Live' except it ranks up there with any of the great double live albums of the genre. It's a snap shot of a moment in time. The new teen market that opened up by a little old twenty-four hour music station called MTV went absolutely crazy for the Scorpions. It was bedlam. Nineteen tracks of stunning awesomeness delivered to perfection, including 'Holiday' recorded in France when Klaus Meine lost his voice and left it to almost twenty thousand French fans to sing it for him; amazing! The addition of an original home video, now upgraded to DVD, presents a quick peek into the life of a touring band – and how. Also included are band discussion on the recording of the album and memories of the tour surrounding it. File this entry alongside Thin Lizzy's 'Live And Dangerous', 'Kiss Alive', Iron Maiden's 'Live After Death' etc. such is the enormity of this album.

'Savage Amusement' rounds out this eight album campaign and this saw the band cash in on their newfound glory. It was now 1988 and the band have decided to play the MTV game of spandex and coiffured hair, big production videos and limousines. The Scorpions had arrived. '...Amusement' had the daunting task of following the bands biggest seller in the US in terms of studio albums ('...Sting') and to be completely frank, missed the mark. Apart from occasional moments of excellence such as 'Rhythm Of Love' and 'Passion Rules The Game', the album was just following the format that so many others had adopted for the now all important MTV generation. On release, the album went platinum within two months in the US and the band found themselves once again propelled into even bigger stadiums and bigger venues on the Monsters Of Rock tour with Kingdom Come, Dokken and Van Halen. Despite the album selling well initially, it lacked the staying power of '...Sting' and faded; however, no matter how short the spark it maintained the Scorpions seat at the top table of Hard Rock. The bonus inclusions feature six tracks, five of which are previously unreleased as well as the DVD documentary 'To Russia With Love' documenting the band's first ever trip to the old USSR where they were the first Western band to play behind the iron curtain. Also contained here are the memoirs of the band regarding the recording of the album and the subsequent tour.

There is a lovely piece from Jabs on this last re-issue. He had his parents over to the USA for the first time; they had just played in Giants Stadium, plus two other stadiums locally, and then a couple of nights at Madison Square Garden, the album was in the Top 10 and life was great. The world was Scorpions mad. Jabs' parents pulled him to one side and said the music was all fine and dandy, but when was he going to settle down and get a real job. Parents...gotta love 'em.

Kieran Dargan

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