50th Anniversary Deluxe Editions
Taken By Force (CD, LP+CD)
Tokyo Tapes (2CD, 2LP+2CD)
Lovedrive (CD+DVD, LP+CD)
Animal Magnetism (CD, LP+CD)
Blackout (CD+DVD, LP+CD)
Love At First Sting (2CD+DVD, LP+2CD)
World Wide Live (CD+DVD, 2LP+CD)
Savage Amusement (CD+DVD, LP+CD)
Release Date: 6th November 2015
German Metal legends Scorpions, formed by guitarist Rudolf Schenker in 1965, celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. Although their debut album Lonesome Crow was released in 1972, they had quite a history behind them by then.
One of Germany's most successful, and one of rock's longest lasting, Scorpions have quite a legacy, with hits and radio regulars (Still Loving You, Rock You Like A Hurricane), and several hit albums. There there's Rudolf's brother Michael Schenker (UFO, MSG) famously passing through the ranks (twice) as well as Uli Jon Roth.
And despite threats to retire, the band have rocked on and on, and earlier this year released their anniversary new album Return To Forever, reviewed here.
Article continues below...
Formed in Hannover, 1965, Rudolf Schenker was originally the vocalist, and soon switched to guitar. After a number of line-up changes, vocalist Klaus Meine and Rudolf's brother Michael joined in 1970. The band's debut, 'Lonesome Crow', appeared in 1972, before Michael jumped ship to UFO.
His replacement was Uli Jon Roth, and was joined by drummer Jurgen Rosenthal. 'Fly To The Rainbow' followed, another strong album but Scorpions were still to find their footing. It was produced by Eloy's Frank Bornemann (a band Rosenthal would later join).
'In Trance' followed, a more hard rock affair away from their progressive beginnings. 1976's Virgin Killer, originally released with controversial artwork, cemented success in Germany and Japan.
Which brings us to 'Taken By Force', originally released late 1977 / early 1978, and the first album of this reissue campaign. It was the first to feature long time drummer Herman Rarebell.
Kicking off with 'Steamrock Fever', it is typically high energy up-tempo melodic Metal. There's some fantastic guitar, and the rhythms between Rarebell and bassist Francis Bucholz drive well. 'We'll Burn The Sky' starts atmospheric and builds to a chunky heavier number.
'I've Got To Be Free' stands out too; I personally love Roth's guitar lines here. Meine's classic screaming vocals come in to their own too.
The whole album is pretty classic, there's still a slight progressive edge which keeps interest. Bonuses include a single b-side and several previously unreleased demos.
This was Roth's last album with the Scorps, but they did record 'The Tokyo Tapes' live 2LP in 1978; the last album on RCA, it sees the start of the classic Scorps and is widely rated as a good live album.
It also covers tracks from every studio album to that point. 'All Night Long' opens and it's all high energy. Stand out is the 9 minute 'Fly To The Rainbow', and the high octane rock'n'roll cover of 'Long Tall Sally' is a surprise but very welcome inclusion. This really would have got the crowd moving. Six previously unreleased live tracks from the same tour bolster the set well.
1979's 'Lovedrive' is a career highlight and sees Mathius Jabs replace Roth, the first album to feature the “classic” line-up. That said, he soon left, Michael Schenker returned to record some tracks, and left for Jabs to return, so this album features both.
Aside the controversial artwork, the band were signed to EMI Harvest and the Dieter Dierks production adds to one of the best Metal albums of the era. 'Loving You Sunday Morning' is a catchy opener and 'Another Piece Of Meat' grinds out some solid Metal.
This album is probably owned by many already, and rightly so. The bonus DVD of live 1979 material and an interview makes for an essential package.
The following 'Animal Magnetism' ranks well alongside 'Lovedrive' and many will be familiar already, especially standouts like 'Make It Real' and 'The Zoo'. With Storm Thorgerson artwork and solid production from Dierks it was a good time for Scorpions; chunky dual guitar, solos, a nod to power ballads and some real screamers - classic Scorps.
'Blackout', first released in 1982, was originally demoed with Don Dokken after Meine lost his voice and required surgery. Meine returned to record another up-tempo classic and the title track kicks off with aplomb; 'Arizona' is more melodic with a bit of shred, the album features the now customary changes of pace, a more polished 80s Metal. Again plenty of bonus tracks and a bonus DVD too - worth it for the extras alone.
Expanded to a 2CD, 1984's 'Love At First Sting' is one of the band's most successful. It includes 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' - a live and radio staple since. For me, less interesting, but certainly the commercial success proved the album's worth. Both guitars work well together, it's cohesive, melodic with a rough edge. Plenty of extras make the album worth buying (again).
1985's 'World Wide Live' was another great live album, originally a double LP. Taken from various shows on the 'Love At First Sting' tour, the crowd noise is well mixed in to give a real live feel.
Where for me at least the album loses interest, is that the tracks are taken from 1979's Lovedrive onwards, to avoid any duplication with The Tokyo Tapes, and the tracks here don't lend themselves so well to live re-interpretation / arrangement, so they are by and large fairly similar to the original album versions although Dynamite stands out as extended on this note.
That said, there is plenty of power and energy, the band and crowd frenetic alike. You can't argue with quality live Metal when tracks like 'Coming Home', 'Blackout', 'Holiday' and 'Big City Nights'. Of course 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' is present and goes down a storm. Wonderful though this album is, as the sales show, it would always suffer critically against the far better 'Live After Death' (Maiden) and 'Double Trouble' Live (Molly Hatchet) of the same year.
The more than welcome bonus DVD features live material originally issued at the time on VHS.
In 1988, after a short break, 'Savage Amusement' saw a change in direction. The last album to be produced by Derks, it experimented with styles and took a seriously more commercial direction. Smooth, polished, 'Don't Stop At The Top' was a straight ahead rock song; 'Passion Rules The Game' much more FM oriented.
The whole album was more radio friendly, plenty of solos and solid rhythms. One of the last great Scorps albums, as after this, entering the 90s things did get a tad samey.
There is plenty of bonus material, including unreleased demos, and the DVD includes video clips alongside interview and live material.
The remastered sound is spot-on on all these albums, and the packaging and bonus material adds a good dimension or two above the usual reissues. The earlier albums would really bolster the campaign.