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'Spirit On A Mission'
Release Date: Monday 23rd March 2015

tony conley
Tony Conley

michael schenker

Michael Schenker is playing as well as ever - his re-emergence is still heading up that hill, and every indication is that he's ready for another run at the upper bracket.

'Spirit On A Mission' is the latest chapter of his return to rock n' roll grace, and the man is truly inspiring. In a world that's way too short of current guitar heroes, Michael and George Lynch seem to be the current kings of 'can do no wrong'.

'Spirit On A Mission' is an album ripe with juicy, new guitar riffs - I often say that the hardest job in rock is reinventing the wheel called the riff, and Michael is still finding new ways to revivify the form. It's a shame that this may be the saddest example I have heard of an album capturing his signature guitar tones. Great writing, great performances, but disappointing production haunts this album.

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Perhaps having your entire of arsenal of guitars and a half finished album stolen was just too much to overcome, but there is a bunch of fantastic playing that I am hearing on this album that sounds like it's been covered with a wet blanket. It's time to up the ante and get a better support team in - the music deserves better than it's been getting.

Schenker's writing is especially melodic, and on point. His soloing is as sharp and taut as it's been in ages, but the time has arrived for the man to be surrounded by talents as large as his own - he's earned it. You see, I can't pull punches on this because to do so would be doing a disservice to the music, and that's not something I can abide.

There's so much great playing here that it's silly, but I'm not pleased with having to imagine what I would really like to be hearing - the problem is certainly not in the top notch performances, it's in the production, mixing, and mastering. This album will suffice for the faithful, but it shall claim no new fans, and that's too bad, but it's also just part of the process that is unfolding.

'All Our Yesterdays' is a great example - great riff, stunning interplay between Schenker and drummer Herman Rarebell, cool keyboards that ache to be higher up in the mix, and a lead guitar tone which is there, but not captured in all its intended glory. This song should have me jumping up and down, but it's mostly making me want to hear it done right.

Schenker was right in wanting to involve the seven string of Wayne Findlay more on this outing and 'Let The Devil Scream' is an excellent example of what he was imagining as his leads stand out well when laying atop a thick foundation of low end action. His solo on this cut is classic Metal Mikey, and when the end of the parade comes, I can completely see where he was hoping this was heading. This won't be the album that cracks the skies for the German maestro, but it is an absolute indication that he is poised to perhaps even surpass his glorious past - the man is on fire.

It's really tough to be so hard on an album that contains some of the best material that's come from my favorite guitarist in ages, but it's my obligation to be as honest as I can about these things. Schenker's playing on 'Good Times' is the best I've heard him fire off for some time, and all I can say is that I can't wait to hear what comes next. His career has been upwardly arcing for some time, and I think we're only one step away from a full return to the days when UFO and MSG headlined festivals and halls. This current iteration has run its course, it has served him well, but it's time to up the ante.

Don't get me wrong, I think you should buy this album, and support it completely - you've gotta realize that while this is great material that I may not like in sheerly aesthetic terms, but I'm a harsh critic. If you're going to compete with the kids on a track like 'Wicked', you had better come armed for a fight - this is a better album than the band's last, but it doesn't always sound like it.

Schenker's riffing on this number is dare I say very Zeppelin-esque, but with none of the audio attractiveness of a Page production - I can hear what it is supposed to sound like, but that's not what is on the disc. Dismal production of a potentially great tune. The important thing is that Michael Schenker is still on course, he's just wrapped in paper unbefitting the gift.

This album for me is all about Michael Schenker and his career trajectory - the man has returned like a heavyweight out to win his third crown, and while I'm disappointed by the production of this album, I also commend Michael on the fantastic work he is doing. After a few few albums that have seen the legendary guitarist regaining traction at a pretty astounding pace, it is now time to suit up and make a go for the bigs - you deserve it, Mr Schenker.

It's funny that I kind of feel the same way about the new UFO record. Phil Mogg is still one of the greatest singer/songwriters on the planet, but I feel that his ship is in waters in which it cannot make the trip back home without better help along the way. I don't have to write what I'm thinking here, do I?

Yeah, the writing is on the wall. You've got two bands which are not truly whole, but with their creative staff flying as high as they have ever flown. This may not be the most popular review I will ever write, but it's honest.

Two of my absolute favorite factions of rock are treading water (which is great in these treacherous times, don't get me wrong), but it's time that they stepped back into the big leagues. I don't write casually, I write to say how I feel.

I commend this effort, but things must now get ratcheted up a notch. It's too damned close to greatness to let it falter.

'Spirit On A Mission' Tracklisting:
1. Live And Let Live
2. Communion
3. Vigilante Man
4. Rock City
5. Saviour Machine
6. Something Of The Night
7. All Our Yesterdays
8. Bulletproof
9. Let The Devil Scream
10. Good Times
11. Restless Heart
12. Wicked

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