Michael Schenker Group, or MSG, is the brainchild and band of former Scorpions and UFO guitarist Michael Schenker. The man is the brother of Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions and the sister of Barbara Schenker of Viva.
Schenker’s trademark guitar is a half-black and half-white Gibson Flying V. The hard rock guitarist has grappled with drug use, personal problems and inconsistent musical output in his career.
MSG was formed in London, England in 1979 and has since featured a plethora of musicians. An initial line-up with bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Denny Carmassi came to naught. The band’s first line-up, which featured then unknown British singer Gary Barden, is generally regarded as its best. During this era, the band garnered special attention in Japan, sometimes called Schenker Mania, which culminated in the One Night At Budokan album, which was recorded at the hall of the same name on the grounds of Japan’s imperial palace. The album is one of the world’s best, although it has undergone heavy overdubs in studio. The album was initially only released in Japan. It was eventually issued elsewhere afterf etching high import prices. Other musicians that have come and gone are singer Graham Bonnet (who replaced Barden to give the band a more commercial presence and departed amidst drug problems of his own), Leif Sundin, Ray Kennedy and Doogie White. Bonnet left indirectly due to his drug problems. He and the band had an altercation just before 1982’s Reading festival. Barden returned. On bass have been the likes of Stuart Hamm, Barry Sparks, Mo Foster and Chris Glen. Drummers have included Ted McKenna, Cozy Powell, Pete Holmes and, more recently, Carmine Appice. More recently, Schenker recruited Barden again to the fold (again, for a short while) and appeared or played stints with his former Scorpions band members. A more recent incarnation of the band featured former Scorpions’ members bassist Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman Rarebell.
In his journeys, Schenker has changed the band’s name and guises several times, most notably when he recruited vocalist Robin McAuley of Grand Prix and the band became McAuley Schenker Group.
A version of MSG's One Night At Budokan album featuring an unreleased Cozy Powell drum solo and the song Tales Of Mystery was out in Japan in 2003 through Toshiba EMI. In 2005, Gary Barden and Michael Schenker recorded a song for Barden's solo album. The song was called Let Me Down, while the album was entitled The Agony And The Xtacy (changed from Songs From The Thai Room). Following an attempt at a drunkard performance at the Rock & Blues Custom Show in Pentrich, England in 2007 Michael Schenker of MSG came to blows with his brother Rudy of Scorpions whose band was also on the bill. The altercation ended only with security’s intervention. Michael is well known for his alcoholic and narcotic drug use and lost several years in the ‘80s to the substances. MSG’s In The Midst Of Beauty was released on May 13th, 2008 through Inakustic GMBH. MSG then featured singer Gary Barden again. Don Airey played keyboards on the album. In 2012, singer Robin McAuley and Michael Schenker reunited in MSG for the first full tour in 20 years. MSG was touring in support of the Temple Of Rock album that winter in North America. Inakustik set a December 3rd, 2012 release date for MSG’s Temple Of Rock: Live In Europe that would be made available on CD, DVD, Blu-ray and as a limited deluxe edition containing all three formats. This release included songs performed live in Tilburg, The Netherlands in May 2012 and at London's High Voltage festival in 2011. Now called Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock, the band’s new album, Bridge The Gap, which would be released on December 2nd, 2013 through In-Akustik featured Scorpions’ members bassist Francis Buchholz and Hermann Rarebell on the album. Michael Schenker would release a new studio album, which was called Spirit On A Mission on March 23rd, 2015. Released by In-akustik the album featured Schenker's Temple Of Rock band featuring ex-Rainbow singer Doogie White, ex-Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell and bassist Francis Buchholz and Wayne Findlay. Schenker was critical of his brother and Scorpions objecting to his characterization in the band’s history and liner notes in recent releases. He claimed a relationship does not exist any longer. Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock's November 19th, 2015 concert at Joy Eslava in Madrid, Spain would become new CD and DVD called On A Mission: Live In Madrid. It will be released on May 6th in North America through Inakustik.
THE MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP – SELF-TITLED – CHRYSALIS
This is the debut ‘solo’ album of Michael Schenker formerly of Scorpions and UFO. The album was released in 1980 and is generally considered MSG’s best effort. The record was produced by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover and featured Don Airey of Rainbow on keyboards. The touring line-up and MSG II recording ensemble were different. The presence of a hitherto unknown singer, Gary Barden, and session musicians add to the curiosity of the record. It is in this framework that one gauges the record, and what a record it is. One could not ask for a more promising start – leaving aside for a moment the debut album phenomenon which invariably implies bands’ first albums remain their best – but what is about MSG I that makes it such a superlative?
Michael being a phenomenal guitarist and songwriter helps – tremendously. This is the man who contributed to classic Scorpions’ The Zoo or UFO’s Doctor Doctor. As required by the nebulous element called Chemistry the record and band were helped tremendously by the arrival of Gary Barden whose bluesy/gutsy vocals were the perfect fit. The record begins with the hard and heavy Armed And Ready and follows it up with a strong of successes like Cry For The Nations, which brings Nostradamus to the fore, Victim Of Illusion and Lost Horizons with its impressive Flying V solo. Victim is noteworthy not for its class and power, but also for its allusion to Scorpions’ music and the backing vocals which would become a band tradition including on stage. The album has its weakness and oddities as well however. The record includes two instrumentals. Into The Arena is a cool cut and its presence is hardly surprise given how the band is lead by a lead guitarist. Bijou Pleasurette is a different story and offbeat for a record of this sub-genre. One often hears Bach/Classical influences midst the wailing and chugging of the heavy record. Cry For The Nations’ start or Into The Arena are obvious examples. The LP, furthermore, ahs its weak tracks, namely Tales of Mystery, Looking Out From Nowhere and Feels Like A Good Thing. As if realizing the same, one can tell which songs are great and which are not by going over the track listing for the One Night At Budokan record, which was issued two years later in 1982. Nonetheless, this record is chock full of powerful vocals, interesting breaks, inventive guitars and steady rhythm. As much as the riffing and power of Armed And ready and Into The Arena make them stronger cuts, it is the slower Lost Horizons, which showcases the control and mastery of the singer and guitarist. The control of Gary Barden and the confidence he exudes is brilliant. Overall, this is a phenomenal hard rock time-piece.
Having heard the 1979 demos Michael and Gary occupied themselves with one’s pleasant surprise is further amplified. Songs like Just A Lover and Breakout and After Midnight are weak to the point of silliness and often hint at Bad Company. The rejection of the style and exclusion of the songs on the subsequent record speak for themselves.
The Michael Schenker Group is a great album that established Schenker’s solo career, Barden’s name and lead to commercial success in the UK and Japan for the band. Nowadays, it is an underappreciated record that would delight a traditional hard rock and heavy metal fan. – Ali “The Metallian”
MSG – TALES OF ROCK ‘N ROLL – 25 YEARS CELEBRATION – ARMAGEDDON
I have been a MSG fan for 20 years. The band’s early albums from the ‘80s are metal highlights in my book and could hardly be better. That is why it pains me to hear an album like this, which had so much potential yet ended up being underwhelming at best. Celebrating the band’s 25 years of activity and featuring former singers like Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley Tales Of Rock ‘N Roll is a concept album wherein the respective singers supply their own part in the band’s history. Clever idea and imagine the potential. This could have been massive. The flaw: the songs suck plain and simple. On track after track, the songs seem like a throwaway mixture of riffs and beats overlain with crappy vocals. In some cases, the singers have no material to work with, while in others they are simply out of tune. It is hard to believe. Admittedly, Michael can still rip and proves it here. Alas, that just seems to further expose the problem. The vocals supplied by the band’s main singer, one Jari Tiura, stink. His performance on Shadow Lady is embarrassing. The second track, called Setting Sun, might be a Freudian slip. It is only on Human Child that things begin to gel. The best of the bunch is Barden on Life Vacation and the nice melody of the song Rock’N’Roll, which features Bonnet. The songs might disappoint, but someone might have been thoughtful enough to at least stick a hot chick on the cover and salvage something out of this mess. What a painful review to type! – Ali “The Metallian”
MICHAEL SCHENKER – TEMPLE OF ROCK - MVD
Michael Schenker started out very well. The band’s first three or four records were fantastic monuments of hard rock with exciting songs, brilliant vocals, excellent musicianship and loads of attitude. Things have not been the same since.
Schenker has meandered through different incarnations and projects, acoustic, Christmas, covers, Ramadan, Valentines Day and various substances and never matched his earlier brilliance. Early singer Gary Barden was with the band again recently, but there is no sound of him here. The band’s name is different too. It is not MSG, Michael Schenker, McAuley Schenker, Schugar Schenker or even Contraband. It is simply Michael Schenker now. Of course, in honour of the eponymous band name older brother Ruddie is onboard guesting, as are Robin McAuley, Michael Amott, Don Airey, Paul Raymond, Carmine Appice and Herman Rarebell who famously on occasion did not even drum for Scorpions in the studio when he was a member of that band!
So, what does this massive ensemble of hard rock and metal bring to the table (aside from an insert advertising the label, publishing company, cables and A/V equipment)? Not much.
The songs are not dreadful by any means and do sport a couple of highlights; however, they lack highlights or spirit. They come and go and although some variety is presented, it is not of the interesting kind.
Past an intro by cheesy character William Shatner (what, Adam Sandler was busy?), The song How Long both kicks off and ends the album. The second version is the ‘3 Generations Guitar Battle’ and features Leslie West of Mountain, Michael Amott of Arch Enemy and Schenker himself. Lover’s Sinfony could have been a Justin Bieber song. Is that a piano in there? It is a lightweight party track of course. Who is this album for? Fallen Angel has an air of glam and is lame musically and given its theme of California, bla bla. What a happy beat, although it does contain some actual guitar work! Hanging on is short and catchy. The End Of An Era is still lightweight but might be the disc’s best track. It goes faster and stronger. With You is the obligatory ballad. It has a bluesy start.
Incidentally, the band features Michael Voss of Casanova on vocals that used to be a band-mate of Gary Barden, the quintessential MSG singer! – Ali “The Metallian”
MICHAEL SCHENKER – TEMPLE OF ROCK LIVE IN EUROPE – INAKUSTIK
Is this the first instance of a CD coming with a dedicated insert that is an advertisement? The name of the advertiser pitching electronic goods is the same as the band’s record company. As such, the tie-in is obvious, but regrettable and tacky. One supposes that this is partly done to address the decreasing sales of album. That, however, would be ironic. For if sales are falling then logically the advertising will be met with less and less eyeballs.
As for the album and the music itself, one is in for a shock. Readers might know that MSG’s One Night At Budokan is my favourite live album. The first three MSG studio albums and the made-in-Japan live recording are fantastic instances of classic hard rock. Then things went south and MSG has been a listless ignorable band that has nowhere near matched its early standards. The studio album, Temple Of Rock, itself is an example of a waste of space. This album, however, proves Michael Schenker still has it in him to deliver a great album. Perhaps he is best suited to live albums or that those early songs are just so good. Whatever the case, this album is amazingly good even if it does not feature early singer Gary Barden who not too long ago was on and off touring and collaborating with Schenker. In Barden’s place is vocal mercenary Doogie White, who does a fabulous job on Disc 1, and Michael Voss, on Disc 2, who also does a good job. The two discs focus on the man’s early repertoire, as well as the UFO staples (Michael was in UFO once), as well a couple of surprising Scorpions (Michel was in Scorpions once) songs, namely Blackout, Rock You Like A Hurricane, Holiday and Coast To Coast. Scorpions does not play half these songs any longer. Speaking of which, Scorpions’ Herman Rarebell and Rudolf Schenker appear on stage on select songs.
One more things Michael is quoted as referring to this album as, “The Roofing Of The Era Of Hand Made Rock.” Either Michael is still keeping his dealers busy and rich or Germans should really desist using Google Translate. It (evidently) just does not work.
Temple Of Rock is a worthwhile endeavour including fine vocalizing, real attentive guitars, solid bass and drums and a band that rocks hard and does so intently. – Ali “The Metallian”
MICHAEL SCHENKER - TEMPLE OF ROCK LIVE IN EUROPE (DVD) - INAKUSTIK
The Temple Of Rock era is what Mr. Schenker calls the third and 'celebration' chapter of his musical career, the first two chapters being excellence and self-expression & experimentation and developing respectively. These European shows certainly try to prove the celebration point as they feature songs from UFO and Scorpions in addition to his own group's material. The presence of various guest musicians and friends on stage further prove the point. Michael Voss makes an appearance on the Live in Tilburg segment and Rudolf Schenker, Jeff Scott Soto and Pete Way jam on stage on the bonus Live at High Voltage Festival segment of the DVD. Other more regular band members include Doogie White, formerly of Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen and guitarist/keyboard player Wayne Findlay.
Songs covered and played include Armed And Ready, Another Piece Of Meat, Cry Of The Nations, Shoot Shoot, Doctor Doctor, Lovedrive and other favorites for a total of 19 songs. While it is true that former Scorpions drummer Herman Rareball has writing credit for Rock You Like A Hurricane and Blackout and is - along with Francis Bucholz - a band member here it somehow feels wrong to see these two songs, and perhaps less so the older Scorpions songs, covered by Michael Schenker.
The aforementioned High Voltage Festival bonus includes an additional five songs and there is also a brief 10 minute Before The Show bonus which is a brief glimpse at how the band prepare for a show. Noteworthy being that Schenker spends some of the preparation time alone in a separate room. – Anna Tergel