SCORPIONS – TOKYO TAPES – HIP-O
Tokyo Tapes was recorded in Tokyo’s Sun Plaza Hall on the 24th and 27th of April, 1978. It could easily be considered one of the albums that established and added to the legend and tradition of live metal albums recorded and immortalized in Tokyo, Japan. It fits snugly beside classics such as Judas Priest’s Unleashed In The East, Deep Purple’s Made In Japan, MSG’s Live At Budokan et al. It is a definitive Scorpions album of the guitarist Uli Jon Roth era as well as the end of the road for Uli who had decided to leave the band, in part, protesting songs like He’s A Woman, She’s A Man.
Tokyo Tapes begins with an obviously spliced sustained applause that dies as soon as the music begins. Not that the album is bad. In fact, this originally double gatefold LP is one of the best, and most lucid zeitgeists of the hard rock genre.
It is an unusual choice to start a disc with a song of which one has never heard. In particular, live albums are known for being showcases for a group’s well-known songs. It is rare that one contains a song that is not on a studio album. It is even more rare for the said song to begin the live album. The sound is exceptionally clear, guitars are everywhere with Uli wailing and Rudy holding tight with the rhythm section being especially cogent. The vocals are raging and high pitched in Meine’s prime. I already mentioned the rhythm section, but the bass guitar takes another mention for its spot-on sound and mix. The production cannot be real. For a live album, it likely took some ‘handling’ in a dubbing room later. It is good for 1978 or 2008!
Pictured Life is one of this writer's old personal favourites and one of the first hard rock songs to which I ever listened. Unbeknownst to me it is from the “Belgian killer” album… well that’s how it sounds out of Meine’s mouth. While the band ignores its Lonesome Crow debut, Virgin Killer, Fly To The Rainbow, In Trance and Taken By Force are represented here. This rendition of Pictured Life is smooth and powerful. Amazing song, voice and solo. Uli Jon Roth’s fingers are the model of passion and dexterity, but the rhythm section behind him is also impeccable. The band has an eminent rhythm. The overindulgence in guitars is in the best ‘70s tradition. Listen to Backstage Queen. In Trance has such feeling and comes alive in this arena. Burn The Sky has special meaning for the band and its author Dannemann (who was with Jimi Hendrix before moving over to Roth) and here its emotions flow. Klaus has rarely been so effective. Fly To The Rainbow makes good use of dual guitars and comes across well in the live arena. The notes are hit perfectly, but it sounds as if Meine begins reciting beat poetry six minutes in. The guitars are overwhelming. The bass is note for note appropriate. The live atmosphere is never far. He’s A Woman, She’s A Man is strong, but was this song worth having Uli leave Scorpions for it? One can hear the band’s tight rhythm and the audience’s appreciation behind it. Speedy’s Coming is noisy and a riot – even more so in 1974 when it first appeared! Lest someone forgets Top Of The Bill includes a drum solo perhaps simply to establish this concert and record as a ‘70s live one. Perhaps Dark Lady best exemplifies the vocal prowess of the band. Klaus hits his high notes, while Uli hits everything else. The beat is different, while the bass almost matches the guitars. Even live, the song has a foreboding.
The album is not audio perfection. Klaus attempts – maybe succeeds – in speaking some Japanese mid-songs and also offers up a version of the Japanese song Kojo No Tsuki (‘The Moon Over Ruined Castle’) as a ballad and the rest of the group and audience soon joins in. Things take a turn for the worse with two rock and roll songs wasting time and taking valuable space. “Do you like rock and roll????” Meine asks before breaking into a cover of Elvis’ Hound Dog complete with a frenzied solo. Next comes another song Elvis sang as a cover version, Long Tall Sally. Odd that these are here when the label has opted to drop Polar Nights, which was on the original LP release, and move it to the CD release of Taken By Force.
Overall, however, Tokyo Tapes is a supreme live album. The tray photograph of the band posing and walking in Tokyo is a priceless picture of 1970s fashion and urban design. The artwork and photography are also representative and nostalgic. The album’s cover shot is simultaneously homoerotic and impossible. How can anyone bend at knees and ankles and play the guitar? – Ali “The Metallian”
SCORPIONS – LOVE AT FIRST STING – EMI
What a great album title for a band called Scorpions! It can be interpreted three ways: Sexually (go figure), referring to the sting of a scorpion or to a tattooing needle. Interpretations one and three are justified by looking at the cover photography by the famous Helmut Newton (R.I.P.), which shows an embracing couple. The guy is holding a tattooing needle, and the girl has a scorpion tattooed on her thigh. But now for the music: The opener Bad Boys Running Wild begins with a Van Halen-esque arpeggio and is a straight rocker. Rock You Like A Hurricane features the line “On the hunt tonight for love at first sting” and still is a part of the band’s live set. Other highlights are the epic Coming Home with its soft intro part, the aggressive The Same Thrill, the anthem Big City Nights (great chorus), and the well-known ballad Still Loving You. It can still be listened to, by the way, whereas Wind Of Change (from the album Crazy World) has been played to death by European radio stations. Klaus Meine’s whistling in that song almost causes nausea, but it has probably never been a big hit in North America. Who needs Crazy World when there is Love At First Sting? It is one of the best Scorpions albums of the ‘80s. – Andreas Herzog
SCORPIONS – FACE THE HEAT – POLYGRAM
The 1993 Scorpions album Face The Heat is mostly unknown among metal listeners. Interestingly, it came out right between two relatively weak records, namely Crazy World (1990) and Pure Instinct (1996). Considering this, its sound is surprisingly heavy, and the album’s production by Bruce Fairbairn is quite good. Moreover, Face The Heat featured bassist Ralph Rieckermann for the first time. He had replaced Francis Buchholz because of his involvement in the band’s income tax scandal. The band had to pay several thousand Deutschmarks of delayed income tax back then. Buchholz seems to have been responsible for financial matters in the band. The Scorpions dealt with the topic in the song “Taxman Woman” – a funny idea. The opener’s title Alien Nation, which reflects on xenophobia, is a nice pun on alienation. The song itself sounds like Queensrÿche on Empire. No Pain No Gain has a strong chorus and features a talk box. Other songs that stand out are the up-tempo Ship Of Fools, the semi-ballad Lonely Nights and the last two songs, Destin and Daddy’s Girl. Both are ballads as well, but the first one has a French intro spoken by a woman and a French chorus: Mon destin est écrit à toi. If my French does not betray me, this should mean, “My destiny is written upon you”. The second song deals with child abuse in a similar way to Motörhead’s Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me (from the album Bastards), which also came out in 1993. Who copied from whom here?
Overall, the album is of course nowhere near the band’s classics from the ‘70s or ‘80s, but fans should still check it out. It could be on sale for a very low price since it flopped at the time of its release. – Andreas Herzog