Released: 2015, UDR Music
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
My introduction to Scorpions came via a Taken By Force LP I snatched up from the bargain bin at the now long-defunct Zayre's in South Burlington, Vt., for no other reason than it looked reasonably “metal.” Turned out, I guessed right. Phew!
That soon led me to their magnificent live Tokyo Tapes album, and I was hooked. And as much as I loved the band's masterful Lovedrive-Love At First Sting era, I've always held a candle for those years just before Scorpions exploded in large part because of the blues-rock swagger and grit, and hint of hippy weirdness guitarist Uli Jon Roth brought to their sound.
For Scorpions Revisited, Roth does just that, re-exploring and re-recording songs from the rough-and-tumble early days of the band and the four albums on which he wrote and recorded – 1974's Fly To The Rainbow through 1978's Taken By Force – with the 19 tracks covering more than half of the songs on which he originally performed. And since this expansive two-disc set is being billed as a collection of Roth's favorite Scorpions songs from that era, not all of them are his own creations - for example the Klaus Meine/Rudolph Schenker-penned “In Trance” and “Catch Your Train.” By the same token, not all of the songs Roth wrote during his time with the band are included here, such “Your Light” and “I've Got To Be Free.”
And, thankfully, in “revisiting” these songs Roth has opted against “re-imagining” them. He and his half-dozen “bandmates” stick largely to the original script of the material – though some, “We'll Burn The Sky,” “Polar Nights,” “The Sails of Charon,” “Dark Lady” and the already epic “Fly To The Rainbow,” do get extended treatments to showcase Roth's considerable chops. But for the most part, they are welcome additions.
“Charon” makes for a sensational opener with its flighty riff and Roth's supple soloing while “We'll Burn The Sky” is simply incendiary, especially at is crescendo. The jamminess gives most of the songs a loose, live feel with plenty of spunk that rarely feels self-indulgent, and Roth's deft guitar work is never anything short of spectacular. Only “Dark Lady,” at more than five minutes more than its original length, really feels drawn out.
Roth smartly breaks up the longer, more expressive tracks with short, punchy, balls-out rockers like “Catch Your Train,” “Virgin Killer,” “Pictured Life” and the Hendrixian jangle of “Hell Cat.” And while this is very much his show, he's got himself a solid cast of supporting characters that bring the right amount of muscle and groove here while proving themselves dexterous and adventurous enough to go off on any of the tangents Roth may take them with his guitar forays. Nathan James does a solid, if workmanlike job on vocals, which is about all you can ask of him given the signature Klaus Meine has stamped into Scorpions material for 40-some years.
Scorpions Revisited is a more than worthwhile trip down memory lane. Despite the seeming distance Roth put between himself and Scorpions with his more psychedelic and progressive solo work over the years, the enthusiasm and vigor he shows here in reconnecting with his hard rock roots is undeniable. And while the material is neither as slick or immediate as the Scorpions music was after his departure, there are many memorable moments here that later fans of the band would be advised to revisit as well, if only for Roth's astonishing guitar work.