Another year, another Scorpions album. The band recorded their fourth album during 1976 and it was released on October 9, 1976. The album saw the band continue down the hard rock road and refining their sound more and more closer to what they became most famous for, but this album didn’t see them push much further in sales. The album did better outside of Germany seeing some success in Japan, but the U.S. still hadn’t jumped on board yet. In Japan, the album landed at #32 and sold over 100,000 copies but success elsewhere was coming, but not with this album.
With the last album, ‘In Trance’, the album cover saw a little controversy. ‘Virgin Killer’ looked at ‘In Trance’ and said “Hold my Beer”. The original album cover for this album was of a nude prepubescent girl with a broken glass effect over her private parts. This did not sit well with a lot of the buying public as some considered it child pornography. The album cover was not designed by the band as they generally had no say in the album artwork, that was handled by the label and this picture was handled by Steffan Böhle who was product manager for RCA Records. Some countries wouldn’t sell the album unless it was sealed in black plastic so the cover wasn’t visible. As a result, an alternate cover that featured the band members was issued and is the cover I have. I had the opportunity about 6 months ago to buy the original cover album at a record show, but they wanted $150 for it and I didn’t want to spend that much…maybe someday.
This might the first album that didn’t see a line-up change from the prior as we still had Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, Francis Buchholz and Rudy Lenners and even Dieter Dierks was back as producer. They kept getting further away from psychedelic rock and transitioning more to their brand of hard rock, but honestly, although a popular album, it is not a favorite of mine as this might be the first one where I didn’t like the songs as much. Let’s talk about that, shall we.
The album kicks off with “Pictured Life” which is a classic sounding Scorpions’ song which we have grown to expect and love. The chorus has a great hook, we get those killer riffs and Roth lays down a splendid solo…everything you expect. Klaus Meine might not be the best vocalist in the world, but his unusual pronunciations and that scratchiness vocal is what we really need. What he lacks in power, he makes up for in tone. It isn’t the most powerful opening they’ve ever done, but it is pure Scorpions.
“Catch Your Train” brings us more of the same, but actually takes it up a notch. It follows the same formula, only improves on it. The rhythm guitar, bass and drum give a chugging feeling reminiscent of a train and drives it forward. The verses are exciting with Klaus giving it his all, but that chorus is a hook machine with the lyrics phrased perfectly. It is high energy, exciting track and for me the best on the album. It sounds like the Scorpions I grew up with in the 80’s.
Next up is “In Your Park” which takes us back to an earlier Scorpions sound with a little psychedelic tone to it. It is a slowed down track in the form of a ballad with a dark, somber bass line. It picks up on the chorus, a little, and goes right back to the slowed down grooved verses. It has a great solo by Roth but overall a weak, not very thrilling ballad. Lacking the power a good power ballad needs. It left me bored to start, but finished a little stronger but not enough to save it.
“Backstage Queen” comes back to the rocking side with a lot more hookiness that we enjoy and more great Roth guitar work. There is a nice groove to it, but overall not as exciting as the first two tracks on the album, but a step up from the previous track.
The title track, “Virgin Killer”, is not about killing virgins. It is about how time steals away the naiveness and innocence of our youth. It is a rifftastic rockfest. Klaus screams his way through the lyrics and attacks those verses. The heaviest song on the album, though a little of a mess, is still a great track and a beast to be tamed. A no holds barred approach with the vocals and the guitar work. It was like they threw everything at the wall to see what would stick and I dig it.
Side two kicks off with our first Uli Jon Roth sung track, “Hell Cat”. It is frantic and frenzied and although he isn’t always on key he does attack the song with a veracity of a wild cat…from hell. His solo is very Hendrix like and so is all the guitar work on this one. The “Hell Cat” screams are rather out there and I applaud for their attempts at keeping it interesting, but it needs to restrained a little instead of running wild.
“Crying Days” harkens back to their more progressive tendencies without the actual length as this is a normal timeframe. It sees Klaus lay down a great vocal while the guitar riffs and solos almost feel like they are floating through space. I like the nod to the old and yet keep it fresh sounding and I think it is a really cool track.
Uli is back on vocals with “Polar Nights” which is more interesting instrumentally, but vocally is a total trainwreck. The bass groove on this is killer a standout moment for Francis and no denying Uli’s talent on the six-string. Just not much talent on the vocals which thankfully isn’t that much. I mean it is bad. Did Dieter just throw his hands up and say…”That’s as good as its going to get”. Am I being harsh…but this would’ve been better as an instrumental.
The albums last track is another ballad with “Yellow Raven”. With a storm brewing at the beginning and some soft picking and a nice drum accompaniment give us the softer side of the Scorpions. Klaus almost sings like he is singing in a lounge next to a piano (though no actual piano in the song). Uli’s playing is more fantastic wizardry while Rudy’s drumming towards the end is extra cool and caps off a fantastic track and I definitely the better of the two ballads.
- Pictured Life – Keeper
- Catch Your Train – Keeper
- In Your Park – Delete
- Backstage Queen – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Virgin Killer – Keeper
- Hell Cat – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Crying Days – Keeper
- Polar Nights – Delete
- Yellow Raven – Keeper
The Track Score is 6 out of 9 Tracks or 67%. I can’t say I was blown away by this album as there aren’t a ton of memorable tracks. You do get the great “Catch Your Train”, “Pictured Life” and “Virgin Killer”, but there are too many misses when you only have 9 tracks. It wasn’t a step forward, yet not necessarily a step backwards either. They didn’t have the songs is all. The controversy of the album cover is really the most exciting thing about it and that isn’t great. Now, there were more good songs than bad so it gets a passing grade. My Overall Score is a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars. We know things get better so not going to worry about this one too much.
NEXT UP: TAKEN BY FORCE (1977)
THE SCORPIONS COLLECTION SERIES:
- Lonesome Crow (1972)
- Fly to the Rainbow (1974)
- In Trance (1975)
- Virgin Killer (1976)
- Taken by Force (1977)
- Tokyo Tapes (1978)
- Lovedrive (1979)
- Best of Scorpions (1979)
- Animal Magnetism (1980)
- Rock Galaxy (1980)
- Blackout (1982)
- Hot & Heavy (1982)
- Love at First Sting (1984)
- Still Loving You Maxi Single (1984)
- Best of Scorpions Vol. 2 (1984)
- Gold Ballads (1984)
- World Wide Live (1985)
- Savage Amusement (1988)
- Rhythm of Love – Single (Box Set) (1988)
- Best of Rockers ‘n’ Ballads (1989)
- Crazy World (1990)
- Crazy World – 4 Track From Crazy World Promo Vinyl (1990)
- Tease Me Please Me Promo CD (1990)
- Don’t Believe Her Promo CD (1990)
- Send Me An Angle Promo CD (1991)
- Face the Heat (1993)
- Live Bites (1995)
- Pure Instinct (1996)
- Big City Nights (Compilation) (1998)
- Eye II Eye (1999)
- Moment of Glory (with Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra) (2000)
- Acoustica (2001)
- Unbreakable (2004)
- Humanity: Hour 1 (2007)
- Sting in the Tail (2010)
- Comeblack (2011)
- MTV Unplugged – Live in Athens (2013)
- Return to Forever (2015)
- Rock Believer (2022)
- The Albums Ranked Worst to First