After 5 albums and the band in peak shape, it was time for a live album. While touring Japan in 1978, they recorded the two shows at Nakano Sun Plaza on April 24th and 27th. From those shows they pieced together a sensational double live album. Not only was it the band’s first live album, it was also the last album they would do with their label, RCA Records. If that wasn’t enough, it is also the last album to feature Uli Jon Roth as he left the band after the Japanese tour and prior to the release of this album. The band would audition close to 140 guitarists until they finally found the right fit in Matthias Jabs, but more on him with the next review in the series. This one is all about the live album.
The album would be released in Japan in August 1978 and around 6 months later, get released in Europe and then the U.S. The album finally saw Scorpions receive some success as they charted in 4 different countries reaching #10 in Germany and they went Gold in France. In an era of great live albums, there is no reason this shouldn’t be up there with some of the best as this takes some already great songs and turns them up a notch. I listened to this album in the car and on the turntable and once with headphones and let me tell you this is a headphone listen for the best experience. Trust me, you pick up so much more.
The album was a double LP with a beautiful gatefold which shows numerous pictures of the band and then an Abbey Road inspired shot of them crossing the street in Tokyo. What is cool about this set is the way the Vinyl are set up. Back in the 70’s they had record players where you stacked the records on top and one would drop and when it was done, the next one would drop. As a result, the first LP contains sides A & D while the second LP was Side B & C. That way you could play both sides A & B in order without have to flip the record. I believe we had one of those players growing up.
SIDE A & B:
The album and show kick off with a brand new unreleased track called “All Night Long” and it is a blistering opening track. The guitars and rhythm section sound great and Klaus’ vocals are actually rather clean and outstanding. What a range he has live and it really takes it to another level. The song gets the crowd going and then after greetings from Klaus they go in to “Pictured Life” from ‘Virgin Killer’ and just listen to Rudolf’s riff and Uli’s licks, all punch up the song to being even better than the album.
Keeping with that album they played “Backstage Queen” and what I felt wasn’t an exciting album track, live brings it to life. Then we get Uli on vocals with “Polar Nights” (also from Virgin Killer) but not before an amazing instrumental break at the start of the song where he shows why he is thought of as a great guitar player. All is going fabulously until his off-key singing which is pretty off-putting and almost completely ruins the momentum of his playing. Take out the vocals and it is a helluva an instrumental live track as Uli is at his peak here with this one song. Lastly on Side A we get “In Trance” from the album of the same name. On the album it is very dark and somber and they seem to capture that here live as well with the only difference is that I think Klaus sounds equally as good or even better. There is chugging beat in it that helps drive it forward. All around sensational.
“We’ll Burn the Sky” kicks off Side B. From ‘Taken by Force’, it starts off slow then picks up the tempo and power then goes back and forth between ballady and rocker. A 6 minute song on the album is stretched to over 8 minutes here thanks to the band as they take the solo and extend it out and all join in on the fun and just plain jam! Then they play “Suspender Love” which wasn’t released at the time but wound up on the 2001 re-issue of ‘Taken by Force’. A rocking track that would have fit fine on the album originally.
Then we get the beautiful ballad “In Search of the Peace of Mind” from the debut album. It is so beautifully done but unlike the album, it stays soft and somber with Klaus going all psycho. The final song on the first half of the album is the guitar masterpiece of “Fly to the Rainbow”. Written by Michael Schenker and Uli Roth you know it is going to be a rip-roaring guitarfest and it is. Klaus ain’t no slouch on the vocals either. But it is 9 minutes of guitar wizardry.
SIDE C & D:
“He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” from ‘Taken by Force’ kicks off Side C and what a way to start the second half of the show. It is a pure rocker full of energy and excitement and it will get you rocking as you listen to the opening solo before Klaus comes in and lays down another great vocal performance and Herman Rarebell on drums lays down some great fills. Then the go in to one of my favorite early Scorpions songs with “Speedy’s Coming” and it doesn’t disappoint. It really lives up to its name as the tempo is insane on this and so is that guitar work. Pedal to the floor, tire’s burning out, smoke-filled fun.
“Top of the Bill” doesn’t slow anything down either. They even give Herman a chance to shine as he gets a solo break here and he’s incredible and shows he is a great addition to the band. This is an amazing 3-song set to open the back half of the album. Full on rockers and might be better then the 3 opening tracks. The local production for the show asked the Scorpions to play a couple songs and they ended up playing “Hound Dog” and “Long Tall Sally”. A fun break, but not the Scorps!!
They get things back on track the killer track “Steamrock Fever” after a loud hand-clapping crowd gets the band back on stage. It is such a fun, energetic rocker that really gets you in a good mood especially when you hear those Klaus screams. They then go in to “Dark Lady” which is a shared vocal between Uli and Klaus and it is fantastic. A complete blow-your mind track and my favorite Uli sung song of his and that is because Klaus is there too. After what sounds like a second encore, they then do a standard Japanese folk song (as requested for them to do) with “Kojo No Tsuki” which is mostly just Klaus singing and he sounds great as usual. The crowd even takes a verse. It is quite nice. They end the set with “Robot Man”. No barrage of drums, but a rip-roaring guitar riff and they go out with a bang. Another adrenaline pumping song that takes the roof off the arena. Damn what a show!
‘Tokyo Tapes’ is a great time-capsule of early Scorpions and one of the great live albums of the 70’s, hands-down. If you have never heard early Scorpions, this is basically a greatest hits of that era, just live. This will make you go back and listen to everything else prior to this one. Klaus sounds fantastic and has such a great rock & roll voice, plus his annunciation is so much clearer live then on some of the albums. While Uli Jon Roth’s guitar playing is nothing short of iconic, there is no denying the sound of the band comes from Rudolf Schenker’s rhythm guitar playing. His riffs and rhythms are crisp, clean and capture the essence of the songs. Throw in Francis Buchholz bass with Herman Rarebell’s drums and you have a band that is sounding better than ever. What a pair those two are. This was a mighty enjoyable listen. My Overall Score is a 4.5 Out of 5.0 Stars and might be their best live album…but we have a lot of those to go through so we will see.
NEXT UP: LOVEDRIVE (1979)
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