With their 1979 album, ‘Lovedrive’, Scorpions were starting to see international success. In the States, the album went to #55 and was certified Gold. In the UK, two of the singles charted. The band was enjoying their new success and the label was ready to capitalize on that success. On November 17, 1979, the band released their first compilation called ‘Best of Scorpions’. The album reached #180 on the Top 200 album chart and didn’t garner I think the fever the band and label were hoping.
The songs from the compilation come from four of their first five albums. There were no songs chosen from their debut album, ‘Lonesome Crow’. All the songs were from ‘Fly to the Rainbow’, ‘In Trance’, ‘Virgin Killer’ and ‘Taken By Force’. There were also no songs from the newest album ‘Lovedrive’. All the songs were from the Uli Jon Roth era of the band. I’ve read some of the songs were new mixes, but not all and the ones that were sounded pretty much the same. I am sure they cleaned them up so they would all sound consistent here on the album. Let’s jump right in…
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 band’s fifth album has both a first and a last point of interest. It was the band’s first album with new drummer, Herman Rarebell, and the band’s last with guitarist Uli Jon Roth. A little good and bad news rolled in to one. Herman replaced prior drummer Rudy Lenners and is the drummer that is most known with the band as he was there through their most successful years. Uli left the band because he didn’t like the direction the band was going in which was a more commercial rock sound plus he didn’t even sing a song on this album where he had at least 2 vocals on previous ones. Uli held on until the end of the tour for the album and then left to start his own band Electric Sun. That more commercial rock sound has proven to be quite successful for the band. The full band line-up was Klaus Meine, Uli Jon Roth, Rudolf Schenker, Francis Buchholz and Herman Rarebell. A very lethal combination.
The album was recorded from June to October of 1977 and was released on December 4, 1977 just in time for Christmas. I am not sure how successful this particular album was or what chart positions it hit (if any), but I do know that Apple Music considers this to be one of their most essential albums to have in your collection.
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.
After the debut album, ‘Lonesome Crow’, Michael Schenker was given an offer he couldn’t refuse. A chance to play guitar with the amazing band UFO. He was only kid so why not jump at the chance. They had asked Uli Jon Roth to join Scorpions after helping them finish out the tour, but Uli chose not to do it and instead stayed with the band he was also in called Dawn Road. Rudolf Schenker really wanted to work with Uli so he decided to break up the band and go join Dawn Road. Dawn Road already had Francis Buchholz (bass), Achim Kirschning (keyboards) and Jürgen Rosenthal (drums), but they amazingly found themselves needing a singer. Uli convinced Rudolf to invite Klaus Meine to come sing in the band…and he agreed.
Dawn Road had four members plus two old Scorpions members. Dawn Road basically outnumbered the Scorps. However, they decided to change the band name to Scorpions mainly because that name was more well known than Dawn Road and the Scorpions were back in business. They recorded the follow-up album ‘Fly to the Rainbow’ in April 1974 and on November 1, 1974, the album was released. The album ended up selling better than ‘Lonesome Crow’ and saw the band’s sound go from psychedelic rock to a more straight-forward hard rock sound…but not the 80’s rock sound yet…still some years off. One interesting thing to note is that 3 of the songs on the album were co-written by Michael Schenker which some how was part of the deal for him leaving the band.
The album cover is not quite what you’d expect from the Scorpions. The color scheme is not very metal and Uli Jon Roth has no idea what it means and I am guessing the band had no say in what it would be. The same design firm that did the debut album, which was great, did this one as well and I am not sure what drugs they were taking, but they had to be high as a freaking kite to come up with this nonsense. I do like the back cover with the band’s name on the guys ass..that’s kinda funny. My copy of the album is a standard U.S. release and nothing special so enough about that. Let’s get to the music.