Thursday, September 20, 2012
Proto-Metal Report: Scorpions - Fly To The Rainbow
I've been totally negligent in listening to new music lately. In about 2 weeks my schedule is going to allow me to listen to more of the great stuff that I've been sent to check out for Ripple reviews but in the meantime, here's a proto-metal report about the album I've been playing a lot lately. Everyone knows I'm a huge fan of the Uli Roth era Scorpions and recently a friend gifted me with a vinyl copy of this album in all it's RCA budget label glory. It's such a great album and this copy is extremely clean. My remastered CD sounds great, the mp3's on my iPod are perfect for blasting in the car but LP is where it's at for this underrated 1974 psychedelic hard rock gem.
Scorpions released their tripped out, almost Krautrock debut Lonesome Crow in 1972 but when guitarist Michael Schenker left to join UFO, the band broke up. Founding Scorp guitarist Rudy Schenker and vocalist Klaus Meine teamed up with the incredible Uli Roth and the rhythm section of his band Dawn Road to form a new superpower. They eventually rebranded themselves as Scorpions and and recorded Fly To The Rainbow.
Side one's opener "Speedy's Coming" starts off with some vintage Stratocaster whammy torture from Uli before the rest of the band blasts in. It must have been a shock for anyone expecting the dreamy grooves of the previous album. Klaus' vocals are much more aggressive and his lyrics on this song have always been a great source of entertainment for me. "You like David Bowie & friends at the Royal Albert Hall" is a classic inside joke/put down amongst a small circle of my friends. The song is no joke, however, just kick ass 70's hard rock with incredible guitar playing. This is a great example of a guitar team that works well together. Rudy's tight rhythm guitar blends so well with Uli's virtuoso leads. "They Need A Million" starts off with Uli on acoustic guitar and ballad-ish vocals from Klaus. After about a minute Rudy fires up a strong riff and Uli's lead gets doubled by some proggy synths. The real surprise is that Rudy takes his a turn as lead vocalist with Klaus backing him up. "Drifting Sun" is Uli's chance to show off all of his best Hendrixisms. Killer wah-wah licks and his laid back Jimi-delic vocals. Klaus joins in on the chorus and Rudy sings the psychedelic bridge through some kind of rotating speaker effect. All of this is just a build up for an outstanding groove that Uli's guitar soars over. It's about 8 minutes long but could easily have been longer. Play this for your snobby Krautrock friends and don't tell them who it is until after the song's over. They'll freak! Side one wraps up with the slow, bluesy "Fly People Fly" that was co-written by Klaus and Michael Schenker.
Flip it over and "This Is My Song" fades in from mid-jam into a solid mid-tempo heavy rocker. "Far Away" is the type of ballad that would become a Scorpions trademark. Written by the usual Kluas/Rudy team it also features contributions from Michael. The title track ends the album with a 9 minute epic. It's also the only song co-written by Michael Schenker and Uli Roth. Michael probably wrote it before he quit for UFO and Scorpions wisely decided to hang on to it. Part of the acoustic intro also show's up on UFO's "Crystal Light" on their album Phenomenon (also released in 1974). Uli must have finished the music and clearly wrote the words, even though Klaus sings it. There's some great twin guitar parts that pre-date Thin Lizzy's harmonies and it's obvious that young Steve Harris was taking notes for future use in Iron Maiden. Uli's guitar playing is once again incredible and the live version on Tokyo Tapes is even better.
Fly To The Rainbow often gets overlooked compared to the more hard rocking In Trance, Virgin Killer or Taken By Force. As a metal youth it was the one I listened to the least but has grown to be a real favorite of mine over the years. It sounds great alongside Sad Wings of Destiny by Judas Priest, Rainbow Rising, UFO's Phenomenon and Thin Lizzy's Nightlife. You have all of those, right?