Tuesday, February 3, 2015

CD Odyssey Disc 702: Scorpions

This next review is an example of how sometimes I think I’m done an artist in the Odyssey, only to find myself inspired to buy another album.

Disc 702 is…. Crazy World
Artist: Scorpions

Year of Release: 1990

What’s up with the Cover? It’s a key for the door to some parallel universe. We know this because the door is slightly ajar on the right hand side and we can see it does not simply open to more scrub plain. The parallel universe that is slightly revealed looks pretty ordinary but I assume it’s as crazy as ours, given the title. Or maybe the universe where doors stand in the middle of the plain and serve as portals to somewhere else in the crazy world we’re already in. But I digress…

How I Came To Know It: I knew this album when it came out, but only bought it recently.

How It Stacks Up:  I now have three Scorpions albums. Of the three, “Crazy World” must fall to the bottom of the list. Since this is the last review of the three, here’s a summary of how I feel about all the Scorpions in my collection:

  1. Blackout:  4 stars (reviewed at Disc 290)
  2. Love at First Sting:  2 stars (reviewed at Disc 309)
  3. Crazy World:  2 stars (reviewed right here)
Rating: 2 stars

This album is bittersweet for me. I bought it to be reminded of a great time in world history, but recent events make it harder to appreciate it the way I once did.

I am a child of the Cold War, and most of my teenage years were spent with the ever-present danger of World War III, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and assorted other nuclear terrors. In 1984, Iron Maiden even did a song called “2 Minutes to Midnite” which was a reference to the proximity of the Doomsday Clock to Armageddon.

So it was a special day for me in 1989 when I turned on the news one morning to see ordinary people clambering around on the Berlin Wall, tearing it down. I had never lived a day in my life without that ever-present symbol of war and here I was witnessing it, being destroyed by people who had simply had enough of living in a world divided.

I remember crying tears inspired partly by my fellow man’s ability to forgive and move forward as well as a fair bit of plain old relief. I settled down on the couch – skipping all my classes to just watch that God-damned hateful wall get dismantled, one tiny piece of concrete at a time.

The Scorpions are a German band, and so they had lived with the Berlin Wall in a much more visceral and real way than I ever had. In 1990 they released “Crazy World” with an anthem to commemorate the reunification of their long-divided country.

That anthem – “Wind of Change” – is why I own this album. For some, I’m sure this metal ballad is hokey, with its overwrought whistling intro and its candle waving chorus. I admire its sense of open wonderment that maybe the whole terrible Cold War was really ending. This song perfectly captures a moment in time when we all felt safe to dream about a better world again. As Klaus Meine sings it:

“The world is closing in
Did you ever think
That we could be so close, like brothers
The future’s in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change.”

For us iconoclastic metal-heads, who had been weaned on a cynical embrace of death and war, it was an odd shift. Five years earlier, Iron Maiden had sung about the doomsday clock hands threatening doom. Three years earlier Megadeth had asked “Peace sells…but who’s buying?” Now we were now being told by one of our earliest metal legends to take a chance on optimism. It was a weird and welcome moment.

The rest of “Crazy World” is fairly forgettable – if inoffensive – eighties metal fare. At times it is even a little offensive – like the Frampton guitar effects on “Money and Fame” which sits very out of place on the album overall. Other than that, the guitar riffs are strong, but at times feels derivative of better albums that came before, like Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” or Judas Priest’s “Defenders of the Faith.”

As a Scorpion’s album it certainly doesn’t hold up to the masterpiece that is “Blackout” and it falls short even of the merely OK “Love at First Sting.” Still, it matters to me. It shows that metal music can be hopeful and triumphant when it wants to be. This is something all metal fans have always known, but with “Wind of Change” the rest of the world got to see it too.

In fact, the second best song on this album is “Don’t Believe Her” which could easily be made into a pop hit if it had been produced with a bit more sweetness.

But as you’ll recall, I promised bittersweet. Given the trouble raging again in Eastern Europe it is hard to feel the same optimism I felt about this song even as recently as two years ago. Earlier this year the Doomsday clock ticked its way all the way forward to 1984 levels, and uncertainty again rules the future. Much as I love “Wind of Change,” it is getting hard to whistle along that close to our collective graveyard.

On this last listen, the song had me welling up for a very different reason. There’s no Berlin Wall to track our progress this time and those distant memories that Klaus promised us would be buried in our past forever are coming rushing back.

But then I reminded myself that the history of the human race is a river, not a series of arbitrary plot points on some clock. I listened to the chorus of “Wind of Change” with fresh ears:

“Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow share their dreams
With you and me
Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
In the wind of change.”

And I realized that while I draw breath, I’m still the children of tomorrow. We’re still here despite the odds twenty-five years ago. And even when I’ve blown my last breath, there’ll be another generation of children waiting to share the next magic moment like the one I experienced watching the wall collapse.

And “Crazy World” may be an average album, but it is never leaving my collection. Not as long as I can still dream away in the wind of change.

Best tracks: Don’t Believe Her, Wind of Change

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