Wednesday, December 29, 2021

CD Odyssey Disc 1527: The Scorpions

Despite COVID managing to partially derail my holiday plans (I had to self-isolate due to a close contact) I remain healthy and happy and have even settled into a restful routine.

Learning a new song on guitar has proven harder than I expected, as has establishing my top 10 albums list for 2021, but both remain works in progress. I’m even feeling the writing bug again (that is creative writing outside this blog). So all in all, starting to feel a lot better about this “take a holiday” thing, which I’m told is how holidays are supposed to feel.

Disc 1527 is….  Lovedrive

Artist: The Scorpions

Year of Release: 1979

What’s up with the Cover? The Scorpions have a history of album covers that disturb or offend, and this is one of those. The cover you are currently looking at (a metallic looking scorpion crouching on a generic band logo) is the one that they used after the original cover was banned.

The original album art featured what is at worst a sexual assault in the backseat of a car, and at best a wealthy couple with a gum fetish. It was their fourth album in a row to have its album art censored, an achievement I suspect the band rather enjoyed.

My copy of the CD is set up so you can fold the booklet to display either cover, depending on your preference. Now that you are forewarned what the original looks like, you can decide for yourself if you want to take a look. If so, you’ll find it at the album’s Wikipedia site here.

How I Came To Know It: My friend Spence encouraged me to explore early Scorpions albums and I liked a lot of what I heard. This is one of them.

How It Stacks Up: I now have six Scorpions albums. Of the six, “Lovedrive” comes in at #4. Those who have been tracking Scorpions may think this means that “Love at First Sting” (Disc 309) and “Crazy World” (Disc 702) are both ahead of this record, but that is incorrect. They have both been bumped further down the list (to #5 and #6) after a bunch of new Scorpions albums entered the collection. A full accounting of this will have to wait until I complete the final band review.

Ratings: 3 stars

Do you love power chords and the anthemic crunch of that rock and roll music? Maybe an occasional power ballad with some sappy lyrics? Well, so do the Scorpions, and on “Lovedrive” they have found their lane and for the most part, stay within it.

“Lovedrive” is an earlier record, and while the Scorpions have not fully transitioned from hard rock into heavy metal, the influence is very strong, and a sign of what would come to be defined as their sound as they gained international acclaim.

The stuff you would expect on any Scorpions record happens early, with the two opening tracks (“Loving You Sunday Morning”, “Another Piece of Meat”) firing furious power chords in your face. Like ACDC, the star of the Scorpions in many ways is the rhythm guitar, played by band leader and principal songwriter Rudolf Schenker. The driving power of his playing style makes both songs soar, with “Loving You Sunday Morning” easily the star of the record..

Another Piece of Meat” is another classic Scorpions theme, as they recant a meaningless sexual encounter on the road. As the title of the song suggests, no one can strip the romance out of a ‘romantic’ encounter quite like the Scorpions.

Both these songs also benefit from the work of Rudolf’s brother, Michael Schenker on lead guitar. “Lovedrive” would be Michael’s final appearance with the Scorpions, and he plays lead on five of the eight songs, with newcomer Matthias Jabs coming in for the other three. Jabs is also a gifted guitar player, so the quality is present throughout.

Jabs handles duties on the Scorpions’ obligatory (for them) power ballad, which on this record is “Always Somewhere”. The Scorpions may or may not have invented the power ballad, but if they didn’t, they certainly perfected it. They once again make romance feel strong and full of machismo while still expressing all the tenderness of love that is wholly absent on “Another Piece of Meat”.

It also helps to have a great vocalist, and Klaus Meine is one of rock and roll’s greatest. I find “Always Somewhere” schmaltzy, but I forgive it mainly because Klaus has such a talent for making his version of “the feels” contagious.

The record has a couple of missteps, notably “Is There Anybody There?” which features a weird reggae beat that mixes awkwardly with the ever-present power chords. Imagine crossing the Scorpions with the Police and you’ll have an approximation. I also didn’t love “Holiday” which takes a long time trying to meld a slow section with a fast section, but never quite succeeds.

These are minor quibbles however, and for the most part “Lovedrive” is exactly what casual fans will expect from the Scorpions, with enough nuance to keep things equally interesting for deep-diving devotees.

Best tracks: Loving You Sunday Morning, Another Piece of Meat, Lovedrive

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