For any rocker out there, who’s not a new-born, little brother Schenker shouldn’t need any introduction. But for all of you who have been living under a rock throughout the early 80’s up until now, here’s one anyway. Michael Schenker is the kid brother to Rudolf Schenker, the rhythm guitarist in Scorpions. Michael did also play in Scorpions a short while back in 1972 on their debut Lonesome Crow album and the tour that followed (he did get some writing credits for their next album, Fly To The Rainbow as well). He left the band after the tour and joined UFO, an English band and to this day, the line up with Schenker is seen as their classic one. He was with the band between 1974 – 1978 and recorded four classic studio albums and one even more classic live album, Strangers In The Night. He has rejoined Scorpions on one occasion, briefly for the recording of Lovedrive in 1979 and he has also rejoined UFO twice, one time for the Walk On Water album in 1995 and then in 2000 for two albums, Covenant and Sharks (2002). His solo career started in 1980 with his Michael Schenker Group (MSG) and released a bunch of classic albums, such as the self titled debut, its follow-up MSG (1981) and Assault Attack (1982). Also, both Built To Destroy (1983) is considered a classic. His solo career stopped abruptly after the live album Rock Will Never Die in 1984 and things were awfully quiet for four years, when he showed up together with former Grand Prix frontman Robin McAuley, the band renamed McAuley Schenker Group and an album, the fantastic Perfect Timing and things started to look bright again. McAuley Schenker recorded two more awesome albums before the collaboration between the two ended.
Since then, Schenker’s career has been somewhat messy. UFO reunion, solo albums, a quick sojourn in RATT, the Contraband project, another MSG line up – lots of stuff happened, but no stability at all. In fact, during most of the years between 1993 and 2006, most of the talk was about Schenker’s alcohol and drug problems and his moody temper, more than the music he made. Today, although, Schenker seems to have a more stable life, he’s sober and he seems more focused on what matters – making great music again. Because if we shall be totally honest, Schenker hasn’t released anything truly great since the McAuley days, in fact much of his later records hasn’t been much to write home about at all. That’s why it’s really nice to be able to state that his new solo album, Temple Of Rock, is the best album he has made in years and years and more years. The musicians on here are pretty interesting as well. Scorpions old drummer Herman Rarebell holds the drum sticks and his old UFO pal Pete Way holds bass duties with singer Michael Voss at the mike. Also, there are some guests on here, but more on that later.
A spoken intro starts the album with William Shatner doing the narrative part – now how cool is that!! The intro goes right into “How Long”, a melodic rock groover that makes you want more. The song is also reprised later in the “3 Generation Guitar Battle Version” featuring Leslie West (Mountain) and Michael Amott (Spiritual Beggars, Arch Enemy), pretty cool, but one version of that song is enough. “Fallen Angel” is a bit of a cliché, both lyrically and musically, but still a good song, “The End Of An Era” is great – a bit faster, but very catchy and “Miss Claustrophobia” is brilliant and one of this album’s finest moments, with a melody to die for. It actually reminds me a bit about Jean Beauvoir’s melody lines. The slow and bluesy ballad “With You” is decent, but goes nowhere, “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead”, featuring Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tank) on lead vocals, is fantastic – heavy, melodic, groovy and Schenker kills on it, “Scene Of Crime” is the sore thumb here, a different groove than what we’re used to from Schenker – in a good way and “Saturday Night” (really?, Is that title even remotely ok? Imagination, anyone…) is pop metal and it is too cheesy, but I can’t help humming it. Robin McAuley guest on “Lover’s Sinfony”, a ridiculously catchy rocker with major hit potential and the album closes with the bonus track “Remember”, an ordinary pop rock song that deserves to be a bonus track.
A very good album, although it sounds a bit common. The music is pretty much standard, melodic hard rock and it lacks Schenker’s personal touch that, back in the day was something he managed to lay on all his music, no matter if it was hard rock or AOR. But it doesn’t really matter because almost every song on this album is so damn good and Schenker himself plays, if not as he did in his golden days, then pretty bloody close. I really hope he can keep the good work up because this album shines, both in songs and performance. Now that he’s able to write such good songs again, maybe he should bring MSG back to life again. No matter what the M is gonna stand for.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
02. How Long
03. Fallen Angel
04. Hanging On
05. The End Of An Era
06. Miss Claustrophobia
07. With You
08. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
09. Storming In
10. Scene Of Crime
11. Saturday Night
12. Lover’s Sinfony
14. How Long (3 Generations Guitar Battle version)