SCORPIONS – Return To Forever

Scorpions - Return To ForeverBack in 2010 when German veteran rockers Scorpions had just released their then newest album, Sting In The Tail, guitar player Rudolf Schenker revealed that said album was to be their last and the band would dissolve after the long tour that was about to follow the album’s release. The reason for the decision, he said, was that him and lead singer Klaus Meine had well passed the fine age of 60 (something) and that lead guitarist Matthias Jabs was getting there as well and that the tour would probably go on for a couple of years which meant that Meine and Schenker would have turned almost 70 by the time of the release of the next album and then they would be too old for another album – tour thingy. But it only took them one year to release Come Black, an album of re-recorded Scorps classics mixed with a bunch of covers and Schenker’s talk of last album and tour turned out to be wrong already by then. Me and many more wondered what the hell he was talking about, I mean, too old to rock? To be in your late 60’s and play rock ‘n’ roll in 2015 is no biggie, lots of bands are proof of that. Plus the fact that ever since Scorpions released their album Unbreakable in 2004 they had been showing signs of getting back to their own high quality selves after a few years of confusion and bad albums. Unbreakable wasn’t a brilliant album by any means, in fact it was a bit uneven, but it showed that Scorpions were up to something, which they proved with the release of the brilliant Humanity: Hour 1 (2007) and the already mentioned Sting In The Tail. The fact that those albums weren’t only damn good records, they were successful as well – so was Come Black – giving The Scorps a well-deserved kick in the butt, but mostly a new spark that the band was so much in need of. That new-found spark also came to terms live which showed a band kicking up dust and showing the world that getting rid of the Scorpions wouldn’t come easy. So why on earth would you want to dissolve just when you are back on track, stronger than in many a year? Well, of course, that wouldn’t be the case at all because after the tour was over, Messrs Schenker, Meine and Jabs apparently didn’t feel so damn old at all. Schenker then suddenly discovered that this year is the 50th anniversary since Scorpions played their first ever paid gig, back in 1965, so something had to be done, right? So what else was there to do, but to record a new record and prepare for a new tour. And go out in public to explain that the farewell tour of 2010 wasn’t a media stunt to sell more tickets at all because the really did have the intention to quit, but now they found out that they had so much more in them. Yeah, well, be that as it may, but the Scorpions aren’t the first band to have pulled something like that. Hello, Kiss, Mötley Crüe, Judas Priest. However, a new album is released and this time, the band really had something to prove. Their last albums had been successful, both in quality and in sales, so the pressure was on the band to come up with the goods once more, because this album just might be their last.

But this is a new album really only by name because, well, it’s new and we haven’t heard the songs before, at least not most of them. But the fact is, for this album, the band had been digging deep in the vaults to find lots of unused songs and ideas and there are very few songs on here that are written soley for this record. Opener “Going Out With A Bang” is one of the newly written song and it has a title that makes you hope for a ball buster like “Blackout”, “Big City Nights” or “Bad Boys Running Wild”. Unfortunately it’s not. It is a great song that has a classic 80’s Scorpions sound, but it’s a bit too melodic and catchy and I want the opening track on a Scorpions album to run amok – and this one doesn’t. But after you get used to that, it’s easy to appreciate it anyway. Second song “We Built This House” is a bit of a shocker, to tell you the truth. It’s a pop song. Or an AOR song – pick your choice! And it doesn’t sound anything like Scorpions. However, I’m ready to look past that because the song is awesome. It’s extremely catchy and it could very well turn into a major hit for the band. “Rock My Car” is the first oldie to show up here. I remember them playing it live on the Monsters Of Rock show in Stockholm back in 1986, introducing it as a song from their upcoming album. I never remembered how the song went or even if it was any good and the answer why becomes pretty clear when I’m listening to it here. It’s a pretty bland rocker that really doesn’t go anywhere. I also notice that Marilyn Manson used a similar riff to his “Rock Is Dead” song, just by coincidence, as I’m sure he has never heard this song. The album’s first ballad, “House Of Cards” is also a recycled oldie. It’s not as cheesy as the usual Scorpions ballad, but unfortunately, it’s pretty forgettable anyway. “All For One”, a new written song, turned out really well. It has groove and it rocks, but at the same time it’s very pop in its melodies. I can live with that if the song is good enough and this one sure is. “Catch Your Luck And Play” is a song written for Savage Amusement (1988) but Schenker re-wrote the chorus with producers Mikael Andersson and Martin Hansen. It’s a brilliant rocker, with a classic Scorpions catchiness and it makes me wonder why the song was never used back then. “Rollin’ Home” must be a new song because it has the wimpy sound of modern Bon Jovi and Scorpions would never write dull crap like this back in the day. “Hard Rockin’ The Place” was written for the Humanity: Hour 1 album and it’s no surprise with its polished sound, but the song isn’t strong enough and it’s plain to see why they never used it. It probably should have been kept in vaults. “Gypsy Life” ends the record and this time they have managed to write a really great ballad without all the cheese they usually bring into their ballads. The song was written for their acoustic live album Acoustica (2001) and it was a good thing they saved that one because they just might have a hit on their hands with this one.

Of course, there are bonus tracks for the deluxe edition, a thing that is more common than albums without them these days and I get why. With illegal downloading and full albums out on YouTube, you need to have a really good selling point if you want to survive in the business on making music alone. First one out is the ballad “The World We Used To Know” and this is not one song that will sell the deluxe edition. It’s wimpy, it’s dull and it would have been better off shelved. But things get better, “Dancing With The Moonlight” is a pretty good rocker that does its job rocking you, maybe not like a hurricane, but rock you it does and “When The Truth Is A Lie” is a great, heavy, but very catchy tune that I would have liked to see in the original track list. But the closing ballad “Who We Are” takes us back to dull and boring again. If you like to spend even more money on this album, you could get the iTunes version and get yet another bonus track. It’s called “Delirious” and it’s hardly worth spending any extra cash on. It’s a bland pop rocker that goes nowhere. As an album, Return To Forever is a bit of a disappointment, I must admit. When I think about their last two album’s high quality songs, I did expect more from this album and if this is their swan song, it is an anti-climax by large. If the Scorpions wants to go out with a bang, as the opening track says, there has to be more of everything. More power, more guts, more edge. More Scorpions! It’s not that the album is bad, it’s not, but it is too uneven and there are too many softies on it. As their swan song, they should have gone with the classic 80’s Scorpions sound and song writing style, maybe they should have even given their old producer Dieter Dirks a call and bury the hatchet for a collaboration one last time. The whole sound on this album is sound too slick without the so important spark and rough edges that an album like this need. Producers Andersson and Hansen has done a great job on the last two albums, but this time the sound falls flat. It’s a good record, but it won’t go down in history as a classic. Hopefully the band will get one more shot before splitting up for good.

Jon Wilmenius (6/10)

Track list:

1. Going Out With A Bang
2. We Built This House
3. Rock My Car
4. House Of Cards
5. All For One
6. Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
7. Catch Your Luck And Play
8. Rollin’ Home
9. Hard Rockin’ The Place
10. Eye Of The Storm
11. The Scratch
12. Gypsy Life

Bonus Tracks deluxe edition:
13. The World We Used To Know
14. Dancing With The Moonlight
15. When The Truth Is A Lie
16. Who We Are

3 comments on “SCORPIONS – Return To Forever

  1. I had no idea that Rock My Car had been played live before. I knew the band were using old ideas but I didn’t realize how complete some of the songs actually were!

    That said, I’m skipping this one.

    • Yeah, well, I did expect lots more. Their last two albums were really awesome so if you haven’t heard them, I highly recommend you to do so.
      But whatever you do, don’t skip the new Europe album.

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