The MSG Cast 2021:
Michael Schenker is back and under the guise of MSG once again. However, like the last few names he has performed under this is also a collaboration of various singers as opposed to just one. Singers here include Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Malmsteen), Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, Lords Of Black), Michael Voss (Temple Of Rock) along with vocals from Gary Barden, Doogie White and Robin McAuley on the last track as well. Most get 2 songs each to show their abilities with Ronnie having 3. Also on the album are musicians Barry Sparks (Dokken) on bass, Steve Mann (McAuley Schenker Group, Eloy) on keys, along with 3 different drummers Bodo Schopf, Simon Phillips (Jeff Beck, Gary Moore amongst many others) and Brian Tichy (Gilby Clarke, Shaw/Blades). There is also a guest appearance on one track from ex-Dream Theater man Derek Sherinian. The album contains 9 brand new songs and a reworking of the first song Schenker ever wrote with the Scorpions.
A Look At The Singers And Their Songs:
Opening song which was the first single or at least released with a video is “Drilled To Kill” and is an absolute barnstorming track with that guest appearance from Sherinian who battles with Schenker trading licks and leads at speed. Perhaps due to some folks not always understanding things this is declared or described as an “anti-war song“. Musically it is in what I would call a Judas Priest style which is perhaps why Primal Fear frontman Ralf Scheepers was chosen for this particular song. Just the right match for this energetic heavy metal song. He also takes the lead in “Devil’s Daughter” which at it’s fastest sections is very Deep Purple in its riffage (made me think primarily of “Fireball“) but it has a very commercial sounding chorus, by which I mean melodic and accessible. Of course the soloing is absolutely delightful, entertaining and packs a punch.
Joe Lynn Turner sings the second and ninth songs, those being “Don’t Die On Me Now” and “Sangria Morte” the latter of which (for me) is the better song. It almost seems like it is made for a spaghetti western with the lyrics quite evocative, starting as it does with the lines “riding through the desert sands… the sun is high and you sweat to death and you’re not the loving kind“. The chorus is terrific, it has such good solid imagery. I can imagine folks singing along with gusto especially to the 2 words that make up the title. One of my personal favourites on the album. The former “Don’t Die” is quite a bouncy track with a jaunty riff and a pop style chorus. There is quite a gear shift between the verses and the choruses. Despite Michael being one of the finest guitarists of recent generations, he knows how to write tunes and melodies along with rather impressive choruses. He doesn’t make it all about him and his talent, he has no need to. When required he can just shred a solo or conversely play something haunting and dripping in feel.
Ronnie Romero is the third singer to get a song as he does songs 3, 6 and 8. “Knight Of The Dead” the first of those is drum-driven along and is very early Rainbow in style. As Ronnie of course was singing for Blackmore recently covering all eras he is just the right choice to carry this song. “Sail The Darkness” even sounds a little like a Dio song and has that ethereal and otherworldly manner in music and lyrics. You are ushered into another realm as the story is told. “Come On Over” is the last of his 3 and there is a lovely touch of classical-sounding guitar in the intro, it is short but sweet before of course kicking in properly. This is a very classic 1980s rock style song, very infectious and can I dare say “melodic” yet again? The soloing on this is superb and that little bit of classical styling comes back in for a few seconds again.
Michael Voss has 2 songs that again suit the vocal style. The first has been available and has a video out, that being “After The Rain” which at first I thought was “OK” but after a few listens found that it features one of the strongest melodies on the album and is in fact a track that I have found myself humming or singing when doing things around the house. It really seeps in and stays long after listening. It is a lovely song with some elegant guitar touches and a little hint of classical guitar work in the solo. Beautiful stuff. His other song is possibly the oddest of the album. “The Queen Of Thorns And Roses” merges late 70s new wave (listen to the opening riff and the vocal that goes with it) and 1960s pop. Another with a strong chorus, and with a solo near the end that I particularly like.
Last song on the album is a reworking of the first song he ever helped write with The Scorpions back in 1971 a whole 50 years ago when he was 16 years old! The song “In Search Of Peace And Mind” appeared on the Lonesome Crow album in 1972. I am sometimes doubtful about reworkings of old songs as they tend to seem like filler or actually they are not different enough to warrant the update. The good news here is this is a fabulous reworking with the addition of some gentle piano underlay at points and some fabulous soloing at the end. The song is about 2 minutes longer than the original and it soars, absolutely soars near the end. It is also living proof all these years down the line that his music will be “immortal“, a never-ending and enduring legacy as this song testifies by holding up so well through time.
Concluding Thoughts On 50 years Anniversary Album!
Immortal is a mighty fine album and another grand addition to his musical canon. Once again he focuses on melody and songs, showcasing voices that he feels enhances the pieces whilst he plays tasteful and yet invigorating solos that blend with the songs. One wonders if we might see this full line up at any point onstage, it would be excellent if it happened as all the singers execute their parts beautifully throughout. Another fine album by Mr. Schenker.
Out on Nuclear Blast Records January 29, 2021.
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