What can I say about Michael Schenker? I first heard the German maestro on UFO’s Force It album – and was instantly totally blown away!
I was only about 14 and I’d never heard a hard rock guitarist play with such an amazing sense of melody. At the time I was just learning to play the guitar myself. I was immediately hooked and throughout my teens purchasing every UFO album as soon as they were released was a top priority.
At age 16 myself and my best friend travelled across to Edinburgh to see UFO on their Obsession tour. A few years later we were back in Edinburgh, this time to see the Michael Schenker Group on the tour to promote their second album.
In 2007 we were in Dudley, England to see MSG again – and four years later I was ecstatic when the great man and inspiration himself agreed to give me an exclusive interview in Belfast when I was working as a video journalist for the Belfast Telegraph.
It struck me as a very honest interview on Michael’s part because, although not pushed, he spoke openly about some of the personal issues he has faced over the years.
So to say I am a huge Michael Schenker fan – and to recognise and appreciate the major influence he has been on me – is without question (I have a Michael Schenker Dean Flying V hanging on my living room wall).
That’s the background: but where do I stand regarding the new MSG album ‘Immortal’?
The release marks a staggering 50-year career in music for Schenker. He turned 66 earlier this month and was just 16 when he made his recording debut on The Scorpions’ Lonesome Crow album.
That, in itself, is a remarkable achievement!
I’m not going to get into a track-by-track review of the 10 songs on ‘Immortal’. I’m just going to give my own personal opinion of the album, overall.
It’s most encouraging to hear that ‘The Mad Axeman’ has lost none of his technique. He’s absolutely on fire here. The wonderfully crafted solos are a joy to listen to. He’s lost none of that amazing sense of melody. That wonderful Schenker hallmark sound from his Dean Flying V, compressed wah-wah pedal and Marshall amp sounds as wonderful as it always did. (Did any rock guitarist ever have such a distinctive, sound? From the first note, you just know it’s him!).
The fact that at age 65 (when he recorded this album) – he still has such amazing dexterity in his fingers, is quite remarkable and an absolute joy!
The production values are impressive and the musicianship is excellent – which is hardly surprising.
Due to Schenker’s immense reputation as one of the best rock guitarists who ever lived, we have a stellar array of talent on display here: Drummer Simon Phillips (MSG, Toto, Judas Priest, etc etc), keyboard wizard Derek Sheridan (Dream Theatre, Black Country Communion), vocalist Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple) to name but a few!
But here’s the rub! Overall, I just don’t think the song-writing is up to scratch. In my opinion, there’s no one song that jumps out as a classic Schenker track – compared to the many great songs in his extensive and hugely impressive back catalogue.
Maybe it’s nostalgia? Maybe it’s my age? But there’s nothing on offer here that can compare to classic UFO/early-to-mid MSG.
Die-hard Schenker fans will no doubt disagree. That’s fair enough.
Review by Gary Grattan
Immortal is out now on Nuclear Blast