Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Michael Schenker - Temple Of Rock

Michael Schenker
Temple Of Rock
Inakustik Records/MVD Entertainment Group

There was a time when anything featuring the name Michael Schenker meant an instantaneous purchase from yours truly. Such was the talent from the mad German axeman. But somewhere around the late ‘90’s, it was becoming more apparent that whatever was producing the magic in the past wasn’t quite working like it should, and Schenker officially became a shadow of his former self.
That’s not to say that everything Schenker has released in the last fifteen years has been a complete disaster, because almost every album he’s released in that time has had their fair share of moments where the early brilliance of Schenker’s past appears. The big problem is that it’s never produced on a consistent basis. So here we are with Schenker’s latest effort ‘Temple Of Rock’, which is his first solo effort after years playing under the banner of Michael Schenker Group.
The most immediate thing that stands out about the album is its cover. One should never judge anything by its cover, but just once, I’d love to see Schenker release an album that doesn’t make you cringe.
Bad cover aside; it’s safe to say that the line-up that Schenker has assembled for ‘Temple Of Rock’ is again a truly impressive one, with the core ensemble consisting of bassist Pete Way (UFO), keyboardist Wayne Findlay (Who’s played with Schenker for years now) and drummer Herman ‘The German’ Rarebell (Ex-Scorpions). Outside of the group, Schenker has also enlisted a whole host of guests, including his brother Rudolf Schenker (Scorpions guitarist), Arch Enemy guitarist Michael Amott, guitar legend Leslie West (Mountain), bassist Neil Murray (MSG/ex-Whitesnake/ex-Gary Moore), keyboardists Don Airey (Deep Purple) and Paul Raymond (UFO) and drummers Simon Phillips (Toto/Derek Sherinian), Carmine Appice (King Kobra/Vanilla Fudge/Rod Stewart/Jeff Beck/Blue Murder), Chris Slade (Ex-AC/DC) and Brian Tichy (Billy Idol/Stevie Salas).
It all looked quite impressive, and sounded every bit as promising. But as history has shown, you can have all the guests under the sun, but unless you have the songs to back it up, the album itself won’t sound any stronger that it actually is.
Casting aside the rather silly ‘Intro’ (Which is primarily orchestral, with a heavy handed war themed spoken word voice over from Star Trek’s Captain Kirk - William Shatner), Schenker gets the album underway with ‘How Long’. Up-tempo, rocking in all the right ways and featuring some great vocals from vocalist Michael Voss (Mad Max/Wolfpakk, and an in-demand producer in his own right), ‘How Long’ is a solid start to the album, and a clear example of when Schenker does put his mind to it, he can produce some great stuff.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t last. ‘Fallen Angel’, the plodding ‘Miss Claustrophobia’ (Which is also the first single from the album), the limp ballad ‘With You’ and the cliché ‘80’s lyrical drive of ‘Saturday Night’ are some of the better examples of where Voss comes across as a little too lifeless to really have an impact, and where the production seems a little too polished to allow Schenker’s skills on the guitar shine.
Making matters even worse for Voss is the guest vocalists Doogie White (ex-Rainbow/Yngwie J. Malmsteen/Cornerstone) and Robin McAuley (Survivor/ex- McAuley Schenker Group), who each shine on ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ and ‘Lover’s Sinfony’ respectively.
Of course, it’s not all bad news for Voss, who does redeem himself on tracks such as ‘Hanging On’ (Even if the song is a little repetitive), the fast paced duo of ‘The End Of An Era’ and ‘Storming In’, the heavy groove of ‘Speed’ and the surprisingly modern sounding ‘Scene Of Crime’.
And as for the ‘3 Generations Guitar Battle Version’ of ‘How Long’ with Amott and West trading off with Schenker, don’t hold your breath for fireworks. Had they come up with something new, it may have been different. But playing in an alternate version of a song that’s already on the album comes across as nothing more than trying to include the guitarists rather than catering to their musical strengths.
‘Temple Of Rock’ is a good album, and easily sits alongside Schenker’s more recent effort ‘In The Midst Of Beauty’ with MSG in 2008, and Voss is certainly easier on the ear than Jari Tiura was on 2006’s rather disastrous ‘Tales Of Rock ’N’ Roll’.
The only problem is that I was hoping for something a little stronger and more memorable than good from Schenker this time around.

For more information on Michael Schenker, check out - http://www.michaelschenkerhimself.com/

© Justin Donnelly