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Thursday, March 25, 2010

CD Review: Scorpions - Sting in the Tail

Scorpions - Sting in the Tail
2010 Universal Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

In this, the reported final year of the Scorpions' four-decade career, I'm feeling nostalgic enough to drift back to 1988 and the Monsters of Rock tour headlined by Van Halen (Hagar for you David Lee Roth purists). I was fortunate enough to attend that summer fiesta which was opened by Kingdom Come, Dokken and Metallica, the latter of whom were just debuting Jason Newsted and were in their waning moments as a pure thrash band.

Exciting and fast as Metallica was and surprisingly durable as the OU812 era of Van Halen presented themselves, it was the Scorpions who were the class act of the bill. Dare I say, they upstaged their hosts simply by doing what the Scorps have done for 44 years now: rock uncompromisingly. Sure, the Scorpions were partial innovators of the massive stage lighting schemes as part of their own headlining tours, but it's their ceaseless pounding and identifiable tunefulness which has made them champions of metal music. Back in '88, the crowd went as nuts for "The Zoo" and "Another Piece of Meat" as they did "Big City Nights" and "Rock You Like a Hurricane," never mind the Scorpions would go on to reach further heights two years later with their signature global hit, "Winds of Change."

It all seems like yesterday and yesterday is the name of the game on the Scorpions' parting gift to their long-timers, Sting in the Tail. While their previous albums Humanity 2.0 and Unbreakable were branching out moments more fans need to spend time with, Sting in the Tail is all about the old times and the good times. Consider this album Lovedrive, Virgin Killer, Savage Amusement, Crazy World and Love at First Sting all compacted and updated for a goodbye party which will coax a few chokes along the way while instigating quite a few bittersweet headbangs.

With an unapologetic self-rip of "Loving You Sunday Morning" and "Rock You Like a Hurricane," Sting of the Tail chugs out to the fore with the bobbing anthem "Raised On Rock." Is this really 2010? Seriously? Somebody tell Klaus Meine and the boys, because "Raised On Rock" is an eighties car-cranker if there ever was one.

You have to love how the Scorpions are so confident in their long-standing identity they amp up the grooves of the title cut like it was hip advert material, and they crank up the speed and the volume on the teeth-knocking "Rock Zone." With all the gang shouts, harmless innuendo and pole dancing power riffs, the Scorpions reinvent everything they'd recorded from Blackout to Face the Heat on "Slave Me" and "Turn You On." Shake a tail feather and listen in for all the bad boys running wild chords and wahhs throughout most of Sting in the Tail. It's evident the Scorpions rode through their own nostalgia train with current drummer James Kottak and bassist Pavel Maciwoda and the rails can barely hold their steam.

Granted, four out of eleven cuts from Sting in the Tail are ballads, which would be inadvisable if you were anyone but the Scorpions. Masters of the power ballad with their timeless makeout jewel "Still Loving You," three-fourths of the love jams on Sting in the Tail are agreeable fun. "Sly" will remind most of "Still Loving You" and "Holiday," while "The Good Die Young" stands out for its towering second half and guest appearance by former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen.

Unfortunately, "Lorelei" might've done better as an outtake for the inevitable expanded edition as it's a momentum skidder with its silly lovelorn aching. Compelling in 1983, not so much in 2010, albeit the caveat to avoid chicks named "Lorelei" stands well-advised, given the numerous rock odes dedicated to this moniker.

Sting in the Tail sidles to the finish line with the okee dokee "Spirit of Rock," which is more a bit tame than big time. It is more fitting for the middle tier of eighties rockers such as Rough Cutt or Y&T instead of a veteran juggernaut like the Scorpions, but why needle at this point? "The Best is Yet to Come" likewise holds a finger on the trigger with its love note essence, but it sends this group into the sunset on a sweet hey-aye-hey-oh note full of aspiration instead of gloom and doom.

What to say of Klaus Meine? His regiment of vocal warm-ups have to be something, because he continues to emulate his younger self with thorough conviction. As Klaus teasingly states on "Raised On Rock," he was born in a hurricane. Well, you're apt to believe him, sheesh. Likewise, Matthias Jabs and Rudy Schenker jam their respective MJ and Flying V up the wazoos of the entire rock world, defying emulation. Their tag event will forever be uniquely theirs, talk boxes and all.

In the end (and what a great end it shall be with a two-year tour in support of this album), Sting in the Tail is bread and butter Scorpions for their arena-dwelled faithful. It sounds large, not epic, booming, not devastating. In general, Sting in the Tail presents a happy vibe for a band historically keeping a piston pulse to their rockers and glove love smoothness to their ballads. For old times' sake, ask the lady in the back seat of the limo for some gum...

Rating: ***1/2


The Klepto said...

I just got this album last week, haven't had a chance to listen yet, but I may have to move it up my list after this. Nice review

Metal Mark said...

Unbreakable was a fine album, but typical Scorpions. Humanity Hour was the only one where they really tried something new and it worked.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I loved Humanity 2.0 and thought it might've been a career extender. Going back to the basics for this album is only a smidge of a disappointment, but the quality of these songs are very good and full of energy.

Klepto, thanks for the nice words, and let me know what you think once you hear it.

Unicorn said...

I have loved the Scorpions and considered them my favorite band fro 25 years now. I loved all of their 70s stuff and madly loved all of their 80s stuff. The 90's stuff I did not care to much for. However they returned to form in the 2000s. Unbreakable and Humanity were just as good as anything from the 80s and had the same raw melodic energy.

So far the only song that has got my attention on Stin in the Tail is "The Good Die Young." Very original yet unmistakenly Scorpions. I must state though that I needed warming up to every on of their albums. Never did I immediately love any Scorpions Album or tune. However they seem to have a way of growing on you as time goes by!

Mega said...

are you sure you went to Monsters of Rock? Because Metallica crushed the Scorpions...In fact, after that tour, the Scorps fired their manager because they couldn't figure out why Metallica merch was out selling them 10-1... I saw the show in Kansas City and Kingdom Come was okay..short set and none of their own gear...Metallica was very very good that day, even debuting "Harvestor of Sorrow" - Dokken played tight and kicked ass and yes, the Scorps played well as did Van was a long day... "Sting Of the Tale" is great is you are a casual music fan who believes that commercial rock is great - but to classic Scorpions fans - LoveDrive, etc...SotTail will's formula driven pop metal.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Mega, yes I was there in Washington, DC and most people in attendance (who weren't casual rock fans there for Van Hagar) commented how the Scorps won the day...Metallica was awesome and I too came out with their scales of justice shirt that day instead of a Scorps shirt...the frustration you're referring to on merch was because Metallica was lassoing a huge audience, thrash was starting to catch on commercially and the Scorps had waited too long a studio album...I think they were still kind of in the World Wide Live cycle, despite it coming out what, 1986? You don't have to sell me on the old catalog of the Scorps...Lovedrive's my favorite and always will be...this new album hardly sucks, though I was hoping they'd continue branching out like they did on Humanity a sidebar, the Dokken members refer to this tour as a notorious mark in their career because they were at each others' throats and they agree the performances weren't very good...when we saw them, I thought they did fine...I've seen them better, but hey, under the circumstances

Unicorn, thank you and Mega for your comments...a lot of people drifted off from them in the mid-nineties after Crazy World at least in North America

Anonymous said...

I have not listened to much of the Scorpions offerings since Face the Heat. That was the first album of theirs that I did not like. My favorite album is Blackout and I still listen to it regularly after 28 years. Not many other albums that I can say that about. The second concert that I ever went to was Iron Maiden / Scorpions in '82 and it was awesome. I have seen the Scorps twice since then and I am going to the show in Ontario CA. on Thursday night 7/29/10. I am sure that it will be the last time that I see them but they have given me alot of good memories over the years.

Anonymous said...

this is the best album that beats face the heat until the Humanity Hour 1... listen to them again.. somthing might be blocking your ears..

Nikki Johnson said...

Unbreakable was a fine album, but typical Scorpions. Humanity Hour was the only one where they really tried something new and it worked.