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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DVD Review: Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends Vol. 2: Michael Schenker Group

Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends Vol. 2: Michael Schenker Group
2010 MIG-Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I've said it plenty of times before and I'll say it again. Music just isn't valued today like it used to be, at least in terms of televised presentation. No, American Idol does not count, nor will it ever, given the fact it's a shrewd marketing ploy designed to hedge out demographics in the cheapest and most far-reaching platform possible. Not a genuine live music vehicle. Sad we likely will never see another Midnight Special or a 24-hour pure music, damn the Snookies MTV in this lifetime.

In case you're unfamiliar with it, Germany's Rockpalast is a historic live music program rivaling the best the world has ever seen. Airing full concerts (or at least large chunks of them), Rockpalast has showcased some of the greatest rock, blues and metal acts of all-time from Thin Lizzy to ZZ Top to Skynard and even the Superfreak himself, Rick James.

While this might be a tricky task hunting down a copy of the Rockpalast DVD concert series outside of Europe, do consider making the effort to trail after Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends Vol. 2: Michael Schenker Group.

If for nothing else, the opportunity to behold the flinging arms of Cozy Powell in 1981 is worth the hunt. Of course, Michael Schenker is his own draw in this sizzling performance at the Markthalle in Hamburg. Already having done his stints with the Scorps and UFO, Schenker in the beginning years of his solo unit ranks amongst the most formidable metal units of the day.

Interesting how the early MSG frequently misses the history pages of metal, which might have to do with Schenker's one-time social aversion. I can tell you personally after a 4.5 hour interview with the man years ago there's more to Michael Schenker than folks realize. At this point in '81, Schenker musically is at his zenith. This set corrals a large portion of the first MSG album,i.e. "Armed and Ready," "Cry for the Nations," "Lookin' Out from Nowhere" and the titanic instrumental (which should be considered one of Iron Maiden's building blocks), "Into the Arena."

Though Billy Sheehan and Denny Carmassi had left the Michael Shencker Group at the time of this live filming, original MSG vocalist Gary Barden was still prowling his position and this concert shows him at his leery best. Skulking, vamping, wide-eyed, borderline maniacal, Barden centers the mike with a primal energy you don't dare miss, even when the cameras widen to bring in bassist Chris Glen and guitarist/keyboards Paul Raymond. Barden is perhaps one of hard rock's most underrated frontmen and you'll see why in this performance.

Cozy Powell is so thunderous and so extensive in his work for Michael Schenker you actually see him panting, heaving and drenched about three-fourths of the way into the set when the band pauses between songs. Still, it's heartwarming to watch Powell paintbrush his kit like a professional and with his trademark boyish enthusiasm.

Schenker is frequently in near isolation at stage left for much of the show, but Lord, what intensity he brings to the Rockpalast gig! His venomous shredding and string yanking is to be savored like imported tea. Even when he turns the UFO classic "Rock Bottom" into a prolonged jam, you feel like you're watching a chemist at work. Very rare in that respect considering today the jam session is widely considered a wank.

Nothing wanking about this concert. Though this lineup is often dismissed, Schenker and his post-Sheehan posse give it all they have for a ravenous Hamburg audience who are seen in 1981 literally pulling their hair in admiration. It's timeless stuff and shame on anyone for buying into American Idol as a music show. Put their best night up against this beast of a concert? Like Danny Zuko said to Sandy in Grease: Jealous of that jockstrap? Don't make me laugh, ha ha ha...

Rating: ****1/2

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