MSG – “Immortal” (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Helm Rating
Certainly a proud boast for many, but when your credentials include playing your first gig with the Scorpions aged 11, recording your first album with them in their debut “Lonesome Crow” aged 16, and joining UFO aged 18, few can top the legendary Michael Schenker! Starting his solo career in 1979 with the formation of MSG (Michael Schenker Group), as well as being a much sought-after guitarist by both Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne, Schenker’s true nature as a virtuoso guitarist has seen his heart always at home in his own band, which, over the years has grown to include other solo projects like Schenker Barden Acoustic Project, Schenker’s Temple Of Rock (that featured the late Pete Way on bass and ex Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell) and more recently Michael Schenker Fest (featuring ex MSG members Chris Glen (bass) and the late Ted McKenna on drums). Now, celebrating his 50th anniversary as a musician on “Immortal”, Michael Schenker has brought together former MSG vocalists Gary Barden, Ronnie Romero, Robin McAuley and Doogie White, together with former MSG members Simon Philips (Judas Priest, The Who, Toto) on drums, rhythm guitarist / keyboardist Steve Mann (The Sweet, Lionheart) and bassist Barry Sparks (Yngwie Malmsteen, UFO, Dokken, and Ted Nugent) to create a 10-track album befitting his incredible legacy. Immediately recognisable through his signature partially engaged wah midrange tone, Schenker’s guitar steams in on ‘Drilled To Kill’ amid Philips’ pistoning double bass drumming and Mann’s pumping prog keys, and as the vocals soar, Schenker’s axe mastery is all over the song – as you might expect – through a blinding array of licks, breaks, mini solos and full-length solos – wow, it’s no wonder they call him ‘Metal Mickey’! Still true to the classic MSG sound of late 70s / early 80s melodic hard rock, the material will immediately appeal to lifelong fans (and there are still many left including myself) whose youth is rooted in that era and clearly Schenker has not forgotten those years too as the passionate power ballad ‘After The Rain’ could’ve been something he wrote when he recorded 1978’s “Lovedrive” with the Scorpions, his guitar gently plucking strings and wailing in neo classical bliss along to the crooning vocals while superbly contrasted by deep ‘n’ heavy riffs – awesome. Bringing in the speed to rock it back up on ‘Come On Over’, the main riff and vocal style are straight from MSG’s self-titled 1980 debut while Schenker’s incredible solo (as if he could produce anything less) sees him revisit his days in UFO with impeccable precision and style! Arguably saving the best till last is the re-recording of ‘In Search Of The Peace Of Mind’, which is of course from “Lonesome Crow” and originally penned by Schenker aged 15, and now looking back on his 50-year journey, he has expressed his feelings through his guitar by turning it into a 6 1/2 minute epic (from its original 5 minutes) by adding a new long solo at the end of the song to complement its original lead break, which Schenker has stated he will never change owing to its perfection. So admirers of Schenker’s axe wizardry along the lines of ‘Lost Horizons’ will appreciate this all the more, although it’s not a pure instrumental, gamefully complemented by outstanding vocal, keyboard and percussive performances from the rest of the line-up serving to close off this pedigree album. They just don’t make guys like Michael Schenker anymore.