The legendary award-winning rock guitarist MICHAEL SCHENKER has more “dash and polish than a Buick Wildcat… and more energy then a hundred horse charge…”
At age fifteen Schenker recorded his first album with the SCORPIONS. At age seventeen he joined the British rockers UFO. At twenty-four he began an illustrious solo career that spanned four decades.
Later this month the world’s greatest rock guitarist will release his very-own celebratory trip down memory lane with “Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo” — a thrilling live coverage of his August 2016 concert at Tokyo’s International Forum — where he was joined on stage by the musicians he has worked with over his years at the top of rock — including vocalists Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet [who had a Bee Gees hit single with the The Marbles in 1968, then sensibly turned down a chance to join the line-up of Sweet to replace Dio as the vocalist for Rainbow] — and also Robin McAuley [originally from ’70s rockers Grand Prix.]
It’s been a long time since MSG played their “One Night at Budokan” and last year’s joyful show was like being put into a time-machine and taken back to the pure excitement and sheer joy of the early eighties.
“It’s a miracle that after all these years, something like this took place with the original band members of Michael Schenker Group…” He said, “Being able to go back to those days and celebrate the music is an exciting experience for us, as well as for old and new fans.”
His amazing band for this show also includes Ted McKenna on drums, Steve Mann on guitar and keys and Chris Glen on bass [long before Chris joined MSG he was “stolen” from Sensational Alex Harvey. ]
“It was an enjoyable event from beginning to end…” said Schenker “Seeing those happy excited fans right from the beginning before the show even started, was incredible… like Budokan all over again…”
From the piercing eagle-soaring ascent of “Searching For Freedom” [via “Into the Arena” — this intro initially faded out side two of the 1982 album ] we get to the first big “Budokan” moment with the appropriately named “Attack of the Mad Axeman.”
Here the incredibe acuity is swiftly replaced by a working-man’s riff. Gary Barden is still perfectly able to deliver up silvery highs, though now his lows seem more guttural.
The number is far more progressive than you might think… lots of twists and turns. More UFO than Scorpions. And that single talkative guitar gets so hot it blisters your soul.
The high-notes pirouette wildly around your head like a ballet-dancer with a fiery tutu — in fact it’s a surprise that the silvered purity doesn’t come jolting out of your speakers to blind you…
The Schenker/Barden number “Victim of Illusion” (from the first album) is all fizz and concussion with a strong rhythm and guitar trills. Barden’s voice on this one is beefy-strong and resolute.
“Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” credited to the grand-quintet of Barden, Glen, Powell, Raymond and Schenker was a highpoint of the “Live In Tokyo: 30th Anniversary Japan Tour” (2010) possibly due those angular riffs and Gary Barden’s expressive vocals. Although dark and passionate — with creepy fantasy sounds rising against granite-hard rhythm walls — this is really just a sweaty hard-rock number.
Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet appeared for “Assault Attack” [not strictly a Live at Budokan number] and it’s great to discover that Bonnet can still shout-out those high-notes, his vocal intensity is impressive — only equalled by Michael’s ever evolving guitar-lines. This song reminds us how great this guitar/voice combo was. These are the world’s greatest technicians — but it’s the thrill of the live performance that keeps us coming back for more.
“Shoot Shoot” is performed on this 2016 recording by Robin McAuley [he sung it live at Sweden Rocks last year to great applause] — the suggestive thrusting lyrics and the motoring rhythm come from innocent days…. and although it’s a tongue-in-cheek number, it contains enough style and radiating splendour to raise beyond the extremely high standards of the era it was born into … propnents such as REO Speedwagon, Journey, Foreigner and J. Geils.
The best guitarist in the world. On the evidence of this? Yeah, totally.
The best rock vocalists too? Oh yeah …
Words:@neilmach 2017 ©
Michael Schenker Fest “Live” Tokyo – Filmed and recorded at Tokyo’s International Forum on August 24, 2016, is released by inakustik
Out on CD, DVD, Blu-ray and Digital from Friday 24th March 2017
Images courtesy of artist’s agent