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There are few acts that could boast not only the longevity, but musical diversity as the Scorpions have throughout their catalogue, spanning four decades and counting. This particular album almost succeeds in fusing all the different musical styles the band has experimented with, although the formulaic, riff heavy stuctures would not be as prevalent as future efforts, such as "In Trance". Notwithstanding, the second effort from Germany's premier group is as diverse sonically as, well, the colors of a rainbow.
Personnel changes usually influence a band's sound, and it is no different with the Scorpions here. A complete overhaul of the rhythm section, along with the addition of neo-classical guitar guru Uli Jon Roth to replace Michael Schenker (although some compositions do have Rudolf's younger brother credited) allow the band to take a different direction from their jazz laden debut, "Lonesome Crow". Even so, some remnants of the first album are heard in songs like "They Need a Million", with an off tempo, intricate Spanish guitar melody, as well as the intro to the title track, suggesting that these songs may have been written with, but left out of, or not completed before, the first album was finished.
The opening track, "Speedy's Coming" (a reference to Rudolf Schenker), is perhaps the first appearance of the "signature" Scorpions sound, with the Teutonic tones and slightly up tempo rhythm, signaling a new sound the band would explore for most of their career. On this album, it almost seems out of place, but that may be due to it being the first of the Schenker/Meine collaborations to be recorded in such a style, as well as the influence of other member's input.
That being said, it is impossible to ignore the influence of Roth and his devotion to Hendrix, especially on two specific tracks on this album, "Drifting Sun" and "Fly to the Rainbow". While his vocal efforts do tend to bring down the overall quality of the songs, it is his hands that more than overcome his vocal flaws on these tracks. "Drifting Sun", easily a nod to the 60's and his idol, Jimi Hendrix, is a complete fusion of his psychaldelic sound along with the band's riff driven melody that would make this song one of the highlights of the album. The album's title track also has some major acid trip potential, and at a combined playtime of nearly twenty minutes, these two tracks comprise a majority of the album itself.
The remaining tracks act as a bridge between the musical influences of the Roth/Meine/Schenker triumvirate, such as the mid-tempoed "Far Away" and "Fly People Fly", both early examples of power ballads in the group's catalogue. "This is My Song" rounds out the album in a more up tempo, but calm manner, not the sonic flurry of "Speedy", but not a ballad either.
As stated earlier, this album is very diverse in its sound and song structures, probably due to the new members' influences from Uli's band Dawn Road, and the group looking for material to fill an album as much as musical direction. More lineup changes were in store for the band throughout the decade, but it must be noted this was their first collaboration with bassist Francis Bucholtz, one of the members of the groups most successful era.
This album was created as two bands came together: two members from Scorpions, who had recorded "Lonesome Crow", and three members from Dawn Road. So technically the band could have taken the name Dawn Road rather than Scorpions. To make matters a bit more complicated, the keyboardist who wasn't actually a full member also came from Dawn Road, and some songs were co-written by a former Scorpions member, Rudolf's brother Michael. The result is somewhat eclectic and it is feasible to discern which elements are from the Roth/Dawn Road camp and which ones are from the Scorpions camp (and with or without Michael).
The distorsion intro to the first song, "Speedy's Coming" may remind Deep Purple's noisy intro of "Speed King". It kicks off the album sending the message that this is a rocking album, unlike "Lonesome Crow" which was more obscure, doom and complex. But pretty soon we are taken to a hippie journey of gigantic proportion.. and through several exotic styles.
The title track is one of those songs written by an ex-member (Michael) and a new member (Roth). It is a three part song and its third part, sung by Roth, sounds quite similar to "Turn the Time", a Dawn Road song. I would be inclined to think that Michael wrote the first two parts and Roth grafted one of his compositions (or a modified version of "Turn The Time") to form the third part. Whatever, "Fly to the Rainbow", the song, is a masterpiece. The acoustic intro is somewhat complex (Therion gave up on trying to record it when they covered the song), the drums are quite aggressive and energetic (absolutely and also comparing with Therion's wimpy drum sound when they covered it), the twin guitars harmonies sound very good, the keyboards just seep in gently to add atmospheric elements while remaining barely noticeable, and the vocals are superb, not to mention the solos and gentle violin-like guitar during the quiet part.
Another sign of the fact that this album was somewhat quickly thrown together as the band was fusioning from its two elements, is the fact that some elements bleed between songs, which can give the appearance of a concept album. The line "Fly to the Rainbow", for instance, is actually not sung in the title track, but in "Fly People Fly". And another song, called "Far Away", contains references to flying, to the sky, of all places. The drumming in "This is my Song" sounds quite similar to the drumming in the middle part of "Fly to the Rainbow". "This is my Song" also shows a reasonable use of Hammond/keyboards, and contains a great bass line which we later learned was recorded not by bassist Francis Buchholz, but by Roth himself.
The drum production is courtesy of engineer Mack, who is also responsible for the superb live drum sound on Black Sabbath's "Dehumanizer" recorded 18 years after and to the drum sound on Deep Purple's "Stormbringer", recorded just a few months later in the same studio. In retrospect, Jürgen Rosenthal, who plays on this album, was the most promising of all three drummers who played in Scorpions while Roth was there. His style is very energetic, and little things like the cowbell at the end of the "Speedy's Coming" chorus are nice touches. Too bad he was drafted in the army.. but his stuff with Eloy is pretty good too.
There are elements on this album which Scorpions never tried before or after; such as the Spanish-like chord progression on "They Need a Million" (Therion would rather copy that on "Melez"; it also became the staple of a song like Amorphis' "Nightfall"; though probably indirectly influenced by Kingston Wall's "Another Piece of Cake"). There are also some major hippie moments, aside of the lyrics and album cover, such as the tripping section at the beginning of "Far Away", which can't really be found on any other Scorpions album. Overall, this is also the Scorpions album with the most acoustic guitars on it.
Where it can be shown that the Rudolf/Klaus duo is a thing of its own, distinct from Roth'S style, is when comparing Roth's Hendrix influenced (not just guitar-wise but also vocal wise; sounding halfway between Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix) "Drifting Sun" with "Speedy's Coming", the first of many straight-rockers written by Rudolf and Klaus singing about groupies and rocking in general. "Speedy's Coming" is the beginning of the Scorpions which endured through the 80s, 90s, 2000s and now 2010s, producing hits like "Rock You Like a Hurricane". None of the songs on "Lonesome Crow" were that straightforward and rocking. The only thing not simple about "Speedy's Coming" is the title. What the hell does it mean ?
The second album from Scorpions has one the strangest looking cover, but do not be fooled by the goofy looking dude on the cover. After Michael Schenker and the rhythm section of drummer Wolfgang Dziony and bassist Lothar Heinburg left, they were replaced by long time bass man Francis Buchholz, Jurgen Rosenthal on drums, and the almighty Uli John Roth on guitar. With Roth’s influence, the bad would take the next step into heavy metal greatness as his passion and Jimi Hendrix flare would propel this band toward a higher level.
The opener “Speedy’s Coming” is the only straightforward rocker on here and provides some foreshadowing toward where the band would be heading. This is one of my favorites as I enjoy the lyrical references to Alice Cooper, David Bowie, and Ringo Starr. This song shows a glimpse of what Roth can do as well.
What was heard on the last album is completely washed away this time around. There are no jazz elements or psychedelic influences, and the Black Sabbath like guitar tone is gone. Most of this record consists of more drawn out songs with a peaceful texture. One of the important aspects of Scorpions is revealed here too and that is conveying emotion.
No one can paint a more beautiful emotion in a song than Klaus Meine. “Fly People Fly” and “Far Away” are wonderful examples of this. The way he carries a note and how he brings the power is breathtaking. “Far Away” is the finest song on this album because of the vocals and the brilliant solo that erupts after the beginning. The uplifting nature of the tune is a plus as well.
The title track is the longest just as it was on the first album. “Fly to the Rainbow” is a nine and half minute epic with a peaceful vibe and vocal melody with the middle part featuring a trippy spoken word part by Roth and then develops into an earth-shattering solo and is the perfect way to end the album.
Speaking of Roth and vocals, there is something to be said about “Drifting Sun” which is a song he penned and also sung on. All I can say is, there is a reason why Meine is the lead singer. Roth has a weird voice and his singing here is atrocious. Every song he has provided lead vocal on in his Scorpions tenure is bad except for one. Musically, the song is very good and Roth’s guitar theatrics are impressive, but the vocals destroy it.
Besides that, this is a strong sophomore effort from the German lads. The peaceful and tranquil tone of the album accompanied by Meine’s majestic vocals and Roth’s inspiring guitar playing is very satisfying. Even though this is not what Scorpions are known, this is still an enjoyable record and they would keep on getting better.
The Scorpions were the band that introduced me to heavy metal, so my first reviews for the Archives will be for the Scorpions’ discography. I already wrote a review to Lonesome Crow and I will continue with their second album Fly to the Rainbow, which was released in 1974.
The first thing you will notice is that the lineup has completely changed, apart from the two leading members Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker. I guess these two guys will go on until one of them dies. Gone are Wolfgang Dziony and Lothar Heimberg (I have no idea what happened to them afterwards) and also guitarist Michael Schenker. He decided to accept an offer to join British rockers UFO. The new guys on drums and bass are Jürgen Rosenthal and long-time member Francis Buchholz. But the biggest change is the new guitarist Uli Jon Roth (or Ulrich Roth back then). With him came a change in the music.
As I pointed out in my review on Lonesome Crow, that album was heavily influenced by jazz. But these influences seem to have disappeared when Heimberg and Dziony left. The psychedelic influences are still there but different, in a way that is less dark, but more peaceful and positive. The new man on lead guitar, Uli Roth, brings the music of Jimi Hendrix into the band. This becomes clear when you hear Drifting Sun, a track entirely composed and sung by Roth. In my opinion, this is one of the highlights on the record, even though Roth’s voice is rather thin. But his guitar playing is absolutely brilliant.
The rest of the album is heavily driven by acoustic guitars. Unfortunately they brought in a few fillers, which are not bad but forgettable. Examples would be This Is My Song and Far Away. They Need a Million is a bit strange. It begins with acoustic guitars and Klaus singing, but then switches to something that sounds a bit like a Latin rhythm to me. Uli sings this part (I think) but his voice sounds strangely distorted. Fly People Fly is far better. It sounds very relaxed. I wonder what they were smoking when they recorded it…
Like on Lonesome Crow, the title track, co-written by Uli Roth, is the best song on the album. It is a nine minute epic, which starts with a happy sounding intro but changes its direction to pure epic beauty with creative guitar playing. It also has a mystical spoken part by Uli in the middle. Pure magic!
Another song I have to mention is the opener Speedy’s Coming. This is the first time the Scorpions wrote something you could call hard rock. This song points the direction the band will take in the future. But I think the song feels a little bit out of place here.
My conclusion is: Overall the album is weaker than the debut, because it is a bit inconsistent. It seems the Scorpions wanted to change their sound but they didn’t really know which direction to take. Nevertheless, it is an album worth owning, at least for the title track and Drifting Sun. I would strongly recommend it to everyone who likes the seventies.
There’s something to be said about cover art being a significant factor in a metal album’s worth. When rummaging through a bin in a used music store, you can tell the difference between an awesome early thrash or death metal album from a hair metal, numetal, or some other horrid 90’s style of heavy music simply by examining things like the cover art, logo, band photos, etc. I would say something like 95% of the time, the cover art does not belie the album’s worth: a cool cover implies a good album, a bad cover a bad one. There are few exceptions to the rule (Metal Church’s Hanging In The Balance is a notable one), but they do exist, such as the classic Scorpions album Fly To The Rainbow. The cover art is pretty absurd and probably a turn-off for those that might take a chance with it, but those willing to get passed it will be pleased to discover yet another excellent 70’s heavy metal album from Germany’s finest.
Fly to the Rainbow features the first lineup change between albums and it’s a pretty notable one. Firstly, guitarist Michael Schenker leaves to join UFO, but his replacement Ulrich Jon Roth would turn out to be one of the most significant members of the band during this early period. His esoteric style would produce a lot of classic material in the future, though it’s a shame that he didn’t contribute as much on this album. The other significant lineup change was the replacement of the masterful Lonesome Crow rhythm section with new bassist Francis Buchholz (who would become a staple) and drummer Jurgen Rosenthal. Both new members are good, but I can’t help but miss the Geezer Butler-esque melodies of Lothar Heimberg and the almost jazzy drumming of Wolfgang Dziony. How the band managed to replace them with equally talented members so quickly I’ll never know.
The album also has a fairly different sound than its predecessor, likely due to the new lineup. There’s far less of a psychedelic influence on this album and a much stronger bluesy rock ‘n’ roll vibe. The Black Sabbath comparisons are few and, ironically, comparisons to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow are much more applicable. Opener “Speedy’s Coming” is notable as the first track where singer Klaus Meine sounds like his usual self. Indeed, this is probably the first album where hints of the band’s future songwriting style would begin to emerge. Now it certainly sounds nothing like Savage Amusement, for instance, but listen to the chorus of a track like “Fly People Fly” or “Far Away” and not hear the trace beginnings of one of the 80’s most resilient heavy metal acts. And it’s a good thing that Fly to the Rainbow doesn’t sound like their 80’s material, otherwise extended blues numbers like the Roth-penned “Drifting Sun” and the Spanish sounding “They Need A Million” would certainly not exist.
I prefer the uniqueness of Lonesome Crow, but Fly to the Rainbow is just as solid, if not even more focused in terms of writing. The many acoustic passages used combined with the increased vocal presence of Klaus Meine create beautiful melodies, while the addition of Roth guarantees a heavy guitar sound and a signature Hendrix-inspired atmosphere. For fans of 70’s heavy metal/hard rock.