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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.