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I’m trying to write this review without looking at the album’s cover image, because I don’t think it’s going to help me get into the right mood to talk about songs like ‘Holiday’ and ‘Is There Anybody There?’, nor do I think it will help me concentrate. To be fair, it does bear the mark of Scorpions’ slightly odd sense of humour and mildly eclectic tastes (I mean, that isn’t the kind of woman who appears on most rock album covers), though it doesn’t have the same mood as the album’s music and sure as hell shows it. Perhaps if the man’s face showed something beyond mere complacence and concentration - something closer to worry or perplexity - I might argue that it could fit ‘Lovedrive’, since this isn’t a straightforward ballsy rock album in the least.
In fact, ‘Lovedrive’ may just be the most complicated of all Scorpions’ early material (I’m thinking of the 70s albums) to assess, because it doesn’t have the same energy to it like ‘Virgin Killer’, ending up like a downbeat ‘Taken by Force’ with fewer riffs. There are only 8 songs here, but they run through a whole load of different styles to varying degrees of success, displaying most of Scorpions’ specific traits as well as developing a few additional parts of the sound. We get everything from the rollicking hard rock sprint through ‘Another Piece of Meat’ to the effortlessly poignant ballad ‘Holiday’, including ‘Loving You Sunday Morning’, which is somewhere between the two, and ‘Is There Anybody There?’ which is something else entirely. These many approaches give the album a scattered feeling, as if it doesn’t fit together well, with many odd jumps in mood and tone.
The complexity and experimentation that made songs like ‘Sails of Charon’ and ‘Your Light’ from ‘Taken by Force’ so exciting and different is much duller on this album. Uli Roth was out by this point, which might have played a part in the simpler sound, though both Schenker brothers turn up (Michael plays lead guitar on a select few tracks) and occasionally turn in some interesting parts. However, the leads aren’t all that spectacular and the driving presence for most of the songs is Klaus Meine, who quite simply steals the album. The first time you hear his voice, you probably won’t think too much of it, but as he starts to move you realise that his comparative lack of power (against Rob Halford or Bon Scott) is no problem, because he scores all his points through subtlety and mood. The slow ‘Is There Anybody There?’ with its reggae chords really shouldn’t work as a Scorpions song; however, Meine’s understated “Aah”s and the gorgeous harmony with the backing vocals turn it into a highlight. The same happens to ‘Holiday’, the vocal lines of which bear a resemblance to the wistful ‘When the Smoke Is Going Down’ from ‘Blackout’, capturing a bittersweet, reflective mood absolutely fantastically - hence my concern about the blasé nature of the cover image.
The rhythm section turns in a few intriguing moments, such as the upbeat offbeat stomp of ‘Can’t Get Enough’, which avoids the obvious, even while the guitars plow ahead on their own momentum and the solo shreds a hole through the middle of the song. What disappoints are the more straightforward moments of ‘Always Somewhere’ and ‘Coast to Coast’, which are respectively a dull ballad without much feeling or nuance and a rocking instrumental that doesn’t merit being an instrumental - it requires something more to make it worthwhile. The couple of faster songs that kick off the album would usually be the highlights, but here they too lack a certain something and don't quite swing as hard as they should.
Perhaps it’s cruel to call ‘Lovedrive’ patchy, falling as it does between two monster Scorpions albums, but about half of the songs here fail to deliver all the goods or just end up as decent, though unremarkable. If there were more songs, or if they were all of a high quality, it wouldn’t be a problem: I just feel that 36 minutes of music should be the absolute best a band can offer, otherwise they need to add more content. For a band in as golden a period as the Scorpions were in the 70s, this falls short.
With tensions building up between guitarist extraordinaire Uli Jon Roth and founding members Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine over the band’s musical direction, a separation was inevitable. Roth wanted a more ambitious musical output that his success-driven bandmates were not prepared to accommodate, so he was replaced by Matthias Jabs, thus completing the so-called “classic” Scorpions lineup (drummer Herman Rarebell had been acquired for the previous Taken by Force) that would indeed achieve commercial success and several popular mega-selling albums in the decade to come.
But back to 1979. With Roth finally out of the way, there was nothing standing in the way of Rudolf and Klaus’ shot at mainstream acceptance. As such, Lovedrive is easily the most straightforward and accessible of the Scorpions albums up to this point, though not necessarily a strictly commercial outing. The bizarro cover art (produced by Hipgnosis, who else?) and the biting, occasionally dissonant riffs of tracks like “Another Piece of Meat” and “Loving You Sunday Morning” are products of a band not entirely opposed to experimentation. But Lovedrive is definitely the official birthplace of the popularly accepted Scorpions and once again we find the band’s material paralleling that of Judas Priest’s work of the same period (see: British Steel or Killing Machine). No-nonsense, hook-oriented riffing and Klaus Meine’s signature vocals are the driving forces behind these songs and at times, their only saving grace (the strange reggae-rock of “Is There Anybody There?”). Jabs proves himself a reasonable soloist, but his skill would mature a few albums down the road. In the meantime, founding guitarist Michael Schenker briefly returns to add a bit of lead magic to some of the album’s more remarkable tracks.
The rhythm section has been simplified from albums of the past, one of a few unfortunate concessions in the bid for popular approval. A more tragic example occurs in the album’s softer moments, where the band’s signature power ballads, once sublime, are now merely token. “Holiday” is the better of the two, somewhat recalling the soft-spoken beauty of the Roth-era. Other highlights include the instrumental rocker “Coast to Coast” and the title track, the latter of which borrows the unmistakable groove of Priest’s “Diamonds and Rust” to good effect.
Certainly a weaker Scorpions album (and a surprisingly shorter one), but it isn’t bad at all: the worst things you can say about it are that it’s occasionally typical (“Always Somewhere”) and at other times very strange (“Is There Anybody There?”). However, those things are enough to fault it, and all the sticky bubblegum tits in the world can’t kick it into the same league as their earlier material.
Scorpions's sixth studio effort was it's best, until the Blackout arrived some years later. Lovedrive is described as the Scorpions's first classic album, because the album contains some classic material. This is also the first album to feature the classic line-up (Meine/Schenker/Jabs/Buchholz/Rarebell). Ulrich Roth left the band and Matthias Jabs is his replacement.
The line-up and the musical direction got stabilized for about ten years. Their style is more leaning to harsher edge since 1976´s Virgin Killer. The Scorpions's cover art has always been sexist in the way or other, and this doesn't make an exception (bubblegum on lady's tit). Album also has a brief return of mama Schenker's prodigal son Michael, who appears on three tracks. He's last Scorpions album was the debut Lonesome Crow before moving to UFO.
Lovedrive offers classic after a classic, for the whole record. "Loving you sunday morning" starts this package. It completely fulfills the requirements for the "classic Scorpions track", which means it's cathcy, chorus is great, vocal melodies are good and the screaming solos fill the air. "Another piece of meat" is also a classic. It's more rude and rowdy than "Loving you sunday morning". It has Michael Schenker on lead guitar. The next piece is "Always somewhere". Scorpions have the pattern that the third song is a power-ballad, and this doesn't make the exception. Is there something new to be said about the Scorpions-power ballads? I don't think so. This one is sweet, but not in the way the band approached about twenty years later. Guitar melodies are good. "Coast to coast" is another classic song, and Michael again on lead guitar. This one is an instrumental, what isn't common on Scorpions-albums. The over-technical solos are missing on the track, what isn't a bad thing at all.
"Can't get enough" is rude and crushing and also faster. Meine screams a lot on this track. Probably the best song of the album is the classic "Is there anybody there?". If I have to describe it to someone who doesn't know it, I say it's slower and more peaceful. The main guitar riff sounds to my ear, that it has some reggae-influences. The last rocksong and Michael Schenker track of the album is the title track, "Lovedrive". It's intro is too progressive and dim to fit into classic Scorpions song. The song gets back to normal Scorpions mold in the chorus at the last. It has also a very stange ending. "Holiday" is the last classic song of the album, because it's the last song of the album (quite logical, innit?). A ballad is in question, but it's one of the best Scorpions ballad ever made. The song is acoustic guitar-driven and weepy, but it has some raw guitar attacks in the middle, and the solos are crying. The songs ends instrumentally, with acoustic guitar and the crying solo guitar backing it.
If I have to choose the most definitive tracks of the album, I would choose "Loving you sunday morning", "Another piece of meat" and "Is there anybody there?". There are no bad tracks here, but some of them are maybe too average like "Can't get enough". The classic album packed with classic material, but not at their best.