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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.