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Much like Motorhead would soon celebrate a string of venerated albums with their legendary No Sleep Til Hammersmith opus, the Scorpions did much the same thing to commemorate a duo of high profile Japanese gigs. So far in the band’s career, few folks seemed hip (especially in America) to just how revolutionary and evolutionary the band’s work had recently been, as classic albums like In Trance, Virgin Killer, and especially Taken By Force were all crucial documents in the process of metal shedding the excesses of it’s seventies skin and becoming a sharper, more articulate beast. Notably, this was also the last time Uli Jon Roth would adorn the band’s music with his Hendrix-like guitar prowess.
All of which means Tokyo Tapes is not only a consolidation but also a clear dividing line in the band’s sound. From here their style would become sharply harder, more compact and tight, which would earn them the major commercial success they’d thus far been denied. The good news is in their earlier guise, the band still had major music to offer, much of the best of it appearing here in the always higher intensity concert environment. “All Night Long,“ a previously unrecorded and damn good number opens matters, which include such seminal cuts as “In Trance,” “We’ll Burn The Sky” (awesome tune, man, one of the band’s greatest slow building epics) “Dark lady,” “Steamrock Fever,” and the clearly forward looking aggressive riffing of “He’s A Woman, She’s A Man.” Even a proggy and misty oldie like “Fly To The Rainbow” sounds great here, and the pairing of the band’s tight playing and Roth’s loose, acidic guitar style is a wonderful thing to behold. The only real downside is the few songs Roth sings. As I’ve noted before, he possesses one of the world’s most irritating and toneless styles in history (notice how his guitar work “Polar Nights” is amazing, and how things change the second he opens his off-key yap). That aside, Tokyo Tapes is a fun and historically valid album that proves an important point. As far as metal was concerned both the Scorpions as players and the Japanese as fans were all way ahead of their time.