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Compositional defiance - 86%

gasmask_colostomy, June 30th, 2017

There seems to be a weird hype about Taken by Force that hasn't communicated itself that well to me. I didn't have the pleasure of being born in the '70s when this was released, nor do I qualify as a child of the '80s so couldn't watch the profile of the band grow larger and larger as their material turned more commercial. Therefore, I've never understood why this album as a whole is any better than Virgin Killer or Blackout, so maybe that's just history talking. I received most of the Scorpions discography a few years ago from the surprisingly generous hard drive of my girlfriend's computer and have listened to much of it consistently since, though I'm still not sure about this album, despite the presence of several songs I wouldn't dare to kick out of bed.

In any case, the line-up was perhaps the most celebrated that Scorpions ever had, including both Ulrich Roth and Rudolf Schenker on guitars, though even that is odd considering it was the later albums that caused much of the interest over the group. Unfortunately I'm not quite as excited about Roth as some others seem to be, as I don't feel that his soloing is noteworthy except by its sheer amount and a few great moments, more on which in a minute. What is for sure is that this was a hot ticket in 1977 for riffs, from the semi-clean bassy groove of 'I've Got to Be Free' to the straight up drilling rock of 'Steamrock Fever' (warning: includes real drilling in the background) to the more metallic presence of 'He's a Woman - She's a Man'. Schenker gets a nod for that contribution, while Francis Buchholz's bass makes its presence felt almost as if he were playing in a power trio, owing to the fact that the mix is quite empty of distortion and excess sound, while the riffs are rarely backed up by a second guitar. The drums come through fairly innocuously too, pattering when they should be slapping and slapping when they should be pounding. You'll need your volume control turned way to the right to get much power out of this.

In terms of '70s Scorps, I feel like this is actually one of the most experimental albums out of the lot, not because anyone really pushes the boundaries too much in terms of genre (comments about proto-thrash and proto-power metal are pretty ridiculous), more that very little is played straight. For instance, there are no really straightforward rockers on Taken by Force, which should be the case with 'Steamrock Fever' or 'He's a Woman - She's a Man' yet they turn into a weird catchy song about a new kind of music that has a sort of alarm-clock sound in the background throughout and a tale of transgender encounters set to an unusual chugging riff. The ballads totally miss one's expectations too, forming the longest two tracks and failing to stick to any strict structure, which could either be an indication of messiness or of creativity depending on your reasoning. That creativity surely peaks in the whole-band instrumental workout that is the lithe, darkly funky 'The Sails of Charon' and the busy ballad 'Born to Touch Your Feelings', which has a lot of things going on for a song that barely dwells above a whisper in the first half. The additions to these songs often come from Roth's hyperactive lead guitar, though it's just as likely that we will start off from a strange riff ('The Riot of Your Time' is the most obvious example) or divergent styles (the really old rock 'n' roll of 'I've Got to Be Free') rather than one person doing anything untoward.

One person who barely stands out on this album is Klaus Meine, who turns in one terrific performance on the tangibly atmospheric closer and struggles to leave a definite mark elsewhere, leaving a significant gap at the centre of the songs, in part down to his low position in the mix, where you can hear him battling in 'The Sails of Charon'. This is another reason why the general effect of Taken by Force is less memorable and explosive than other Scorpions albums, since not only do the songs conceal their hooks for longer but his tender vocals are not up to scratch, aiming for the same aura as 'Born to Touch Your Feelings' on the acoustic verses of 'We'll Burn the Sky' and sounding some way off in terms of emotion and musicality, while he doesn't take charge often enough to give other numbers a clear focus. The guitarists do better, loading up on skill and utter coolness for 'The Sails of Charon' (riffs, solos, everything is seriously to die for), dropping into an awesome downbeat groove for 'Your Light', and setting things right with the two shorter rockers, both of which unveil themselves after a couple of spins. There's nothing really bad on here, but the odd angles and compositional defiance shown in the creation of all eight songs is an obstacle to pure enjoyment, if not more thoughtful appreciation. 'The Riot of Your Time' in particular defies definition as any particular kind of song, chopping and changing playing styles to create a confusing and dark mood.

In brief, this is not Scorpions' most exhilarating release, nor probably their absolute finest, but creativity is at an all-time high and everything here certainly deserves the label of "interesting" if not "amazing". I'm beating round the bush I guess, but I like Taken by Force a fair bit and 'The Sails of Charon' is perhaps the killer Scorps tune, even if there are a few oddities lurking around in its impenetrable depths.

Classic Force - 98%

bigmoney, May 8th, 2017

There was a time in the history of heavy metal when the lines between hard rock and metal were quite blurry. The late 60s brought us some pretty heavy rock n roll, from Mountain and Blue Cheer to Led Zeppelin and individual songs from bands as diverse as Steppenwolf (Born to be Wild) and King Crimson (21st Century Schizoid Man)! Listening back to the early 70s you get even heavier guitar tones and more aggressive playing from Montrose, Robin Trower, and ZZ Top (laid back sound, but seriously ripping guitar work and gnarly tone). All of these bands seemed to utilize traditional blues techniques and scales, but often danced around the typical blues song structures and focused more on heavy riffs and chunky tones. Even jazz fusion band Return to Forever had a song titled "Excerpt From the First Movement of Heavy Metal".

There are also the 70s bands that are more commonly seen as heavy metal than hard rock, many of whom further avoided typical blues sounds while still retaining the connections to classic rock n roll. Thin Lizzy had those folk melodies and some Van Morrison-esque soft songs. Black Sabbath's jammy drumming stand in stark contrast to the structure of a lot of 80s metal techniques, but their use of minor notes goes beyond the typical blues-rock tonality. Rush had some choppy chord strumming in "Temples of Syrinx" that reminds me of Elton John's "Crocodile Rock". And let's not forget Judas Priest's moody and progressive "Sad Wings of Destiny"! (Obviously I have missed many fine examples here but these were the first that came to mind).

Then we have Scorpions. "Taken by Force" referred to as TbF for the remainder of this review) is the only Scorpions album I own but it has had an immense impact on my listening habits. This album is progressive and diverse, yet it also features some of the heaviest riffs of its time. I can also hear a clear connection to classic rock in this record, which is a huge plus in my book. The band's creativity was seemingly boundless during this period, and TbF is a fine display of their collective talent and passion. The fiery triplet riffs of "Steamrock Fever" and "He's a Woman..." sound chaotic and seductive at the same time, while the shrieking vocals of the latter might just give you goosebumps! TbF courts a little bit of the sound Scorpions would later become famous for on "We'll Burn the Sky" which reminds me of "No One Like You" but with more sensitivity. There are some Robin Trower-meets-Thin Lizzy vibes in "I've Got to be Free" and "Your Light" both of which feature some of the heaviest riffs with a clean guitar tone that I have ever heard. "The Riot of Your Time" begins with a minor-key parallel to the Who's "Pinball Wizard" (acoustic strumming with electric guitar playing octaves) and uses a very effective disco beat in the chorus. The references to more dance-oriented music don't stop there, the hard funk of "Sails of Charon" and the sexy swagger of bonus track "Suspender Love" should really get those hips gyrating (unless your hip does not hop, you poor soul). On the original album, the last song would have been "Born to Touch Your Feelings" which is majestic and passionate in equal measure. That final ballad also goes to show you that you don't have to have a smooth voice to sing such a beautiful chorus.

Although all the songs on TbF are strong and well-executed in their own way, "Sails of Charon" is the centerpiece of the album for a few reasons. This song is so heavy and unique, and yes I would even describe it as sexy! That intro riff has so much attitude, it sounds to me like an authoritative and mysterious figure lecturing the listener for daring to enter its forbidden lair. Yet the song seduces you and leads you further into unknown dangers with exotic scales and burning lead guitar. The first guitar solo even seems to reference the classic jazz standard "Caravan" right before shredding some sweep-picked diminished-scale arpeggios (eat your heart out, tech death). There's just so much depth in this song, it has certainly earned its reputation and then some!

Finally I have to mention the production on this record. All I can really say about it is that all the instruments are pretty clear and everything fits together nicely. Maybe the vocals could be higher in some spots, but it's not a big deal. The guitar tones are killer, all the heavy riffs really lock in sonically and hit hard. The lead guitar screams and soars, especially on "Sails of Charon" I also want to say that the little quirks and effects are well done, such as the alarm clock in "Steamrock Fever" the voices at the end of "Born to Touch Your Feelings" and that snare drum in bonus cut "Suspender Love"!
In conclusion, TbF is an amazing rock n' roll/ heavy metal album and I think listening to it might make you realize that those two ideas are often the same thing! Check it out, bang your head, and don't forget that metal can be sexy.

Did I get the Sonny & Cher version of this album? - 61%

TrooperEd, April 13th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, EMI (Remastered)

I'm beginning to think Sin After Sin, Stained Class and Killing Machine should start losing points for giving birth to a stereotype that if a metal band which accomplished commercial success in the 80s put out albums in the 70s, those albums are infinitely heavier then their 80s counterparts. I've spent about a good decade and a half peeking over the fence at Scorpions, but if only a record company could put out a greatest hits collection that had both eras of the band that wasn't double disc or so miserably expensive. Hearing this in full, I was right to be cautions.

I will gladly admit that Sails of Charon is everything it's hyped up to be and more. Writing credit faux-pas be damned, it's a crying shame the band never played this live at all. This is power metal majesty at it's finest, easily the Scorps masterpiece. He's A Woman, She's A Man ain't too shabby either, though I think calling it proto-thrash might be a bit too generous. With that being said, if you have those two songs on mp3, you've heard everything you have to hear from this album. We'll Burn the Sky has a decent riff, but some days of the week it just gets run into the ground. When I find myself asking when the damn guitar solo is gonna start already, I seem to snap out of a trance and unfortunately realize I was already about halfway through it. Then I have to rewind. I hate rewinding. Guys, placing a generic riff or chord strum under your guitar solo section in order to accentuate it is not the horrid crime you think it is. Hell Iron Maiden were masters at it.

The rest of the album isn't trash, but it's rigged with problems that an album with this kind of reputation should not have. Those problems include laughably stupid lyrics (Steamrock Fever), too much 70s rock and not enough metal (I've Got To Be Free, Your Light), and the vocals being way too poppy-bouncy (The Riot of Your Time). There's catchy, and then there's distracting. And yes, some of these problems are indeed the trappings of one Ulrich Roth. Roth is unquestionably one hell of a guitar player, proudly carrying on a tonal legacy of Jimi Hendrix. Your Light would have made one hell of a Band of Gypsys track. But people laud him like he was Randy Rhoads before Randy Rhoads; as though he was THE metal component of the band. He did write the aforementioned Sails of Charon after all. But you know what he didn't write? Dynamite; Can't Get Enough; Don't Make No Promises (Your Body Can't Keep). Not to demonize the man but if he was just so metal, he should have gone on to have a career similar to Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai or at least Stevie Ray Vaughn, but he didn't. The Scorpions seemed to do OK without him.

My dear reader, definitely make sure you have a copy of Sails of Charon on your iPod shuffle. But if you're looking for a rock band from the 70s with strong metal overtones and/or credentials, go pick yourself up some Thin Lizzy. Or Blackout.

P.S. Am I the only one who thinks the second half of Born To Touch Your Feelings should have been the credits music to the obesely morbid anime Grave Of The Fireflies?

Unstoppable Force - 100%

SweetLeaf95, October 20th, 2015

Nearing the end of the decade, Scorpions put out one of their last records of the '70s, in which I call their climax for this time period, mixing their original styles with styles yet to prevail. In 1977, Taken By Force was dropped, and is without a doubt my favorite record of theirs from the 1970's. There's only so much you can package into one magnificent release, and they touch just about all of it here.

In this record, you will hear some of the greatest guitar work ever displayed in the early heavy metal years. Imagine taking the beautiful compositions displayed on their debut album Lonesome Crow, and mixing it with a harder, yet more refined sound, as well as played by a different guitarist, Ulrich Roth. All of them are played with such melodic complexion, yet a harder edge at the same time. "We'll Burn The Sky" is probably the greatest example of this, mostly because of the solo in the outro, but it's pretty solid the whole way through as well. This song also contains some of the softer guitar parts which makes for a stellar mix of guitar tracks. The same can be said about the bass on here, as it's very audible and plays such a large role in the musical make-up. As it makes for a great layout for the faster guitar parts, it's also perfect for the slower parts. Take "Your Light" for example, as it acts as a bridge between vocals parts along with the guitar. Overall, the musical composition on this record is nearly perfect, and would make it a tough one to top.

As well as the music itself, Klaus's vocals are at some of their finest as well. Most people could recognize it by hearing it, as it has a distinct sound. Here, we see a lot of signs of a more powerful approach, and what one would expect in the '80s records, such as on Animal Magnetism. At the same time, we can see influences from the earlier work, most evident on my favorite track, "I've Got To Be Free". While melody is vastly important, the enthusiasm and lack of holding back any air is what makes it so great. This kind of vocal output on top of the guitar work makes for the perfect track, and if you're not that familiar with Scorpions, I would highly recommend this one as a starter. With a variety of guitar sounds and vocal work, this album sure packs in a lot of beautiful tunes all across the spectrum.

Of course, there's one thing I missed. You can't talk about this album without mentioning "He's A Woman, She's A Man". The last thing that tops this album off is the earliest sign of speed metal riffing, and is often credited as one of the first. Arguably, it's between this, Black Sabbath's "Symptom Of The Universe", and Judas Priest's "Exciter". But this track was the perfect way to tie everything together, by adding some harsher sounds to the classic metal sounds, softer calm parts, and signs of what would come in the future with a lot of melody mixed in.

Taken by Force by the Best Metal Album of the 70’ - 97%

bayern, March 21st, 2012

Scorpions’ “Taken by Force” is the best metal album of the 70’s (with Black Sabbath’s ‘Master of Reality” a close second, of course); period. Throwing the safest bridge between the heavy, brooding riffage of early Sabbath and the more aggressive trends of the 80’s (speed and thrash, that is), which at this stage had only been slightly hinted at, if at all, this pivotal album is anything an early metal fan would look for. And this is the album on which the Scorps finally found themselves: the road more or less travelled had already started with “In Trance”, but the metallic numbers were dissipated by too many ballads, a tendency which was closely followed on “Virgin Killer” as well. So the band needed something as compulsively aggressive as this in order to take off... by force. And here it was:

The brutal shred of the opening “Steamrock Fever” was one of the first signs at the time that something more ominous and intense was going to come in a few years; a thrash/speed metal precursor second to none, this track also saw Meine acquiring a more sinister tone to fit the aggressive guitar approach. Frowns would inevitably appear on the listener’s face, after hearing the opening cords of the next “We’ll Burn the Sky”, but later on this song contains some of the most compulsive headbanging riffs of the decade, the guys shredding like demented turning this song into one of the mandatory tracks in the band’s catalogue.

So far, so great… The band’s past shows up briefly on the next two cuts, both mild heavy rockers with a big hit potential, far from a disappointment, but totally overshadowed by “The Sails of Charon”: a superb power/doomster with some of the darkest, most brooding riffs around at the time, and some of the greatest lead guitar work to ever grace a metal album: yes, the Scorps suffered a great loss when Uli Roth left after this album’s release. Time for rest (you’ll need it, trust me!) with the more radio-friendly “Your Light”, before the explosion which “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” is: thrash metal was literally born with this piece making the Motorhead speedy rock’n roll boogies at the time sound like an infant lullaby. No wonder quite a few speed/thrash metal acts (Evildead, Helstar, Helloween) have picked this song to pay tribute to its pioneering, groundbreaking, significance.

Even the kindergarden children know that Scorpions used to end their albums with a ballad so “Born to Touch Your Feelings” should come as no surprise to both the more and less initiated, one of the most romantic songs the band have ever come up with, but its impact would be minimal after the preceding “carnage”, and may remain hardly noticed at first listen. And here we are, at the end of this roller-coaster of a metal album.

Logically the band followed it with their first recorded live performance (“Tokyo Tapes”) right after, having finally accumulated enough hard-hitting numbers to rock the heads of the fans worldwide. With the future course well outlined now, the guys’ way to the top was fairly clear, not without the guitar wizard Roth’s leaving after a clash with the rest as to what direction the band’s style should take from then on. Without him the band’s approach became colder and less melodic, and arguably less striking, but this proved no obstacle for the making of other great efforts, like “Animal Magnetism, “Blackout”, etc.

Gracefully topping the “holy three” of 70’s metal (the other two: the aforementioned Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality”, and Judas Priest’s ‘Stained Class”), this great album may not sound as impressive nowadays, if taken (by force) as a whole, but the superior side largely compensates for the several pitfalls which were a pretty common occurrence for the metal albums at the time when older and younger practitioners were still looking for their most-fitting face, experimenting with all kinds of influences and nuances, more or less metal-related. Did the Scorps ever manage to top it up? Well, this is a polemical question, but it’s undeniable that with it in sight the way to “Blackout” and “Love at First Sting” seemed way clearer. And the journey on Charon’s boat by all means safer…

One of the Best 70's Metal Albums - 96%

DawnoftheShred, August 9th, 2007

Germany’s Scorpions were a force to be reckoned with…. in the 70’s. This early period is often unheralded in light of the commercial success they’d achieve in the following decade, but it is undoubtedly the era in which they were the most powerful, musically speaking. They were once a band that weren’t so concerned with writing hits and selling records that they forgot to put their hearts and souls into their songwriting. This is the band they still were for 1977’s Taken by Force: a band of integrity and musicianship forging a new sound that combined their psychedelic rock roots with the soaring harmony leads and intense riffage of proto-power metal. I haven’t heard their entire back catalogue at this point, but I feel it’s safe to say that this is their finest recording.

Taken by Force was the last album to feature one Ulrich Roth, the most talented guitar player they’d ever have in their lineup. Sure, Mathias Jabs is good, as are the brothers Schenker, but Uli was the best. Roth and Rudolph Schenker deliver the performance of a lifetime on here, trading solos and crunchy riffs that would shame the band’s later work. Klaus Meine is also in rare form; his voice still resounding with energy and conviction. This energy is noticeable immediately in opener “Steamrock Fever,” a surprisingly heavy rocker with a delightfully catchy chorus. This treatment is repeated throughout the album, but this time around, Meine’s catchy chorus melodies aren’t the sole departure in an otherwise uninteresting song (as would be the case in their post-Blackout material). Quality instrumentation exudes from every pore of this album, from Roth’s undeniably Hendrix-inspired “I’ve Got to be Free” and “Your Light,” to cult classic “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man,” which has one riff that can’t really be misconstrued as anything but a thrash riff. There’s a notably darker tone on this album than on later ones, apparent not only in the phrasing, but in some of the subject matter. “The Riot of Your Time” is not the upbeat rocker that would have garnered mainstream attention in ’84 like one chart-topping song about rocking like hurricanes, while power ballads “We’ll Burn the Sky” and “Born to Touch Your Feelings” are infinitely more haunting than “Still Loving You” would be.

But the absolute highlight of this album is side two’s opener, “The Sails of Charon.” A Roth masterpiece, it’s the best Scorpions song ever composed. Carried by Roth’s exotic opening rhythms, an unstoppable groove, Meine’s inimitable vocal melody, a plethora of ear-pleasing harmonies, and one of the most brilliant intro solos ever conceived, it’s one of the best metal songs of the 1970’s, even in light of Black Sabbath’s early discography. Plus there are those lyrics; darker and more ominous than anything else they’ve ever done. “Dark night! There is no light in the realm of the black magic man!” This could be the only song on the album and it’d still be the best thing they’ve ever released.

This is a mandatory purchase for any Scorpions fans, especially fans of their later material who don’t know what they’re missing.

Highlights: “The Sails of Charon,” “We’ll Burn the Sky,” “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man”

A Masterpiece from the 70’s - 90%

Hammertime, March 24th, 2005

Taken By Force is one of the finest releases from The Scorpions. I like the darker sound that Scorpions had in their early days. Former Scorpions guitarist Uli Roth did some great heavy lyrics also on Taken By Force album. Your Light and The Sails Of Charon contains very dark lyrics and both are very good songs also. The album starts with fast and catchy track Steamrock Fever. Klaus Meine’s vocals sound different than usual on this song and I do like the rough singing in this one. The greatest song of this album is definitely We’ll Burn The Sky. It is a perfect half-ballad and I think it’s much better than the more popular slower Scorpions classics. Meine’s singing is awesome again. The song starts slow but the chorus part is heavy and catchy. In my opinion We’ll Burn The Sky is one of the greatest songs on the long career of Scorpions. It it sad, melancholic and beautiful. I’ve Got To Be Free is a simple rocker, but a good one. The Riot Of Your Time contains dark atmosphere which was quite typical element in the 70’s Scorpions. Next comes the two Uli Roth songs The Sails Of Charon and Your Light that contain even satanic feeling on their lyrics. When I listen to those songs they remind me of old Black Sabbath which is a cool thing. He’s A Woman, She’s A Man is a funny song but a kind of a legend. After this fast rocker comes the last song of the album Born To Touch Your Feelings. It is a very typical thing that Scorpions close their album with a ballad. In fact the song is good but too long for my taste. There are some women from different countries to spell some words in the end of the song. They speak different languages so it’s hard to find out what they’re saying. In my opinion that outro part is too long and boring.

Overall Taken By Force is a very good album and I’ll recommend it to everyone who likes solid 70’s heavy rock (bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep etc.). For Scorpions fans this is the “must have” record. The original version of the album had brilliant cover art and it’s a pity that the remaster cover isn’t the same. But that’s not a big deal. The remaster contains two bonus tracks: Suspender Love and Polar Nights (live). Suspender Love is a cool rock song with a fine chorus. Polar Nights is an Uli Roth song full of guitar jamming. It is taken from Tokyo Tapes live album. The remaster version of Tokyo Tapes doesn’t have this track on it, because the length of the album.

If you have heard only newer Scorpions stuff and a few radio ballads then you should listen to this album and change your view of this band. Although you don’t like the 80’s, the 90’s or even newer Scorpions stuff you still might enjoy this album.