How does one review an album of a guitar legend re-recording his past classics with one of hard rock’s most prestigious bands? I guess I’m about to find out. For those who don’t know who Uli Jon Roth is, why not? Well you’ve probably heard of Scorpions, right? Well before they were arena rockers rocking us like a hurricane, they were a straight ahead, no bullshit hard rock band still lead by most of the same people who lead it today such as singer Klaus Meine and involuntary band leader rhythm guitarist Rudolph Schenker. Uli Jon Roth – the second Scorpions axe man and one of the most beloved guitarists of all time – has released his most recent of many solo albums, Scorpions Revisited, a two disc revisiting of the songs that made him a king amongst guitar players everywhere.
Since his departure from Scorpions in 1978, Uli Jon Roth has since changed his style from being a blues-based guitarist to incorporating classical influences into his playing. Scorpions Revisited shows him finding those blues roots again while putting a bit of a new spin on some things with his classical influence, which makes some re-workings of some of the songs kind of interesting.
The first song from Scorpions Revisited is one of the last songs he recorded with Scorpions , Sails of Charon from the 1977 album Taken By Force. The song is quite true to its original recording; the guitar riff is still there and the melodies and harmonies are the same. The only difference is the song is about twice the length to make room for some killer guitar solos Uli Jon Roth had to offer.
The first disc continues with tracks such as the mystic Longing For Fire, which keeps the vocal harmonies that made the original so good intact. Crying Days starts off with a slightly longer solo intro, but also stays true to the original. If fact, most of the songs sound very true to the originals, just with a different backing back and singer.
Classics such as the heavy and controversial Virgin Killer (ok the song wasn’t so controversial as much as the album cover was) and In Trance (which had another controversial album cover) are obviously included on Scorpions Revisited. These are two of the songs Uli Jon Roth are best known for with In Trance being my personal favourite Scorpions song thanks to its absolute power and emotion, and thank goodness all of that is present in this new version. The first disc also wouldn’t be complete without a ballad, which is accomplished with Yellow Raven.
There are songs on Scorpions Revisited that I’ll admit to not being too familiar with. The first disc has a couple, Sun In My Hand and Polar Nights. The Former of the two being a heavily blues-based hard rock song. Polar Nights is also blues guitar heavy, but in more on a Jimi Hendrix influenced way rather than a classic blues way. Both songs are sung by Uli Jon Roth on both the original versions and also on these version, and I must say I’m surprised with how his voice has held up, but I think I’m underestimating the amount of singing Uli has done since leaving Scorpions.
The first disc is concluded with Dark Lady, one of the better know Uli Jon Roth sung Scorpions tracks thanks to his wild vocals and signature guitar playing. All of that present in the Scorpions Revisited version. What makes this such a good closer for the first disc is that it turns the original three-and-a-half minute piece in to an over eight minute work of art, again thanks to the improved guitar playing of Uli.
Disc two of Scorpions Revisited continues to provide both classics and other Uli Jon Roth-era Scorpions favourites starting with the hard rocking Catch Your Train which is then followed by the intensely beautiful Evening Wind. This disc also features the classic We’ll Burn The Sky, which is one of the original songs that showed Uli’s classical influences. Those influences are only elevated on this new version, with new and improved guitar solos, making the song just as epic as its original version.
This disc has three songs that I’m not familiar with. All Night Long, Hell Cat and Life’s Like A River are all songs I wish I knew better, though I can understand when listening to the first two of these songs why I don’t know them. They’re definitely the least significant tracks on Scorpions Revisited. All Night Long is a pretty standard hard rock song while Hell Cat is shorter, looser and more to the point. The singing is a little silly sounding on Hell Cat, but the guitar playing is pretty awesome. Life’s Like A River on the other hand is a beautiful guitar driven ballad similar to many recorded by Scorpions and re-recorded on Scorpions Revisited.
Of course there are still the rocking Uli Jon Roth-era tracks that I personally know and love featured on this disc, such as two of my favourites: the hard rocking Pictured Life and Drifting Sun. The latter of the two is actually shorter than its original version, which seems to be a rarity on Scorpions Revisited.
Scorpions Revisited ends where it all started for Uli Jon Roth. Fly To The Rainbow is the epic nine-and-a-half minute closing track to the album of the same name by Scorpions which served as their second album and first to feature Uli Jon Roth, subsequently making it the first time Uli Jon Roth’s guitar skills were first introduced to the world. For Scorpions Revisited, Uli Jon Roth recorded an intro for the song so long and so beautiful that he made it its own track on the album and called it Rainbow Dream Prelude. Fly To The Rainbow itself is extended to over eleven minutes and it sounds just as excellent as the original. Some of the best guitar playing of Uli Jon Roth’s career is present in this version of the song. I couldn’t imagine another song being chosen to conclude Scorpions Revisited.
In the end, would I take the original Scorpions versions of all of these Uli Jon Roth-era songs present on Scorpions Revisited? Of course I would. However I can’t deny how much I enjoy listening to these re-recorded versions. Vocalist Nathan James is no Klaus Meine, but that’s only because Klaus is one of those singers with such a distinctive voice that you know every single time you hear that voice that it’s him. However, Nathan James has quite the set of pipes that holds its place in singing all of these Scorpions classics (except the ones that Uli Jon Roth sings). But all in all this is a guitar player’s album, and it’s the guitar playing that’s meant to be admired on Scorpions Revisited so from that perspective this is one of the better albums to come out all year.
“In Trance” – I’m partially choosing this song because it’s my favourite Scorpions song, yes, but there’s more to it than that. Like many songs on Scorpions Revisited, this is one of the finer examples of how Uli Jon Roth took the most classic of his Scorpions songs and extended it to be a guitar playing masterpiece and this is also the shortest of those examples as most songs that he extended on Scorpions Revisited tend to go over the eight minute mark.
8 (Out of 10)
|1.||“The Sails of Charon”|
|2.||“Longing For Fire”|
|6.||“Sun In My Hand”|
|10.||“Catch Your Train”|
|12.||“All Night Long”|
|13.||“We’ll Burn The Sky”|
|16.||“Life’s Like A River”|
|18.||“Rainbow Dream Prelude”|
|19.||“Fly To The Rainbow”|