Nuclear Blast [Release date 20.09.19]
Mr Schenker and his motley crew are back for their second album following on from the ‘Resurrection’ album released in 2018. The premise is the same with all former MSG vocalists joining the guitar maestro for a romp through 13 tracks. With so many singers on the album the quality can vary a bit from track to track which was also an issue with the first album but when it’s good, it is very good!
Opening track ‘Rock Steady’ features all singers, namely Doogie White, Robin McAuley, Graham Bonnet and Gary Barden, and is probably the best of the group collaborations. The track has a laidback beat with lyrics reflecting Schenker’s musical career. Doogie White then takes the mic for ‘Under A Blood Red Sky’ which reminds me of the quality output from his Temple Of Rock days, a strong track with an equally strong vocal.
‘Silent Again’ then features the vocal talents of Robin McAuley, always one of my favourite singers. This is a driving track with great drumming which on this album was provided by Simon Philips and Bodo Schopf following the sad death of Ted McKenna shortly before the recording started. All vocalists are then back in action for ‘Sleeping With The Light On’ which rocks along nicely.
Bonnet is next up for solo vocal duties on ‘The Beast In The Shadows’ which is reminiscent of some of his Alcatrazz back catalogue which is no bad thing. Doogie White then pops back up to provide the vocals on ‘Behind The Smile’ and again turns in another sterling performance.
This then leads us to the first of two tracks with Gary Barden at the mic which is where things become a bit unstuck. Gary could blast it out back in the day but the years have been less than kind in the vocal department and he struggles to carry the tracks which is only emphasised in such great vocal company. It is great he is included as he was an integral part of MSG for many years, however perhaps he is better suited these days to the odd line in the group numbers.
McAuley is then called back into action to great effect on the rocking ‘Lead You Astray’ which rides along on a wave of double bass drumming. We then have a guest vocalist, as if 4 weren’t enough, in the shape of Rainbow frontman Ronnie Romero. He provides his voice to ‘We Are The Voice’ complete with some tasty riffing from Mr Schenker.
The second of Barden’s tracks is up next and, to be fair, it’s not too bad. Faster paced and with a great chorus it appears to suit his vocal better than the slower numbers which is good to hear. The last of the group tracks ‘Old Man’ follows and for me it is the least convincing of the multi vocal tracks on offer. It’s not bad but one I could see myself skipping in future listens.
‘Still In The Fight’ gives Graham Bonnet another chance to shine, again not my favourite track with Bonnet sounding a bit strained in the chorus. The album is then brought to a close with a Schenker showcase in the shape of the instrumental track ‘Ascension’. This is a real rock workout which shows the talent in the band and allows Michael to cut loose on his Flying V with some impressive fretwork.
Overall then this is a good album with the odd substandard vocal and track here and there, but on the whole an album well worth a listen. Nostalgia sells and Michael Schenker Fest is doing good business whilst some other bands struggle in the current market, they just need to ensure that the quality control is in place or they risk besmirching the great MSG legacy. ***
Review by Dave Wilson
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Each week David Randall presents ‘New to GRTR!’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, with the emphasis on independent artists and labels. During December he replays favourite tracks including power plays featured during the year. This show covers the period January-March and was first broadcast on 1 December 2019.
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