|MSG Heavy Hitters||Cleopatra Records|
[Review edited. All details remain accurate and the same apart from the reference to this album being the 25th Anniversary release Michael has been working on with various singers. That release is still pending - this is a tribute release from Cleopatra, with Michael playing the key role in the release].|
A few Schenker fans give me a bit of crap regarding my last couple of reviews for the famed Axe-slinger…even vocalist Chris Logan joined in on the last review!
Still, that's their right, the very reason I provide the Interactive Reviews is for fans to post their views. But for me – I remained unimpressed with Schenker's recent offerings.
I remain an ardent fan of the days with Robin McAuley and even some of the Gary Barden material. Not to mention UFO. Walk On Water remains an all-time favourite.
Back to the present – Schenker's personal affairs appear in as much disarray as ever and in between dealing with those issues, quite publicly at times, he recorded a new album.
This is a tribute album of sorts, put together by Cleopatra Records. They have gathered up a range of musicians to pay tribute to some classic rock songs, with Michael Schenker suuplying the guitar parts. What is confusing for the consumer is the fact this is released under the MSG moniker. It really has little to do with past MSG releases - aside from Schenker handling guitar duties.
Sadly Cleopatra is one of the crummiest labels in America. They wouldn't know promotion if it was a 30-foot billboard sitting on top of their office building. The only reason I am reviewing this is because I sourced it myself.
The line-up featured here is pretty impressive, with the roles of all musicians shared, with Schenker the only constant.
Close behind Schenker however, is famed producer Bob Kulick, who plays most of the album's rhythm guitars and produces, ensuring that this at least sounds pretty tight musically.
Schenker contributes some amazing guitar parts here and some inspired solos – to my ear some of his best and certainly better than the last couple of studio albums.
That said, not all of the covers included hit the spot and some of the individual vocal performances will appeal to some, but not others.
Heavy blues rock gets a solid workout on Heavy Hitters, a style Schenker plays with consummate ease.
Joe Lynn Turner delivers the first hit with a mid-tempo All Shook Up - an absolute no-brainer for blues veteran Turner.
Leslie West appears to reprise his role singing the original Mountain track Blood Of The Sun. Another does of bluesy rock, it's an ok track, but lacks punch.
Doctor Doctor covers Schenker's own past and features the ever professional Jeff Scott Soto up front and is easy an album favourite due to this singer's appeal.
A 7 minute plus cover of Sabbath's War Pigs features Tim Ripper Owens on vocals and doesn't stray too far from the original. A rhythm section comprising of Mike Inez and Aynsley Dunbar adds punch and Schenker plays all over the track.
I'm Not Talking features Mark Slaughter – a vocalist I have never warmed to. Slaughter fans might dig the track – an uptempo blues romp, but for me it's skippable.
Pink Floyd's Money is covered without adding much variation to the original. Styx's Tommy Shaw joins the album line-up, as does Edgar Winter (Sax), Tony Levin (Bass) and the long lost Mike Baird (Drums). Interesting track and cool line-up.
I Don't Live Today is a Jimi Hendrix cover and features some inspired lead guitar work. The always energetic Sebastian Back joins in on vocals and the track also features Eric Singer and Tony Franklin as the rhythm section.
Hair Of The Dog features the very distinct Paul Di'Anno on vocals. I have never liked his voice and it sounds as rough as ever here.
Out In The Fields features Gary Barden replacing Phil Lynott and Gary Moore as the single vocalist for this Moore cover. Nowhere near as good as the original and disappointing.
Cream's Politician features bass and vocals from Jeff Pilson. He suits the song, but this isn't a stand out and ends the album on slow note, despite a solid lead guitar display.
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