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Journey to the Schenker of the Earth
on 23 January 2011
Probably the best quality DVD release from those DVD's that are available of Michael Schenker. I should know - I handed a list of over 300 recordings of Schenker to his official website at their request. It is great to see Michael so ably climb out of his rough patch in 2007. One in the eye to those false prophets who keep saying "he's lost it". These false prophets come and go, but Schenker continues to overcome his demons again and again. Nobody is denying that he's had his demons. But, come on - people have been saying "he's lost it" from the beginning, when nothing could be further from the truth. Again and again and again, he rises from the ashes. He's made dozons of albums, all different to each other, and all brilliant. He rarely fails to turn out less than 4-5 classics per album. His "best of" collection is more than 24 hours in duration. The man is a musical genius. He wrote almost all the hits that made UFO famous, and invented most of the guitar-styles that make classic rock what it is today. Schenker IS classic rock - possibly the only man ever to really understand the genre, with very few exceptions. Whilst many UFO fans are also Schenker fans, a certain breed of UFO fan behave like fans of Stockport County FC who, briefly, had Maradona on their team. When he turned up, they loved him. When he left, they hated him. When he re-joined, they loved him again. When he left again, they hated him again. All this is pure cobblers. It has everything to do with tribalism, and nothing to do with musical assessment.
Anyway, to the DVD. The DVD contains a typical MSG set: mainly classics from the first four albums, but also three of his latest tracks (I Want You, A Night to Remember, and Dance Lady Gipsy). Whilst I can understand those who would want Schenker to play other more recent material, it is time to get into the real world, where releases have to be commercially viable. Classic Rock lamentably went out of fashion in the 1990s. Tragic, I know, but true nonetheless. This meant that anybody like Michael who showed integrity by sticking to the classic rock style was commercially forced to market themselves on the basis of their "greatest hits". Obviously, this means hits from the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s, when classic rock was at its zenith. But, hey, what's the alternative? So few people have been introduced to the brilliance of, for example, the trio of MSG albums, Written in the Sand, Unforgiven, and Be Aware of Scorpions, that it would be suicide to release tracks from these albums commercially on DVD. The same applies to Schenker's brilliant trio of solo electric projects - Dreams and Expressions, The Odd trio, and Adventures of the Imagination - or to Schenker's unbelievable "covers" trio of albums - Endless Jam, Endless Jam continues (the best lead guitar I have ever heard), and Heavy Hitters. I could go on. The fact is, once simian partisanism has been set aside, Schenker has to be acknowledged as one of the greatest musical talents of our time.
Anyway, back to the DVD. I would be the first to admit that Schenker has had greater live "highs" than this. And yet, it would be dishonest to rate the material as less than "5-star". The tone is there; the material is there; the dexterity is there; the camera work is, for once, not bad actually; and, personally, I love Gary Barden and Chris Glen. Furthermore, I love Wayene Findlay. For anybody who is new to Michael Schenker, get this DVD. It will be a great introduction to this hero of rock. For existing Schenkerheads - well, you know he's brilliant, so get it ordered. To die-hard UFO fans who have matured beyond football-terrace tribalism, get the DVD - it's well good.
OK - I admit it. The soloing on Lost Horizons is not the best. 99 times out of 100, Schenker corrects my musical opinions. Maybe 1 time out of 100, I can suggest something to him (his official website asked me to do his musical bibliography, so I suppose I know a little bit about this - admittedly Michael corrected me personally on a couple of points). I have five musical qualifications, but Michael knows so much more than me about music. And yet, I would perhaps dare to make just one suggestion to Michael: Learn the best versions of the solos from the classic tracks. These tracks no longer just belong to just you anymore, Michael. They are part of our history. They were gifts from you to the fans. You gave them to us - and we loved them. So, please re-learn the solos from the classics - the original Lights Out, Rock Bottom, Lost Horizons, Armed and Ready (you've never played the original solo from this live so far as I can see), and Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. Dear Michael - we love you. You're the best. But even us lowly fans can see things occasionally!
Nevertheless, such criticisms are trifles compared to the wonder that is Michael Schenker. In the words of that great Vulcan - live long and prosper, Michael - we're with you all the way. We love you. In other words, buy the DVD.
Recently, I tried to think if there were any objective criteria by which I could identify Schenker as the world's greatest rock guitarist. This is what I came up with:
More original studio output than any other rock guitarist
More stylistic variation from album to album than any other rock guitarist
Greatest composer of rock music in history - wrote virtually all the UFO hits
Greatest rock solist in history: the top ten rock guitar solos are undoubtedly Schenker's
Greatest riff writer in history: has ten times more riff ideas than any other rock guitarist
Perfect musical phrasing - only Hendrix has ever achieved the same standard in blues phrasing
Complete originality - it is almost impossible to say Schenker adopted others styles. He didn't!
One of the only rock guitarists to understand "tone" - even greats like Steve Lukather sound "over-processed", but he doesn't!
The only rock guitarist to truly understand why "shred" is sub-musical - he rightly repudiated it
The most exciting rock guitarist - expressing the whole range of emotions, not just "ominousness"
The only rock guitarist to repudiate the four burdonsome cliches of rock:
-Speed, Ominousness, "Growling" vocals, and formulaic structures
The only rock guitarist to combine feeling, architecture and structure, with originality.