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on 20 May 2012
Another classic retrospective (6 albums + extras over 5 discs ) from the Chrysalis stable, and the perfect partner to UFO's, charting what happened next for Michael Schenker after quitting UFO (for what really did appear to be the last time). Fortunately, it didn't take too long for him to get his act together - although the process wasn't exactly painless for the German guitar genius. Musically speaking, the starting point was the chance discovery of singer Gary Barden and the subsequent debut album, despite being under the banner of "The Michael Schenker Group", was essentially a Schenker-Barden affair (backed by top session players). And what a collaboration it turned out to be under the guidance of producer Roger Glover. Kicking off with "Armed And Ready", any doubts whether Herr Schenker could continue the astronomically high standards he had set in his previous band(s) were immediately dispelled. Classic riffs, classic lyrics, classic ending. And with a jaw-dropping solo - which is a classic. Can you get any more classic? And so it continued until the last fading notes of the album-ending epic "Lost Horizons" confirmed that this was a class songwriting partnership. And if "Tales Of Mystery" revisited "Arbory Hill", from UFO's "Obsession", there's no suggestion that the two had run out of ideas. This album has to be one of the best heavy rock debuts ever and contains some of Michael's finest work - as if he had a point to prove.

Hot on the heels of its release, the Michael Schenker Group took to the road with a permanent (as far as the term can be applied) line-up, which included the inspired additions of Metal Mickey's former UFO band mate Paul Raymond (effectively reprising his role in UFO), Cozy Powell and Chris Glen. The maestro was clearly in his comfort zone with this familiar format - so familiar that Phil Mogg joked that there was a band going round impersonating UFO; a claim given added credibility by the fact that - as MSG only had an album's worth of material - several UFO classics were included in the set-list (much to fans' delight). Tantalisingly, the 6 previously unreleased live tracks included here from MSG's debut UK tour are not described as "bonus tracks" and the booklet contains album sleeve photos which include what appears to be an unreleased album, "Live at the Manchester Apollo 1980". The remastered "MSG" album contains a further 6 numbers from this show, so maybe a full-length release is in the offing? Apart from the 12 numbers accounted for, the band also played "Into The Arena" (the live B-side included here is also from the Apollo) and, if I remember correctly, "Bijou Pleasurette" or possibly an early version of "Courvoisier Concerto". I don't recall any other UFO tracks being played but the atmosphere was absolutely electric and it was great to see the band really going full-tilt. Michael's playing on "Rock Bottom" is unbelievable. If you haven't heard this version yet, it will blow you away when you do.

"MSG" (album titles weren't a strong point) was a very different beast altogether from the debut. Schenker's choice of producer - Ron Nevison (from his later UFO days) - created a much heavier sound with Chris Glen's bass and Cozy's drums well to the fore (perhaps over-compensating for the lighter sounding rhythm section on the debut album). The songs too are very different, although just as good in their own ways. The lead guitar is (as you'd expect) pretty exceptional. In contrast to the heavyweight emphasis for most of the album, there are also some subtle touches throughout, such as Raymond's harpsichord-sounding keyboard on "On And On" and changes of tempo. At 7:00, "But I Want More" is an epic and is followed by an absolute gem (the only way to describe it) from Paul Raymond - "Never Trust A Stranger". Think 'Heavy Metal Barry Manilow' (not for too long!) and you won't be far off. But there's no slush here, just the purest of ballads with Michael conjuring up the type of solo that only he can. 'Rabbit out of a hat!' - most definitely. Why this song wasn't released as a single is a complete mystery to me. It could have been massive. "Looking For Love" has classic MS melodies and "Secondary Motion" completes the album, notes hanging in the air with Barden singing (almost prophetically, with hindsight) "Give me that chance ..." - the perfect ending to this classic album.

Next up is the live double album "One Night At Budokan" - here the original unexpanded version preferred by many (unless you're particularly into drum solos) but this time with Courvoisier Concert[o] misspelt (again). It definitely deserves its place up there with all the classic live doubles - it's that good - but its release also marked the first departures from the band. Exit stage left, Cozy Powell, Paul Raymond ... and Gary Barden.

What happened next ... you couldn't make it up. "Assault Attack" is arguably MSG's most 'musical' album; even if new singer Graham Bonnet's vocals aren't an easy listen, the playing and production are flawless. Martin Birch captured Ted McKenna's (another inspired choice) drum sound perfectly and if there's a better produced heavy rock album out there, I've yet to hear it. The single, "Dancer" ably demonstrates Michael's musical genius - taking the lyric's theme of a dancer falling, his solo begins with notes tripping and spinning from his guitar. But if an album this good can possibly have a stand-out track, it has to be "Desert Song" with its cinematic imagery and musically, Schenker bending harmonic chords by flexing the neck of his trusty Flying V - shades of UFO's "Love To Love", long instrumental sections and two sections of perfect, contrasting, lead guitar. An absolutely brilliant composition. The album ends with a barnstorming instrumental - "Ulcer" - with the band having an absolute blast and (again with hindsight) which seems an eerily prophetic way to end the album ... Exit singer number two. Welcome back, Gary Barden. Surprise, surprise!!

On to "Built To Destroy", an album I didn't bother with at the time (and haven't much since). Sometimes it's better to move on ...

And finally, "Rock Will Never Die"; another live offering - again the original (single album) version and arguably to be preferred to the expanded version for that reason. The highlight, for me at least, is "I'm Gonna Make You Mine", where rhythm guitarist Derek St Holmes sings the lead (superbly). It was very clear that Gary was struggling badly by now and St Holmes' vocal performance suggests what could have been if Michael (and he) had been willing to break the mould and develop this new approach.

Any quibbles? Well, the bonus tracks are a little disappointing, as most are already available on the re-mastered albums. The Sounds flexidisc edit of "Sleeping Dogs" (I remember having this) was more of a 'taster' - it stops suddenly after the guitar solo. And as much as "Armed And Ready" is a classic, there are no less than 5 versions of it here; maybe you can have too much of a good thing? Perhaps some of the best of the Reading headline gig could have been included for good measure ... but this is a highly recommended collection and remarkable value for money. The first four albums alone easily make this a 5 star box set.
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on 16 March 2012
This five disc set has all the classic Schenker albums featuring 2009 remastering & several previously unreleased on cd tracks. Great value. Highly recommended. Just waiting for UFO Vol.2 to come out next month!
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on 8 March 2016
A 2012 five disc set containing ex 'UFO' guitar wizard Michael Schenker's most essential albums, with bonus material, recorded for the Chrysalis label 1980-1984, in chronological order. Here are the contents, album by album:

Michael Schenker Group (1980)
The first long-player was more like a Michael Schenker solo album than a proper 'band' recording, but featured Gary Barden on vocals. It was produced by Roger Glover from 'Deep Purple'. I bought the two 7" vinyl singles at the time 'Armed & Ready' / 'Bijou Pleasurette' (instrumental) and 'Cry For The Nations' (Radio Edit) / 'Into The Arena' (live instrumental), all of which are included. Even my Dad approved of the pleasant B side 'Bijou Pleasurette' ! All in all it was an impressive debut album.

As a bonus, there are 6 live tracks from the Manchester Apollo in September 1980. This is more like a 'band' performance, featuring Cozy Powell on drums (with a great drum sound), Chris Glen from 'SAHB' on bass, and Paul Raymond on keyboards. This is a good live recording, but Gary Barden's vocals sound strained at times, compared to his studio performances. Some noisy guitar feedback in 'Victim Of Illusion' caught me by surprise ! The UFO number 'Rock Bottom' is 10 minutes plus, and I have heard better versions; UFO at the BBC for instance. The song 'Lost Horizons' is 9 minutes plus, with more impressive drumming by the late Mr Powell.

MSG (1981)
This is my favourite of the albums, and the first proper 'group' recording in the studio. I actually prefer the more lo-fi AAD sound of the 1996 BGO '2 on 1' CD release. My favourite songs are 'Attack Of The Mad Axeman', 'On & On', 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie' and 'But I Want More', all of which were performed to great effect on the 'Budokan' live album on disc 3. This is not just a wonderful Michael Schenker album, it is also a showcase for Cozy Powell's drumming.

One Night At Budokan (1981)
This excellent live double-vinyl album was given a full UK release after import copies were selling well. This makes a good companion piece for the double live album by 'UFO' called 'Strangers In The Night'. It features songs from the first two 'MSG' albums, and there are good performances from all the band members. It is a shame that this touring line-up did not last beyond this live album.

An earlier US CD I also purchased unfortunately excluded one of the best songs ('But I Want More') to fit the concert on to a single disc. Fortunately, the song is contained here on CD3 with the rest of the concert.

Assault Attack (1982)
MSG's management and Schenker wanted to take the band to the next level, by bringing in the ex 'Rainbow' singer Graham Bonnet. After the departure of Cozy Powell, Chris Glen was joined by his 'SAHB' band-mate Ted McKenna on drums, forming an experienced rhythm section. Paul Raymond (keyboards) had also departed.

The album received a mixed reception from fans and critics, who expected more from Schenker and Bonnet, although the album has aged quite well, and sounds impressive on this remastered CD. There is an additional B side included 'Girl From Uptown'. The track 'Desert Song' is perhaps the most impressive moment. Other strong titles include 'Dancer' and 'Rock You To The Ground'. The track 'Ulcer' is an uptempo instrumental.

Unfortunately, after an argument in Sheffield, Graham Bonnet walked out on the band, after only one album. This was just before a commitment to play the Reading Festival ! Gary Barden was brought back to play the gig, and the performance was recorded by the BBC (later released on a CD). He also remained in the band for the next studio album.

Built To Destroy (1983)
Confusingly, there are 2 different mixes for this album, the original 'UK Mix' and the 'US Remix' (both mixes are now available on the stand-alone CD). It appears that the UK version is used for this set, which I prefer. Although it shows the band in decline to some extent, there are still enjoyable songs such as 'Rock My Nights Away', 'I'm Gonna Make You Mine', and 'Rock Will Never Die'. The rhythm section is also pretty solid. It is slightly annoying to have this album spread across discs 4 AND 5.

An earlier CD from 2003 by Alchemy Entertainment Ltd contained the 'US Mix', with just 5 'UK Mixes' on a separate disc.

Rock Will Never Die (1984)
To be honest, I have not listened to this live album for a while. I had it once on vinyl. I remember thinking it was inferior to the 'Budokan' set, and it sounded less powerful. Gary Barden appears to lose his voice during a tour, unlike Bruce Dickinson from 'Iron Maiden'. I recall that some of the vocals on this album sound strained. Still, it is good to have live versions of more recent material.

There is much to enjoy on this comprehensive collection. Recommended.
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on 30 April 2012
after UFO made 3 albums with Michael Bolton on leadguitar, which differed in een bluesbased boogierock and strechted out spacerock,in came Michael Schenker, first on loan from the Scorpions, who moved the band in een much heavier direction. As is ample proved on the first collaboration "Phenomenon", which spawned 2 of the biggest rockanthems "Docter, Docter" and "Rock Bottom". Further albums saw the same musical line but where augmented by keyboards, which easied the heavyness somewhat and made the songs more melodic. This was continued till the livealbum "Strangers in the Night" after which Schenker left UFO to start a solocarriere. In fact the first albums with new singer Gary Barden where in the same vein as UFO, Barden is not very different from Phil Mogg and the music so far not all together very different from UFO. Which tells a lot about the role of Schenker while in UFO. This package offers the first two studioalbums whith Barden and also the long sought livedoublealbum "At the Budokan", which was only released in Japan originally. These are strong efforts and showcase the talent of the guitarplayer/songwriter an his penchant for composing solid rockers with a good melody. Strangly Barden was then replaced for "Assault Attack" by another GB, Graham Bonnet this time. The music on this album is more in the style of "Down to Earth" by Rainbow (from whom besides Bonnet, Don Airy and Cozy Powell has played in MSG at a time). A single B-side is as bonus included in the set. It does not really suits the guitarplaying from Schenker and after a liveshow that went down very badly Gary Barden returned to the microphone. With him the final MSG album "Build to Destroy" was recorded and also one of the final liveperformances, which all are included in this package, with a few extras (which is not always the case in the Crysalis Years compilations). So highly recommended for those who savour honest and melodic rock from the early eighties.
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on 17 December 2012
I was devatsted when Michael left UFO to go solo, but when you listen to this you will see that he had a lot of material of his own that he wanted to record. Truly one of the best rock guitarists ever.
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on 11 June 2013
For just over a tenner, you get 5 cds containing Metal Mickeys 1st 4 studio albums, the all time classic double live Budokan album (what a intro), a ropey live album from 1984 that reeks of contractual obligation, plus a dozen or so other tracks, mainly b sides. Very interesting to track a bands decline from the great debut album to dross of Built to Destroy.
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on 30 October 2013
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on 30 July 2013
bought this to go with my recent purchase of temple of rock and was not dissapionted also bought this to back up my worn out vinyl great to listen to the updated recordings and a few extra goodies that were thrown in
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on 6 October 2012
Now in the interests of disclosure, I should point out that I once got Michael Schenker's autograph. In true Wayne's World style, I told him "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy", and he looked at me in a puzzled fashion. I wouldn't want to make any suggestions as to why he didn't get the joke, as this may be national stereotyping. He replied, "no, I am the one who is not worthy". How can you not warm to a guitar hero with such humility?

Right, here it is. Lovely box set of the soundtrack to many afternoons spent reading Kerrang in the early '80s. Some hard to find tracks too and a great balance of live and studio stuff.

Only niggle is that some of the albums are spread across more than one disc, but it makes the box a bit smaller and I guess more affordable too.

Schenker's approach was unimaginably courageous I reckon - he'd left a successful band, gone solo, teamed up with a barely known singer and makes an album with some instrumental heavy rock tracks on it. Superb riffs, hooks, solos, tone, and very imaginative, diverse arrangements and structures.

It was a shame that MSG wasn't bigger than they were, but that's rock and roll. Interesting to have the records beside each other to compare in context - one has Graham Bonnet as the singer, spectacular vocalist, and some immortal riffing but is it really as good in its entirety as the debut with Gary Barden? You can buy this box and decide.
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on 17 December 2016
Michael Schenker is a name that any self-respecting fan of rock music knows well. He turned up on the scene at a young age and made a big impression, because for the time (key point) he was technically strong, had a great ear for melody as a guitar solo writer & performer, and managed to write some cool songs. Initially for The Scorpions (though they went on to write their best music after Michael moved on), then with UFO where he stayed a fair while and did some fantastic work (Lights Out, Rock Bottom the pinnacle especially the live versions on Strangers In The Night) but unfortunately a lot of very unmemorable stuff as well.

This album covers the years after UFO where again, he worked with various musicians but still always erratic in quality in the songwriting department. Michael Schenker has never been consistent. In my opinion his very best work of all came with the instrumental album "Adventures Of The Imagination" which came out in 2000.

He is revered by many, indeed at his best he is a very melodic player, but he is often not at his best and that has been the story of his career.

Technically although he made big splashes on arrival to the rock world, and at the time it was a fair assessment, he got overtaken when the big guns arrived in the form of players like Vinnie Moore, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, Tony Macalpine, Steve Morse, later on John Petrucci of Dream Theater, and many others. Schenker and Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page also to be fair, had been the most technical players until the new kids on the block blew them completely out of the water and there was a key technical reason why they did so.

If you watch Schenker (or Blackmore or Page) play lead work, you will see that of the 4 available fingers to use around the fretboard, they only use 3. Only 75% of that which they have. The "pinky", little finger, call it what you will, they didn't learn to use. If you watch any of the names I referred to above, they all use the 4. It gives a huge advantage in speed, yes, and in rock and metal a great deal of the kudos goes to the fastest players even though it is often overly valued in fact. But all those players are indeed a lot faster than MS and RB and JP. But of course the scales, the phrasing as well as the pure speed can be hugely impacted if you have a whole extra finger with which to display skill, melody, and general articulation. Ideas from the brain can be translated onto the fretboard in much more advanced ways, technique and melody have less limitations either in written parts or in improvised playing. Jazz guitarists mastered this earlier, say Al Di Meola some years before all the rock "shredders" turned up.

The "shredders" sometimes get a bad press, the accusation is usually that the technique (usually just the speed so therefore a crude measure) takes over and the melody is lost. In particular Yngwie Malmsteen, Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Zakk Wylde are 100% guilty of playing fast for the sake of it and are unmelodic players. But in the case of Moore, Satriani, Vai, Gilbert, Morse, Petrucci, Macalpine, that is an unfair judgement. All of them sometimes feel they must show off, and if you've been working on your skills for many years I guess there is always an urge to demonstrate it, you can't blame them for that really - but all of them are capable of incredible heights of articulation, melody and technique, and when they get it right (which is often) the older guys are absolutely eclipsed, annihilated.

So to go back to Michael Schenker, he is still sometimes beautifully melodic, and Adventures Of The Imagination is quite technical in parts, but he gets romantically overrated due to the nostalgia and the time when HE was the new kid on the block. He blew a lot of minds without any doubt. He also has improved a lot with regard to the ability to write consistently well, he's better at that than when he really did pen a fair amount of poor material. But he's not a guitar god any more, he got left behind. But he did make one hell of a mark back then.
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