Top critical review
One of the very best - for a while.
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.