Michael Schenker Group (MSG) - Universal
by Kevin Wierzbicki
Fans can pretty much always count on Michael Schenker's guitar playing; he's been a firebrand going way back (his career has now hit the half century mark!) to his days with Scorpions and UFO. And as you would expect, his work here is intense and melodic, inventive and precise, and when the song calls for it, absolutely sizzling. Where MSG albums have sometimes faltered is generally because of the singers on the album; Michael's choice of vocalists have not always worked out. Here though he has a winner on his hands as this new material leaps to life behind the voices of two journeymen singers, Ronnie Romero of Rainbow fame and Helloween singer Michael Kiske. Kiske is in great form as MSG pays tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio, specifically his Rainbow days, with "A King is Gone" where former Rainbow players Bob Daisley, Bobby Rondinelli and keys man Tony Carey also appear. Elsewhere Ralf Scheepers tears it up on vocals on the hard rockin' "Wrecking Ball," a cut with a catchy riff and chorus that reminds of the AC/DC oeuvre; Schenker's mid-song solo here will have fans accompanying with their best air guitar moves (they better be fast!) The album's title cut is a duet from Romero and Gary Barden that's set to a slow and simmering melody which, keeping it all in the extended family, could easily be mistaken for a Scorpions cut. "Under Attack" is styled as classic rock and its harmonized lead vocals and persistent beat represent hallmarks of the radio biggies of the era. "Long Long Road" could be thought of as a look back at Schenker's lengthy career but in fact it is about how tough it is to hold a love relationship together. Then again, keeping a band together is similarly not easy and Schenker deserves big kudos for 50-years of staying the course and coming up with one of his better albums here in Universal.