Scorpions - Taken By Force review
|Album:||Taken By Force|
|Release date:||December 1977|
01. Steamrock Fever
02. We'll Burn The Sky
03. I've Got To Be Free
04. Riot Of Your Time
05. Sails Of Charon
06. Your Light
07. He's A Woman, She's A Man
08. Born To Touch Your Feelings
09. Suspender Love [bonus]
10. Polar Nights [live] [bonus]
Like so many artists who achieved success in the 1980s, Scorpions were better in the ‘70s. Contrary to popular belief, they were actually quite capable of rocking you like a hurricane before 1984.
To some extent, this is for the same reasons why everyone from AC/DC to Yes was more revolutionary in their early years than in the decade where MTV ruled the zoo: the fire of youth, the intoxication of unfettered experimentation, the freedom afforded by punching upward from the underground. But if we were to insist on the discovery of a more tangible cause, we’d pin some of that creative abundance on the man who was the lead guitarist of Scorpions for several years in the mid-‘70s: Uli Jon Roth, a pioneer of the neoclassical style and a consummate shredder who helped drive the transition in guitar obsession from Eric Clapton to Yngwie Malmsteen. Roth is the unequivocal star of Taken By Force, as with In Trance and Virgin Killer – in fact, to set the record straight, this isn’t a review of Taken By Force so much as an overlong exhortation to listen to “Sails Of Charon” on repeat until that world-transforming guitar solo burns itself into your brain cells. This is a song for which Roth cites flamenco, Middle Eastern music, and Tchaikovsky as influences, and you’d better listen to find out whether he threw the damn kitchen sink in as well; first there’s the audacity it takes to begin the song with an 80-second guitar solo in 1977, and then there’s the searing sophistication with which the band attacks the atramental swing of the main riff, and then there’s the druidic heft of Klaus Meine’s tenebrous vibrato when the vocals finally arrive: ah, it’s a perfect song. Sure Ritchie Blackmore wasn’t the only fella who spent the 1970s making Jimmy Page feel like a wet-nosed novice.
Venturing beyond that one track, it’s plausible that Roth’s addition to the lineup is what pulled Scorpions away from the jammy, detached krautrock of their earliest indulgences and galvanized them into hard rock: the buzzing, elastic leads and smacking rhythms that characterize the best Scorpions compositions from this era owe something to Roth’s influence (although Roth claims that he never played much electric guitar until joining, so perhaps it’s a larger array of coincidences). Of course, there is more to the winning formula of arachnidial action than one man’s rubber-wristed genius. Taken By Force also marks the first appearance of longtime drummer Herman Rarebell, who makes an astounding entrance with his gorgeously measured grooves: “Sails Of Charon” just wouldn’t feel the same without his earthy kicks, clashing cymbals, and sturdy, occlusive snare; nor would the tense, furtive “The Riot Of Your Time” achieve the same sense of urgency; nor would “He’s A Woman – She’s A Man” stick with the same frictive grit. Klaus Meine’s vocal lines also tend to be on the wilder side, permitting some wickedness and even a few screams that tend not to characterize his later performances, and the way he clamps his jaws down on every syllable makes him sound almost like Dio at times.
This album arrived just before Scorpions discovered their timeless and dated anthem+power ballad formula, the emotional elevator that made them such an enduring force once they learned to show their sentimental side: the ballads on Taken By Force match the grit of the rock numbers with bitterness and sometimes equal heaviness. The literal jackhammering tension of “Steamrock Fever” (my second favorite Scorpions tune, if I had to pick one) doesn’t lose any of its momentum in the transition to the half-acoustic lament “We’ll Burn The Sky,” and “Your Light” succeeds “Sails Of Charon” with another guitar smorgasbord from a quieter, bluesier perspective that still bursts into high gear on occasion. The songwriting on Taken By Force is more consistent than on most Scorpions albums, and it tends to be much moodier, even deadly serious; taking into account that the cover art for once is not only not abjectly tasteless but actually has a significant message not too crudely delivered, Taken By Force is one of Scorpions’s most sophisticated releases.
I’ve never been too active a Scorpions fan, typically preferring individual singles to full albums, but Taken By Force has just the right combination of memorable writing, awe-inspiring musicianship, and ground-breaking energy to make it stand out in the band’s discography. Perhaps Lovedrive or Love At First Sting or Blackout will continue to be recognized as the primary achievements of Scorpions, but for me, it’s this one.
||Written on 31.12.2022 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.|
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