Scorpions – Comeblack (2011)

Posted: November 7, 2011 in Music

Last year, when legendary German rockers the Scorpions released Sting In The Tail, the CD was packaged with twelve awesome tracks as well as some sad news. The band announced prior to its release that it would be the last studio album they would release, and that after completion of their tour (which will wrap up in mid-2012), the band was officially retiring from the rock and roll circuit.

And why wouldn’t they? After 46 years of performing, album sales in excess of 100 million, and 22 albums (including ‘live’ releases) they have firmly carved in stone their legacy as one of heavy metal’s most prolific acts. Despite the ages of the members, Sting In The Tail was easily one of the most energetic releases of 2010 – and there was no reason to think the band had lost their edge or passion for music. In fact, I was a bit surprised that they were hanging up their collective hats. The album was THAT good. I suppose, though, that if you are going to go out, you might as well do it with style – and that’s exactly what Sting… was.

Not so fast, though. Apparently the announcement of that album being the last ‘studio’ album was an intentional play on words, as the band has just released Comeblack. While Comeblack isn’t a NEW ‘studio’ album, it is the next best thing…

The first half of the album is made up of re-recorded versions of their earlier hits. For a small sampling, the band couldn’t have picked a better collection. These are THE songs that made you pay attention to the Scorpions, regardless of WHAT kind of music you listened to. When you consider these songs were originally recorded at least twenty years ago, it speaks volumes how timeless these tracks really are. The re-recordings pack just as much punch as the originals, and on the rare occasion where the intensity seems to just miss, you noticed the attention to detail and the absolute sincerity behind each and every word.

But revisiting the back catalog isn’t enough of a reason to put out a new album – even though bands have done it time and time again. Instead of filling the disc with a trip down memory lane, the Scorpions opted to fill the second half of the disc with cover songs of tracks that have inspired them over the years. Again, the selection is amazingly spot on.

From the very beginning of Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love” (no, Soft Cell did not originally do this song), you can tell that the band means business with their renditions of these classics. It crunches with power, and the guitars stomp a hole in the ground while the harmonized vocals swirl above. Many have offered up versions of this song, but none as energetic as this.

T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan is undoubtedly looking down from above with a smile when hearing Klaus Meine’s gritty version of his hit from the early 70’s. While “Children of the Revolution” was originally penned for teenage rebellion, the Scorpions put a bit of a more mature spin on it. Accentuating the rhythm and structure only add to this great track, and the new spin puts a much needed fresh coat of shine on this one.

With such a variety of tracks and styles over their career, the Scorpions, to me, were like The Beatles for most – so it was beautifully ironic to find them covering the Fab Four’s “Across The Universe.” Instrumentally, there isn’t anything really ear-popping here (it’s mostly just Rudolf Schenker’s acoustic guitar), but the vocals and harmonies are absolutely sublime. Ballads have always been a strong point for the Scorpions, and this is no exception.

Standing alone as the only ‘obscure’ selection is the redux of Small Faces’ Tin Soldier. Here in America, Small Faces were no big deal, but across the pond, the band (although only together for four years) were the leading force in the mod/psychedelic movement of the 60’s. But even if you haven’t heard the song, you are in for a treat. Meine and company take a simple britpop hit and slather it with sexiness and swagger. Had I not known the history on this song, I could have easily been convinced that this was a Scorpions original. It’s THAT good…

Bringing the album back to more recognizable songs, the band gives the treatment to “All Day And All Of The Night,” originally penned by Ray Davies and The Kinks. The band stays pretty close to the hip on this one, but the blues flavored rocker lends itself well to the Scorpions style. Throw in a wicked guitar solo, and you have a great, fresh take on a great, old song.

Not many bands have been continuously rocking as long as the Scorpions, but The Rolling Stones are right there with them. In fact, the Stones have been together a couple of years longer than the Scorps, but who’s counting. It does make for some interesting music, however, when the ‘youngsters’ take a stab at Jagger and Richard’s “Ruby Tuesday.” The first part of the track is played out note for note to the original, but once the chorus hits, the Scorpions take it to an unexpected level – with metal guitars and bombastic levels the Stones only wish they could reach.

All in all, this album shows – if nothing else – how great of a band the Scorpions were, are, and still can be. They haven’t missed a beat in over 40 years, they sound as good today as they did in the 80s, and they make anyone’s songs sound even better. Apparently the final ‘hurrah’ for these krauts will be a 3D live DVD collection from the recent tour, and one more cover album of songs exclusively from the 60s in 2012, but if they continue to excel like they have with Comeblack, I would strongly suggest they reconsider their future. The rock and metal world needs the Scorpions, and they sure still know how to deliver the sting…

9/10

Tracklist:
01 – Rhythm Of Love
02 – No One Like You
03 – The Zoo
04 – Rock You Like A Hurricane
05 – Blackout
06 – Wind Of Change
07 – Still Loving You
08 – Tainted Love
09 – Children Of The Revolution
10 – Across The Universe
11 – Tin Soldier
12 – All Day And All Of The Night
13 – Ruby Tuesday

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