Germany’s SCORPIONS have been going for 50 years…let’s let that sink in for a moment, hmmm? No easy feat by any means. I grew up a fan during the heyday of MTV before I lost touch with what they were up to for years. Then came 2010’s Sting In the Tail which I loved from top to bottom. And THEN came the chance to see them live in 2012 for next to nothing while living in Dallas. Firstly, Klaus Meine can still sing like he did all those years ago, never missing a note. Second of all the band that night was one of the tightest I have ever seen in my life, everything was a well-oiled machine. So of course when the opportunity to get my mitts on brand new (in the U.S.) album Return to Forever (September 11 via Sony Music/Legacy Recordings) came up of course I snatched it and ran!
The copy I received is an amalgamation of the standard U.S., iTunes Deluxe, and Japanese Editions with 19 tracks in all. Breaking it down song by song will be impossible. So for a change of pace let’s just look at some of the ones that really stuck with me, starting with songs five through nine. Think of some of the best 80’s anthems SCORPIONS put out and that’s exactly what you have here. Songs for driving, songs for necking (showing my age, I know), and songs to pump your fists to. “All For One” is your standard party fare with smooth riffs from Matthias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker, Meine still sounding like a young buck. How he does it amazes me!
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Band” is in the vein of fast numbers like “Blackout”, drummer James Kottak and bassist Pawel Maciwoda steering the ship while the guitar duo sounds like chainsaws cutting through timber. Speaking of sick guitar lines, one of my favorites has to be “Catch Your Luck and Play”. Not to mention the hook wraps itself around your brain and simply refuses to let go. I wasn’t sure where “Rollin’ Home” was going at first. Is it a sweet quasi-ballad, or just a slower tune? Well, the answer is a little bit of both. And in true SCORPIONS form it is done damn near to perfection. The riff rock makes another triumphant return on the aptly-titled “Hard Rockin’ the Place” as well as opening cut “Going Out With a Bang”. The blend of crunchy guitars and sweet melody has always been this band’s strong suit.
When it comes to ballads few equal the songwriting prowess of SCORPIONS and “Eye of the Storm” is another feather in their cap, that’s for sure. I can’t stress enough how incredible Meine still sounds. On the bonus track front the personal favorites were “The World We Used to Know”, “Crazy Ride”, and “One and One Is Three”. Also worth mentioning is the plugged-in version of “Dancing In the Moonlight” as well as acoustic/electric rocker “When the Truth Is a Lie” featuring the album’s best solo.
I think really the only way you can wrong is by only getting the twelve-song standard version of this disc. It’s so worth it for these extra songs, and SCORPIONS prove once again why they are one of the most celebrated bands in all of rock and metal. Other than one or two tracks that didn’t quite hit the mark for me, this is a terrific album from these guys. Return to Forever? You bet your ass!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Catch Your Luck and Play”, “Hard Rockin’ the Place”, “One and One Is Three”, All For One”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Band”, “Crazy Ride”, “Rollin’ Home”