It is time to take a trip of 16 years back to the past when McAuley Schenker Group’s last self-titled album was unleashed to the world. After somewhat disappointing “Rock Will Never Die” album in 1984 Michael Schenker hooked up with former Grand Prix singer Robin McAuley. Their first two ventures “Perfect Timing” and “Save Yourself” had both proven this was a force to reckoned with, but it was their third self titled collaboration that really brought the house down.
The band assembled in legendary Los Angeles Rumbo Recorders studio recording under Kevin Beamish’s watchful eye. Schenker had recruited some class acts to play with him. James Kottak (Warrant, Scorpions) joined in on drums while formed Dokken-bassist Jeff Pilson took over the four-string position. In addition Jesse Harms (Sammy Hagar, REO Speedwagon) supplied keyboards so the talent present was not in question.
Often talent itself does not guarantee a classic album, but in this case there was a renewed sense of enthusiasm on display right from the excellent opener “Eve.” It begins with brilliant solo by the guitar maestro himself and few seconds later McAuley joins in with powerful style still developed from their last effort. Chorus contains catchy hook and Schenker shows off more during the beginning of each verse, Beamish’s production really capturing the best possible sound for the mad axe man.
The second song is even more impressing – “Paradise” and its great melody are a perfect example of Schenker’s exceptional talent, his guitar seems to literally sing in between the verses and again we get a chorus worth dying for.
“When I’m Gone” and “We Believe In Love” are commercial tunes, yet convincing enough to make you care for them. And so on it goes. The lyrics contain most of rock’s clichés from sex, love and heartbreak to “I gotta keep rockin’ just to make a dime” – but seldom done this well.
And a special mention has to go to “This Night Is Gonna Last Forever,” which is interesting– a story about a groupie and her one shot to fame. Let’s face it; there are no bad songs on this album.
Kottak, Pilson and Harms all handle their instruments with subtlety necessary not to eclipse the main players, if you want to pick out something it is the drum sound that to my ears could have benefited from slight increasing but really, this is a minor thing.
Robin McAuley delivers fantastic performance on lead vocals, his smooth yet gritty voice fitting perfectly to this type of melodic material, feeling right at home within the framework of both hard rockers and ballads. It is a shame he virtually disappeared from the scene after his tenure with MSG ended. However, recently he’s been more active again releasing a solo album and joining melodic rock legends Survivor taking over the lead singer position from summer 2006 onwards.
And then there’s Michael Schenker, his Flying V oozing out brilliant solo one after another, guitar playing is nothing short of sensational here. He rules the plate with tasteful leads augmented by strong riffs and harmonies. The acoustic work evidenced in “Never Ending Nightmare” is also worth point out, and as McAuley sings “Nightmare, lying here in the dark” the emotion felt is incredible. And when Schenker cuts in with some ferocious lead work from 5:10 on, the album concludes itself majestically.
Sadly this was to be the last McAuley Schenker Group studio album, there would be one more project: an unplugged CD as a farewell in 1992 before Schenker’s inevitable reunion with UFO comrades took place. Schenker returned with MSG few years later but results since then have been mixed at best. Most of the material from McAuley’s era was also ignored in live shows, with the occasional exception of “Never Ending Nightmare.”
While most refer to guitarist’s groundbreaking work with UFO or his two first MSG records from the early 1980’s, many forget that he was creating high quality music right up to the next decade. And of course he would make at least one more classic album with UFO’s “Walk On Water.” But that’s a different story and possibly a different review.
Make no mistake: “MSG” is one of the finest hard rock albums ever released and a crowning moment in Michael Schenker’s later day career. Phenomenal and then some!
3. When I’m Gone
4. This Broken Heart
5. We Believe In Love
8. What Happens To Me
9. Lonely Nights
10. This Night Is Gonna Last Forever
11. Never Ending Nightmare