SCORPIONS – HUMANITY – HOUR 1 (BMG 2007)

REVIEW BY VILLE KRANNILA/ JUNE 2007

So the masters of German “moustache metal” return again, the moustache may be long gone along with the spandex but somehow the attitude still remains. This is their 16th studio album during 35 years of existence and some things never change. Bass players and drummers have come and gone but the unmistakeable voice of Klaus Meine and workmanlike riffs and solos of Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs remain. The latter once considered a teenager and new face of the band has been playing his familiar leads for nearly 30 years. That says something.

Now let’s cut to the case: The Scorpions were never a band that benefited from experimenting. They did change their style slightly over the years, a lot of it of course occurred when Uli Jon Roth stepped aside and gave way to Jabs in late 1970’s, thus the nucleus of Schenker/Meine- song writing team took over and the band released a string of classic albums cementing their reputation and establishing a sound that was certainly unique in metal field. From 1979 to 1990 (yes, I do consider 1988’s “Savage Amusement” as classic record) they were without a doubt one of the finest heavy rock bands in the planet. Even when they went to L.A. for the first time to record “Crazy World” results were excellent, there was a clear change in sound and scope but it still rocked. However, this was also the moment when the tried and tested formula started to crack as the group brought in outside song writers and tried to explore other areas.

An effort to change and evolve naturally can be a positive thing and should be respected. But with the Scorpions it just never quite worked. They tried heavy (“Face The Heat”), they tried pop (“Pure Instinct”), they even flirted with modern sounds and samples on “Eye II Eye” (their darkest hour) but it always came across a little awkward, a little forced. It almost seemed like the band were lost and didn’t know where to go. Luckily on “Unbreakable” (2004) they decided to go back to the past in a sense, and the result was – if not a return to their 1980’s heyday – their best album since “Crazy World.” Live they also displayed new found energy, finally some new songs to play that didn’t sound more or less foreign in context of their older material.

Fast forward three years and we get to “Humanity Hour 1.” The cover has the old classic Scorpions logo tattooed into she-robots neck, in some way the small size of it represents the percentage of the band’s true essence here. Outside song writers are back again and have in fact created most of the album, famous names such as James Michael, John 5 and Marti Frederiksen appear on the credits. Above them all, the 1980’s hard rock giant Desmond Child has taken the reins, producing and co-writing the record. And again they have returned to Los Angeles, sessions taking place in several studios over a lengthy period of time.

It comes as no surprise then that “Humanity Hour 1” is radio-friendly, in times still heavy but mostly laid back collection of songs. They are performed well, and occasionally with great drive. Check out Jabs’ stellar lead break on the otherwise average opening track “Hour 1” or the grinding guitar riff in “The Cross.” And in “The Game Of Life” the cool opening licks remind me of legendary “No One Like You.” No samples or other forms of trickery in sight and except odd violin here and there it is mostly music done by a 5-piece band. And yet almost every second of it sounds calculated, the soaring choruses of “We Were Born To Fly” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive” have hit single stamped all over them. Child’s production is top notch and he knows his way around great melodies, yet in doing so he has always absorbed the band’s soul in some curious way. This time he has created a story of humanity lost in the midst of technical evolution, a perfect concept for the band if there was any. A “Wind Of Change” for the new millennium springs to mind. The future will tell if any of the songs have the same impact. One might have, and we’ll come to that later.

Klaus Meine sings in his usual fashion, his days of screaming are long gone but within this kind of material he is right at home. Listen to his vocals in aforementioned “The Game Of Life” where he succeeds in turning marginally decent composition into one of the album’s better moments. Elsewhere Schenker and Jabs put forward some inspired guitar playing but these aren’t songs that lend themselves that well for furious shredding. And maybe they shouldn’t. That’s not the point anyway.

Thus not everything is lost after all. The real sting in the tale is left at the very end. The closing number “Humanity” is simply awesome, now this is the Scorpions we are talking about! The first seconds of it already impress highly with one guitar laying down main melody and the other backing it tastefully, a technique familiar from the best Scorps-ballads. Meine joins in and delivers incredibly catchy vocal line combined with great lyrics and anthem-like chorus. It is here where Child’s magic touch and the talent of band come together gloriously. Whatever exorcisms rest of the album might have conjured, the feeling after the last note has faded is happiness. It does look like one track can make a difference.

To sum it up, “Humanity Hour 1” has potential to become the most successful Scorpions album in a long time, it is packed with songs destined for commercial longevity and boast faultless production and performances from the aging Germans. For those longing for times of old might be more disappointed. Personally I’m somewhere in the middle; while I cherish the glory days I can still draw some enjoyment from this material. Maybe only one song here truly captures the classic spirit of The Scorpions but that is still something to be celebrated about.

3k

scorpions_humanity

1.Hour 1
2.The Game Of Life
3.We Were Born To Fly
4.The Future Never Dies
5.You’re Lovin’ Me To Death
6.321
7.Love Will Keep Us Alive
8.We Will Rise Again
9.Your Last Song
10.Love Is War
11.The Cross
12.Humanity

Limited edition digipack includes a DVD with “Making Of” EPK, bonus track “Cold” and a photo gallery.

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About Ville Krannila