MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP
"Tales of Rock 'N' Roll"

(Locomotive)

01. The Ride
02. Setting Sun
03. Angel Of Avalon
04. Dreams Inside
05. Dust To Dust
06. Voice Of My Heart
07. Journey Man
08. Big Deal
09. St. Ann
10. Shadow Lady
11. Love Trade
12. Human Child
13. Bitter Sweet
14. Blind Alley
15. Freedom
16. Life Vacation
17. Rock 'N' Roll
18. Tell A Story
19. Life Goes On

RATING: 6/10

Considering the U.S. release date was August 1st and the disc arrived sometime thereafter, the review arrives a tad late. But hey, it's the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, so better late than never. After 25 years (not counting the early UFO/SCORPIONS work), the German guitar god can still squeeze out a phenomenal batch of weepy chords, pulsating riffs, and passionate solos. Schenker has the chops, but his style has always been one of true feeling. It is a skill set that cannot be taught or explained; it comes straight from the soul. You can hear it all over this 19-track collection that features new singer Jari Tiura on the majority of tracks, as well contributions from all past MSG vocalists, including Graham Bonnet, Gary Barden, Robin McAuley, Kelly Keeling, Leif Sundin, and Chris Logan. UFO madman bassist Pete Way and RACER X drummer Jeff Martin also contribute. As it turns out, Schenker would have been better off turning over vocal duties on all tracks to the alumni and leaving Tiura out of it. The rookie's vocal pattern and pronunciation issues water down or damage too many otherwise decent tracks.

Very few of the Tiura tracks leave much of an impression. The catchy immediacy and soulful groove of 2003's "Arachnophobiac" is largely missing from "Tales of Rock 'N' Roll". It is of course Schenker's guitar work that keeps the Tiura-treated tunes from suffering too much. Songs like "The Ride" are quite strong; the mid-tempo cut smokes, grooves, and includes a break that is vaguely reminiscent of MOTT THE HOOPLE. A little boogie and R&B graces the acceptable "Setting Sun", while songs like "Voice of My Heart", "Dust to Dust", "Journeyman", "St. Ann", and "Love Trade", are just OK, Schenker's flame-throwing notwithstanding. "Human Child" and "Bitter Sweat" are weak, while "Shadowy Lady" is just bad (mainly due to Tiura's subpar performance). It's a shame, as the guitar work and Schenker-isms on a song like "Bitter Sweet" sound great, but Tiura just kills it. A better, more commanding, vocal delivery would have made a huge difference here, as there is nothing patently wrong with the instrumentation on most of these compositions.

The songs with guest vocalists range from above average to pretty damn good. When the Sundin-sung "Angel of Avalon" arrives at the track three spot, the quality level soars. It is a chunky-riffed strut with a little Paul Rodgers swing and an infectious chorus. The melodic and heartfelt "Dreams Inside" is vintage Schenker with a moving Logan vocal. Gary Barden and Graham Bonnet shine on two near classics, the wonderfully melodious "Life Vacation" and "Rock 'N' Roll", respectively. "Big Deal" falls dangerously close to mediocre, even with a more than acceptable performance from Kelly Keeling. Robin McAuley does just fine on "Tell a Story", but it too is just above average.

As a longtime Schenker fan, I'd love to give this one a 7 or 7.5, but the abundance of Tiura tracks drag down the rating. However, I would have no problem recommending the album to MSG fans, mainly because they'll buy damn near anything the guy puts out. I'd buy it too. Lots of fiery guitar work and several strong arrangements, several bad vocal performances and a handful of strong vocal performances basically sum up "Tales of Rock 'N' Roll: Twenty-Five Years Celebration". The 6 pains me too.

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