Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 20 Sep 2019
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The Michael Schenker Fest is an interesting project and, for the most part, it's a successful one, appropriately given that it's been fifty years since the young Schenker started a band with Klaus Meine called Copernicus. What he's done since then is, of course, legendary, whether for the Scorpions in their early years, during a number of stints with UFO or with his own band, MSG. The Michael Schenker Fest is a look back at a lot of that history, with new material created with a number of the vocalists who accompanied Schenker along the way.
On board for this second Michael Schenker Fest album are no less than four major vocalists, who combine their talents on three songs and divvy up the rest between them. And that's not including Ronnie Romero, the current lead singer for four bands including the latest version of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and the excellent Ferrymen, who guests on Lead You Astray.
Those four vocalists are Gary Barden, who sang on fully half of the ten MSG albums; Doogie White, who spent six years with Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock; Robin McAuley, who was the other half of the other MSG, when it stood for the McAuley Schenker Group; and Graham Bonnet, who was the other singer in the early MSG days, singing on Assault Attack. It's worth mentioning that White and Bonnet, like Romero, sang for Rainbow, along with a host of other bands. These aren't minor names.
That said, all of them play second fiddle to Schenker's guitar here. This is a real album with real songs played by a real band, but it often feels like a solo effort with a string of guests showing up to help out, kind of like a heavier take on the concept Carlos Santana made famous with his Supernatural album. Whatever those singers are doing, and they do plenty, there's a solo or a riff or a fill stealing the show back for the guitar.
Mostly this is good old fashioned hard rock with melodic vocals. Behind the Smile has a riff that reminds of Schenker's time in UFO, though it stays a little too low in the mix. Crazy Daze does something similar. Some songs are more up tempo: Silent Again and Lead You Astray gallop along with some real bounce to them. For a while, these could have been Van Hagar songs but the former somehow transforms into a power metal anthem with some nice keyboard work that's very subtle.
My favourite songs are the faster ones, like The Beast in the Shadows, which is a blistering rocker. The other melodic blitzkrieg is Ascension, which is an instrumental to wrap up the regular version of the album. Melody remains key on these songs, however fast they get, but they do move firmly over the tenuous border between classic rock and heavy metal. That shouldn't surprise anyone.
The biggest downside isn't really a downside, namely that these vocalists do sing in very similar styles so that it's rather redundant to feature so many on one album and especially on the same songs. I believe that the Fest had a beginning on stage, which is where this sort of logic ought to come into its own. Can you imagine enjoying Schenker with, say, McAuley at the mike, only for Bonnet to come out and join in? And then White and, perhaps, to wrap up an evening, Barden? That would be a real blast! It just doesn't hold quite the same magic on a studio recording.
Also, while all the songs are decent, some are more decent than others and a second listen starts to highlight which ones. Revelation is a fundamentally enjoyable album though, ably highlighting that Schenker still has it after a half century. I really ought to check out Resurrection, the project's debut release from last year.
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