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SCORPIONS

MTV Unplugged: Live In Athens

(Sony)

Reviewed by : Mark Gromen
Rating : 7.0

Still winding towards the conclusion of their “final tour” (dwarfed only by KISS’ never ending finale), we can all agree that the Germans’ last great album was decades ago. The precise time, however, is debated: some say 25 years, a few might even contend it’s been more than three decades. For the record, anything after Blackout (three tracks included here: title cut, ‘Can’t Live Without You’ and ‘No One Like You’, the most from any single album), count me out. For that reason, REALLY surprised to see so much pre-80s material offered here. This double disc set (single visual, either DVD or Blu-Ray), recorded in September 2013, is conveniently split for someone like me, with all the vintage material on the initial offering. Sure, hits like ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’, ‘No One Like You’, ‘Still Loving You’ and ‘Wind Of Change’ (does that really require an acoustic treatment?) were/are MTV staples, but apart from the aforementioned ‘Blackout’ I can live with just Disc #1.

Time was, Tokyo Tapes was not only the only decent choice from the RCA Record Club, but solace from FM “rock” radio staples like POCO, BREAD and/or JACKSON BROWNE. Fans of those 70s acts would probably enjoy Live In Athens. Ironic, since ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ features the line, “How can we grow old, when the soundtrack of our life is rock n roll?” The show opens with ‘Sting In The Tail’, a good adaptation to the unplugged format, lively, camp fire singalong. The Greeks go crazy. Klaus Meine talks between songs, but not much and most tracks have symphonic accompaniment, similar to Europe’s annual Rock Meets Classical tour, albeit for the acoustic fan. ‘Can’t Live Without You’ adopts a campy, almost hummpa beat, akin to an early 60s Beatles-ish teeny booper single.

While they omit the Lonesome Crow debut, they do offer one song from each of the Uli Roth studio platters, beginning with ‘Pictured Life’. That tune is nearly 40 years old! After all that time, there’s a certain sameness one expects to hear and harmonica and slow staccato riffs aren’t it. Odd they chose such rocking inclusions (‘Speedy’s Coming’??) to rework, while the sedate ‘Born To Touch Your Feelings’ and ‘In Trance’ make more sense. However, Meine scats through portions of the latter pair and allows the female backing vocalists (in tandem or solo) to shine. Concertina accompanies a Eastern European take of the aforementioned ‘Born To Touch Your Feelings’, while ‘Love Is The Answer’ begins with piano, Meine abdicating the mic to guitarist Rudolf Schenker throughout. Saw fit to introduce a new song, ‘Dancing With The Moonlight’, somewhere between Country and an upbeat BLACKMORE’S NIGHT outtake.

Disc #1 finale, ‘Follow Your Heart’, is truly an acoustic tune, just Meine and guitar, no musical/vocal back-ups. The second disc is more of the same, variations on a theme, instrument and tempo changes, but with weaker original material. The instrumental ‘Delicate Dance’ is the heaviest/fastest number, reminiscent of kool jazz acts like SPYRO GYRA and THE RIPPINGTONS. If I want to hear that style, why wouldn’t I just listen to it, or opt for one of Michael (MSG/ex-UFO/ex-SCORPIONS) Schenker’s Thank You discs? Probably unique and exciting to witness this show in-person (the exclusivity of it), but I’ll stick with the ultimate Scorps gig: Wacken 2006 (which is also on DVD, check it out!).




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