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Scorpions - Tokyo Tapes: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Label: SPV
Format: CD
Released: 2015
Reviewed By: Mark Gromen
Rating: 9.5/ 10


Released later in '78, this collection is composed of two out of the three nights at the Nakano Sun Plaza (guitarist Uli Jon Roth claims the first show, April 23rd, while not recorded, was the best). This double vinyl was one of the first testimonials to the rising possibilities of hard rock/metal in Asia. Sure, Deep Purple had recorded “Made In Japan” and Thin Lizzy's cobbled together “Live & Dangerous” preceded this by a few months. Apart from maybe Kiss “Alive”, this was heralded as THE most energetic live album of it's era, predating UFO's “Strangers In The Night”, Judas Priest's “Unleashed In The East” or any of the NWOBHM acts that followed. In addition to the great Scorpions tracks from those early studio releases, it features Klaus Meine and Roth trading lead vocals and some blistering guitar. Plagued by the limitations of LP grooves, some of the extended solos/jams were left off the original format and have now been resurrected, as bonus material. The uncharacteristically untamed Japanese crowd makes it special, knowing that these were to be the last concerts with Roth in the band (although, on occasion, he's re-appeared onstage with Meine and mainstay guitarist Rudolf "Brother Of Michael" Schenker). Tokyo Tapes also marked the end of the Germans' tenure with RCA Records.

 

In white, heeled boots, bell bottoms & satin kimono, the inner gatefold sleeve photo, strolling across a busy Ginza street recalls the Beatles on Abbey Road. The original double disc running order remains intact, with seven criminally deleted outtakes and alternate (ie. longer) renditions added to the end of the second CD. Every track is a lost gem, especially to those of us who predate the band's MTV/American success. Those unaware of that material are likely to be shocked by the heaviness (even 3+ decades later. There's a little bit of everything: A disturbingly mental 'Dark Lady', almost acoustic begun 'We'll Burn The Sky' and hypnotic 'In Search Of The Peace Of Mind' (off the “Lonesome Crow” debut). Alongside Roth's performance of a lifetime, the highlights include prodigious use of Herman Rarebell's cowbell, the peppy 'Speedy's Coming' and 'Top Of The Bill' as well as proto-thrasher 'Robot Man'. Then there's one of my all-time favorites, 'a trippy, dynamic (near silence to channeling switching feedback buzzing psychedelia) 'Fly To The Rainbow'! The only kitchy moments are the 50s covers which closed out the proper set.

So what about the stuff we've not been able to hear, until now (unless you're a bootleg completist)? First, there's a trio of "new" material: the Roth sung 'Hellcat', 'Catch Your Train' and a short (89 seconds) rocked out Japanese National Anthem 'Kimi Ga Yo', completely unlike the native tongue ballad, 'Kjo No Tsuki', heard elsewhere. It fades out, just as Roth is about to unleash a solo. Both singers can be heard trading lines on the 9:47 'Hellcat', but then it morphs into protracted guitar escapade: going from slow, repetitive drone, to spirited (fans clapping along) effects riddled ascension of the scales, that ends with a lone feeding back guitar, as the band says "Sayounara" and leaves the stage. At 3:52 "Catch Your Train' is played straight, with little room for embellishment. The "new" rendition of 'Polar Nights' is 30 seconds longer than the one that made the original cut, leaving in Roth's spoken intro/outro, as well as slightly strained (hoarse), off-kilter vocal. The original is truly was the better performance to put on record, even if Uli squeezes out a few more concluding guitar notes on this one.

Another 39 seconds added to 'He's A Woman, She's A Man' (hymn for our time?) pretty much tows the established line, while the final pair of newbies contain the greatest deviation from what's come before. While both versions of 'Top Of The Bill' are augmented by a drum solo, at 10:48, the latest addition is nearly four minutes longer, down to Meine leading a call & response section with an enthusiastic, albeit high pitched audience. Hard to believe the young fans heard are now grandparents! Always thought 'Robot Man' was an odd concert ender (as it appears to be on the original running order, but in fact there was at least 'Hellcat' and a jam each night, if not another Japanese traditional tune), so the loose, 6:49 version herein sees Klaus engage in another "yeah, yeah" exchange with the crowd, before the reprise.

Forgot how much I love this album and how influential it was in turning me on to dreaming about international rock concerts/festivals. Includes a 16 page booklet, with new liner notes and photos.

 
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