Michael Schenker Group (Chrysalis) 1980
1. "Armed and Ready"
The MSG debut is a timeless heavy metal classic that is on the same level as anything Schenker did with UFO. Essentially, this disc is a best of package in and of itself. Vocalist Gary Barden has a killer voice to match Schenker's vicious guitar assault. This album was produced by Deep Purple's Roger Glover. This CD was hard to find for a while but has since been re-issued domestically as well as an import. Most recently a two on one CD with Schenker's second album "MSG." Have you ever noticed that Chinese restaurants seem to have something against this band, several stating right on their front doors, NO MSG! (I'm kidding of course!)
Michael Schenker Group - MSG (Chrysalis) 1981
1. "Are Ready To Rock"
This is the second solo album from Sir Schenker and most certainly one of his hardest rockin' albums. The opening bars on 'Are You Ready To Rock' kick-starts the album, which never relents for the entirety of the disc, save for the power ballad "New Trust A Stranger". By modern standards, this CD is not heavy, but for 1981, MSG was one heavy mutha! He knew how to balance melody and the ballsy, heaviness of the song writing. "Are you Ready to rock", "On and On", "I want more" are beautifully crafted and the solos reach powerful highs. "Attack of the Mad Axeman" is one of Schenker's signature numbers. "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" is a fan favorite as well. Cozy Powell on the drums is incredible and Gary Barden compliments Schenker's writing style almost as well as Phil Mogg did in UFO. This album isn't perfect. The production, courtesy of a normally superb Ron Nevison, is flat and the guitars are not out in front, as they were on the debut. Production complaints aside, MSG ranks among Schenker's best.
Micheal Schenker Group - One Night At Budakon (Chyrsalis) 1981
1. "Armed And Ready"
Recorded just before the release of MSG's sophmore studio album and released shortly after that album was released, "One Night At Budakon" features what many consider to be the classic MSG line-up. Besides the flashy fretwork of Micheal Schenker himself, there is also consummate drummer Cozy Powell, vocalist Gary Barden (the only other member who actually performed on the first MSG album), bassist Chris Glen, and keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond, who had previously worked with Schenker in UFO. "One Night At Budakon" is one of those timeless, classic live albums that captured a band at their peak and had a raw energy that is impossible to capture in a studio. The material here is from both of the two MSG albums, with the added UFO track "Doctor Doctor" thrown in for good measure. From the biting "Armed and Ready" to the vicious "Attack of the Mad Axeman" to the melodic "On and One", every song here is killer. From what I have read, the vocals here were all re-recorded. Whether this is true of not, I don't know. The rumor is that Barden was so nervous playing in front of 10,000 people that his voice was completely destroyed by nerves. Regardless if this it true or not, "One Night At Budakon" still stands as one of the most played MSG albums in my collection. This single discs version leaves off "But I Want More" from the original double record set.
MSG - Assault Attack (Chrysalis) 1982
1. "Assault Attack"
Hailed by many as MSG's finest release. I tend to go against the grain here a bit. While I think this is a great album, I tend to list the first two as my favorites. Still, "Assault Attack" is an incredible, guitar heavy album. New vocalist Graham Bonnet sounded like the superstar he is on this record. Apparently, however, mixing two strong personalities like Bonnet and Schenker was lethal, thus the two never made it past this one album and didn't even tour for the album. Rumor has always been that Bonnet got wasted drunk before the band hit the stage for their first performance and Schenker fired him soon after. What the two did manage to get out, however, is a time tested classic. Martin Birch's production is near perfection and part of the reason I feel so many fans love this album so much. No doubt this is one of the best produced MSG albums, at least from their early years. Martin is also known for his work with Whitesnake and Black Sabbath. With that in mind, I think some songs even have a Dio-era Black Sabbath vibe happening. Check out the bass heavy "Rock You to the Ground" as see if it doesn't at least remind you of the vibe present on "Heaven and Hell".
MSG - Built To Destroy (Chrysalis) 1983
1. "I'm Gonna Make
You Mine" (4:36)
Sporting a classic heavy metal cover, "Built to Destroy" has a tougher cover image than the music it give as face to. "Built to Destroy" is a bit to glossy, and even places the keyboards more out front in the mix than Schenker's beloved flying V. This is a crime. The instrumental track, "Captain Nemo", and the guitar solo to "Systems Failing" are still stellar examples of Schenker's guitar playing. I also quite like "Time Waits", a stellar hard rocker. However, as a whole I find this album to be a bit too watered down. Unfortunately this is more the fault of the production than the actual songs themselves. Even the return of Gary Barden on vocals can't save this album, in my opinion. The Derek St. Holmes vocal track ("Still Love That Little Devil"), is quite good. I am a huge fan of St. Holmes.
Michael Schenker Group - Rock Will Never Die (Chrysalis) 1984
"Rock Will Never Die" is a Michael Schenker Group live album released in 1984 and recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in London, over two nights in October 1983. The album was originally released on vinyl in 1984 as a nine track live album and later re-released on CD as a 15 song expanded version. The concert was also released on VHS tape with the same title. As is usually the case, live albums represent the end of an era. "Rock Will Never Die" was the last album recorded with vocalist Gary Barden until he rejoined Schenker in 2008.
McAuley-Schenker Group - Perfect Timing (EMI) 1987
McAuley Schenker Group - Save Yourself (Capitol Records) 1989
1. "Save Yourself"
"Save Yourself" was Schenker's second trek into commercial pop metal in the late 80's after the equally successful McAuley Schenker platter "Perfect Timing". Both did quite well for him and both featured pretty much the same line-up. Surprisingly "Save Yourself" is not as bad as the mullet laden band photos would lead you to believe. Rather, "Save Yourself" is a quality platter in the MSG catalog. The opening title track is a surprisingly good, upbeat, heavy metal romp that starts the CD off with a roar. "Get Down to Bizness" and "What We Need" are some equally hard rockin' numbers with smokin' fret work. The short, melodic instrumental "There Has to Be Another Way" is another standout cut on this album and features some of Schenker's signature, charismatic soloing. However, the real standout in the bunch is "Anytime". This is a power ballad, but it's not forced, radio-ready cheese. The song is well written and catchy, the guitar solo is amazing and McAuley's raspy voice works well for this song. There are some negatives to this album, like the cheesy lyrics to songs like "I Am Your Radio". "I am your radio, I am your late night show, I am your rock that makes you roll". However, no one ever said that MSG was a beacen of thoughtful lyrics. It is rock 'n roll after all. The overall vibe of "Save Yourself is quite good and should please any fan of melodic 80's hard rock, although I am not sure I would be willing to say that this album touches on the greatness of Michael's work with UFO or those early 80's MSG platters.
M.S.G. (Impact) 1991
1. "Eve" (4:53)
This is Schenker's second album titled "MSG", except this one is the third and last album of the McAuley Schenker version of the band (with the exception of Japanese Nightmare acoustic EP). As with the past two McAuley Schenker albums, this self titled CD has more of an LA sound as compared to the Euro-Metal of Micheals' past. As such, many Schekner fans were disappointed with these albums. I must confess, I was one of them when they first came out, but over time I have come to realize that these McAuley albums aren't so band. This time third album features a new line-up with Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Dio) playing bass and James Kottak (Kingdom Come, Warrant, Scorpions) performing drums. This CD begins and ends with two excellent tracks that should have dominated hard rock radio in the early 90's, but I don't recall hearing either one of them. The first tune, Eve, is one of the best songs on the disc and features some catchy melodies and blistering guitar work. The last track, "Never Ending Nightmare" is a melodic ballad with a hook that could catch a killer whale. Perhaps M.S.G. isn't exactly what most Michael Schenker fans wanted from the German guitar hero, but if given a chance, it's not half bad.
McAuley Schenker Group - Nightmare-The Acoustic M.S.G. (EMI) 1992
This is an odd little EP created that was released in Japan only. The first six tracks are acoustic tracks and are actually very well done. While I am not the biggest fan of Robin McCauley, there is no doubt from this CD that the man can sing. The last track is a short message from Robin and Micheal. Robin talks a bit about the songs on this CD, while Micheal discusses how guitar playing shouldn't be a competition and that music should come from the heart.
Michael Schenker - Anthology (Griffin) 1994
A spectacular package that does a decent job of outlining the career of one of the biggest egos in the business. Michael Schenker, who is also known for his early work with the Scorpions, is a great guitarist, but I could never bring myself to fork over the bucks for his cds that are more common as pricey imports than as anything domestic. This particular collection features two discs, one of his work with UFO, and the other a disc of some of the man's best solo work, mostly from the Micheal Schenker Group but also a few from the McAuley Schenker Group.
1. "Brave New World"
Michael has a knack for writing good melodic hard rock, that has it's basis in the sound of late 70's/early 80's. That is exactly what is delivered on "Written in the Sand". The album is produced by Ron Nevison, who is known for ultra-slick productions. His work with Heart in the 80's pushed them into the charts with the slick pop-rock sound. Ron is also the man behind Kiss' "Crazy Nights", which is so slick and poppy it robbed the band of any edge they might have had. On this album, the sound is definitely slick, but not so slick that it ruins the album. Tracks like the melodic "I Believe" and the hard rocking "Back to Life" are certainly some of Schenker's finer moments. Also, "Essenz" is another fine Schenker instrumental, sounding much like the shredders that were so popular in the 80's. Also included on this Japanese import are revised and newly recorded versions of the Schenker instrumental classic 'Into the Arena' and a re-recorded version of the Schenker classic, "Cry for the Nations." I'm not sure that "Written in the Sand" will rival those early MSG classics, but regardless it's a fine album from the German guitar master.
Michael Schenker Group - BBC Radio One Live in Concert (Windsong) 1995
1. "Armed and Ready"
Recorded in 1982 at the Reading Rock Festival on MSG's tour to promote "Assault Attack", BBC Radio One features a firey group out to conquer the world. "Assault Attack" vocalist Graham Bonnet was recently replaced by Gary Barden. Apparently Bonnet had collapsed on stage at a show only days before this recording and Barden was brought back to save the day. Schenker even makes a snide remark between songs that Bonnet was not there and Barden was. Apparently this information was a surprise to those in attendance at the show, hence his "Surprise, surprise!" comment to the crowd at the beginning of the set. Not surprisingly, Barden does save the day, despite being a bit hoarse at times. BBC Radio One features MSG cranking out some of the best material including "Armed and Ready," "Cry for the Nations," "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" and "Attack of the Mad Axeman". Of course Schenker is at his best. His solo in "Lost Horizons" should satisfy even the most casual fan of guitar shred. BBC might not be up to the standards of "One Night At Budakon", which was given some studio sheen, but it is a awesome look inside of the band and an especially interesting listen if you know the circumstances surrounding the concert.
Michael Schenker Group-Unforgiven (Shrapnel) 1998
1. "Rude Awakening"
Surprisingly good hard rock album with tons of hooks, smooth vocals and, of course, great axe work. For some reason I was expecting this disc to be terrible, but it is not. "Unforgiven" may not reach the brilliance of early UFO, but it certainly is a good listen.
MSG - Unforgiven World Tour: Live (Shrapnel) 1999
I had seen the Michael Schenker Group live in 2004 in Hollywood, CA at the House of Blues with Uli Jon Roth as the opening act. It was an unforgettable show. Both Uli and Schenker were outstanding and tore the roof off the place. This live show from the Unforgiven World Tour is Michael sounding as good as he ever has, and just reminds me of what a great live performer Michael can be. "Unforgiven World Tour: Live" is a compilation of three performance at The Edge in Palo Alto, CA. The set list is fantastic featuring the standard MSG classics such as " Armed And Ready", "Attack Of The Mad Axeman", "Assault Attack". As well, some classic UFO material is included as well, including "Doctor, Doctor", "Only You Can Rock Me", "Natural Thing", "Love To Love", "Lights Out", "Too Hot To Handle". "Push the the Limit" is a fantastic choice for this live platter, originally recorded with UFO on the awesome "Walk on the Water" CD. I was somewhat surprised to hear the Scorpions "Another Piece of Meat". One of the highlights of this live album is "Into the Arena" featuring the phenomenal Barry Sparks (Dokken, Ted Nugent, Uli Roth) on bass. The expanded instrumental features a very cool bass solo, as well as some of Schenker's own guitar wizardry. The track blends right into yet another instrumental titled "Essence". Actually, this live platter features several of Schenker's stunning instrumentals including the two previously mentioned as well as "Captain Nemo" and "Bijou Pleasurette". Of course, since the band was touring for the "Unforgiven" album, there are several cuts included from it including "Pilot Of Your Soul", "The Mess I've Made" and "Fat City N.O.". The vocals are split between Kelly Keeling and Keith Slack both of whom pull out a good performance, even if neither of these singers quite have the charisma of Phil Mogg, Gary Barden or Graham Bonnet. Regardless, I found "Unforgiven World Tour: Live" to be a great listen and an excellent testimony of one of rock's most well respected axemen.
Micheal Schenker Group - Beware of Scorpions (SPV) 2001
Micheal Schenker Group – Arachnophobiac (Shrapnel) 2003
Michael Schenker - Thank You 4 (Goot) 2004
1. "TY4...#1" (3:46)
Written and performed by Michael Schenker, this acoustic album is simply Michael and an acoustic guitar, nothing more, nothing less. Quite frankly this is something I would never have connected with Schenker had I not known who was performing these tracks. The music here is something I would describe as 'pretty' and 'relaxing'. Certainly not the same as the The Mad Axeman we have all come to know and love. Having said that, this is a very good CD, for what it is. Certainly not a CD you want to put into your car stereo for a long trek, but nice for a quiet evening at home with the Mrs., or to kick back to late in the evening.
Micheal Schenker Group - Heavy Hitters (Deadline) 2005
1. All Shook Up
Schenker, who has been touring non-stop over the past couple years, regroups and released a CD of ten covers songs. Now whether anyone things this is a good idea or not, is a personal opinion. In my opinion, I always enjoy when an artist I enjoy covers songs from another artist I also enjoy. Schenker is a versetile and talented guitarist, so I expected nothing less than here. His performances on this CD are very interesting in that he is not trying to make carbon copies of the original versions. As a matter of fact, there are times when you'll recognize the songs almost only because of the lyrics and vocal melodies. This is especially true of "All Shook Up". There are a ton of well known guests on this CD, including Tim Owens who tears up "War Pigs." Original MSG vocalist Gary Barden pulls off a solid version of Gary Moore's "Out in th Fields". Perhaps the highlight of this CD is the cover of Pink Floyd's "Money" with Tommy Shaw (Damn Yankees/Styx) on vocals and Edgar Winter on sax. The interplay between Schenker and Winter was quite nice. I really liked "Blood of the Sun" with Leslie West on vocals. "Hair of the Dog" with Paul Di'Anno on vocals was passable but I must say that Guns n Roses pulled off a slightly better version of this song simply because Axl s voice and attitude fit the song much better than Di'Anno. "Doctor Doctor" was perhaps the least needed cover on this CD. I mean this song has been been done to death, on practically every UFO live album, Schenker live album, solos album, etc., etc., etc., for the past 30 years. OK, of course this version is good, I mean it should be, it's Schenker's song, so it can hardly even be called a cover. Sebastian Bach singing Hendrix's "I Don't Live Today" was perhaps the most bizarre decision. Still, it manages to work as Schenker turns up the speed and aggression on this track and steers clear of the laid back groove of the original Hendrix version. Overall, not a bad collection of songs. I quite enjoyed it, even if I did hve some negative things to say about it.
MSG - Tales Of Rock 'N' Roll (Locomotive) 2006
MSG - In The Midst of Beauty (Inakustik) 2008
With "In The Midst of Beauty" Schenker must have set out to recapture the classic MSG sound. This is the first album since "Assault Attack", or arguable "Built to Destroy" that really sounds like classic Michael Schenker Group. It should be no surprise as the line-up for "In the Midst" is 4/5 of the original MSG line-up including vocalist Gary Barden, drummer Simon Phillips, keyboardist Don Airey and of course, Michael Schenker himself. Joining the band on bass is veteran Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Black Sabbath). Together they have created an album that is perhaps one of MSG's most enjoyable albums in quite some time, even if nothing here is earth shaking or ground breaking. Michael has written some of his best tracks in years and his playing sounds like classic Schenker. His signature leads are peppered throughout the album.
One of thing I was very anxious to hear was an entire new MSG album with Gary Barden. Schenker and Barden had recorded one song together on the "Tales of Rock 'n' Roll" album a couple years earlier. I would imagine that pairing helped spark this reunion. Part of Barden's charisma on those early MSG albums were those high pitched falsetto vocals he would whip out for songs like "Attack of the Mad Axeman" and "On and On". Unfortunately Barden doesn't really push the envelope at all on this album and pretty much sticks to the mid-range vocals. Still, he sounds good, even if he doesn't sound exactly as he did in 1980. Not to be forgotten, Don Airey's signature is all over this album as well. The keys give the band a classic Purple/Rainbow/UFO sound. The production also has that classic sound, meaning it doesn't sound modern. Everything sort of has that classic vibe. Some may find the production to be troublesome, but whether cranked in my car CD player or coming through the speakers of my iPod, it sounded good to me. Frankly, this is a return to all that I liked about MSG. Fans of those first three or four classic albums would do themselves well to check this one out as well.
On a separate note, I've read several negative and even nasty reviews on-line. Several reviewers seem to be clamoring for the McCauley/Schenker Group sound, which was far more pop metal oriented than this. Others are saying that the album is too "bubblegum pop". Other complain about the production. Strange that the reviews are so contradicting. Frankly, I think the production works well for what the band wanted. "In the Midst of Beauty" is not bubblegum pop. It's straight up, simple, heavy rock and roll.