Michael Schenker Group - In The Midst of Beauty

Inakustik
Produced by Siggi Schwarz

UFO/Scorpions guitar legend Michael Schenker's new album sees the return of original Michael Schenker Group vocalist Gary Barden, who co-wrote MSG classics like Armed And Ready, Attack of The Mad Axeman and Are You Ready To Rock with Schenker on the first two albums.

The result of this reunion (which began on previous album Tales of Rock 'n' Roll which featured every previous MSG vocalist to celebrate 25 years of the band) isn't 100% successful as, although featuring of a lot of trademark Schenker guitar playing, it tries too hard in certain areas to be the catchy, poppy kind of rock (Competition, primarily), but is otherwise a very strong album which should please longtime fans.

There are big hints of other influences too, mostly Deep Purple and Rainbow, which may or may not be linked to the rest of the band line-up on this record (Neil Murray on bass, Don Airey on keyboards, Simon Phillips on drums). Examples include a strong similarity to Steve Morse's playing for Deep Purple in I Want You and Summerdays borrowing heavily from Deep Purple's Child In Time in places, but otherwise it's a decent slow-paced rock track which doesn't cover an awful lot of ground, but is by no means a weak point. Night To Remember is pure classic-period Deep Purple in the verses and Rainbow in the chorus, and unashamedly so. The Rainbow likeness is prominent in bluesy swagger of Wings of Emotion as well. All are strong tracks, but the influences can't be ignored.

But elsewhere you've got genuine highlights like Neil Murray's irresistibly funky bass lines in End of The Line and the excellent Come Closer, which grooves along via Barden's quick-fire verses and Schenker's riffs and features some of Michael's best lead guitar of the whole album. The chorus to Nana seems to follow a similar vocal melody to KISS Not For The Innocent, but is otherwise another strong grooving track. Schenker turns in one his best riffs on the UFO-esque The One and This Time, with some excellent solos in the latter and a chorus that's catchy without taking on the poppy feel of Competition.

There is however one problem with the album that's bigger than wink-link Competition. Siggi Schwarz appears to have forgotten to do his job as producer. Every instrument could do with boosting and some work is sorely missing on bringing them all together coherently, as they currently sound a little too separated. Barden's vocals in particular a bit distant, which is a shame as his performance is superb.

You do get used to the less-than-polished sound though, and after that it's a very enjoyable disc as good as any Michael has made in recent years and fans will enjoy the Schenker-Barden reunion immensely.

“ should please longtime fans ”

Tracklist: City Lights / Competition / I Want You / End of The Line / Summerdays / Night To Remember / Wings of Emotion / Come Closer / Cross of Crosses / Nana / The One / This Time

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2008, Albums, Hard/Heavy Rock,

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