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8 Aug 2016

Scorpions “Lonesome Crow” 1972 Kraut Rock Heavy Rock

Scorpions “Lonesome Crow” 1972 Kraut Rock Heavy Rock


This, the very first Scorpions album, sounds exactly like what it is: a heavy metal album from the early 70’s. As such, the band channel an authentic Sabbath-like rock ‘n’ roll vibe as well as an omnipresent psychedelic groove that adds immense character to the pieces on display. This is not the chart-topping, rock-anthem writing Scorpions of the 80’s. No, this was a band much more focused on making music than writing hits and selling albums. It shows too; the songs featured on Lonesome Crow have considerable depth, which is something their later material wouldn’t always have.

Lonesome Crow actually bears little resemblance to the band’s popular future material, unlike similar 70’s debuts from bands like Judas Priest, Rush, and even Motorhead, whose early works were primitive, but could still be linked in hindsight to their later material (well, maybe not late-80’s onward Priest). Parallels to Black Sabbath’s debut are not uncommon: both have talented bassists taking a prominent role in the mix, both feature extended jamming and guitar soloing (the early style of the brothers’ Schenker is total Iommi worship), both have enigmatic vocalists taking a backseat to the instruments (though more so on Lonesome Crow than Black Sabbath), and both sport an airy production that create a unique, dream-like atmosphere in which the mind can roam. It is indeed worth noting that Klaus Meine’s vocals are hardly recognizable, as there are few lyrics per song and his delivery is rarely straightforward. Sometimes he even delivers lines in a sort of deadpan half-spoken way, lending a kind of vibe that carries shades of Pink Floyd or even early King Crimson. His vocals really sell the psychedelic influence in their sound. Anyway, most of the tracks focus on the almighty groove created from the guitars and bass, but a few take the time to really highlight the band’s atmospheric side (“I’m Goin’ Mad,” the lengthy title track). Not a bad song in the bunch, though you might not be quick to place these numbers up against “No One Like You” or “Wind of Change.”

Lonesome Crow might be a bit unusual for fans of the band’s later material, but it is indispensible for fans of 70’s rock/metal. If you like Rocka Rolla, On Parole, or early Deep Purple/Thin Lizzy, you’ll dig this as well…….

What an odd album this is, considering where the Scorpions went a decade later. Young kids from West Germany finding their musical feet, Scorpions seemed to be a psychedelic band at the start. Their major asset was the 17 year old guitar prodigy Michael Schenker. Throughout Lonesome Crow, it is Schenker’s sparing solos that hint that Scorpions may in fact be a rock band. Throwing down the wah-wah hard, Schenker hadn’t found his direction yet either, but the talent was clear.Also obviously gifted was 24 year old singer Klaus Meine. Although his thick accent probably didn’t help gaining international appeal, he sure could wail. The one single scream on opening track “I’m Going Mad” revealed that perhaps there was a rock star here in cocoon form.Some fans have developed great love for Lonesome Crow over the years. When I first found the album in 1990 (a cassette reissue at a Zellers store), I thought at the time that it was perhaps the worst album I had ever bought. My stance has softened considerably over the years, as I’ve managed to penetrate its foggy haze. I have friends who have offered great praise to Lonesome Crow after ingesting certain intoxicants.There are indeed some stellar musical moments. The song “Action” for example boats a jazzy walking bassline and some stellar playing. Bassist Lothar Heimberg only ever appeared on this one Scorpions album, and the bass is one of the biggest noticeable differences to later Scorpions records. You just don’t hear busy, walking basslines like this on the rest of their catalogue. Drummer Wolfgang Dziony (also on his only Scorpions album) accompanies him appropriately.

The factor that makes Lonesome Crow difficult to penetrate is the tendency towards long, meandering (often directionless) psychedelic rock jams. “I’m Going Mad” (though it has no vocals for almost 2 ½ minutes) is pretty instant, and “In Search of the Peace of Mind” has its moments too. Other songs like “Inheritance” are head-scratchers. One of the most interesting (but also difficult to penetrate) songs is the 13 minute title track. I’m sure a more seasoned band\ could have trimmed the fat a bit. In general, the album has several flashes of brilliance, but you have to slog through long meandering slow jams to get there. Producer Conny Plank, he of many Krautrock releases, allows the Scorpions to run wild with their imaginations.Lonesome Crow isn’t a bad album. One reason it’s unlike other Scorpions records is that they broke up shortly after. When a new Scorpions formed, the only members remaining from this album were Klaus and rhythm guitarist Rudolph Schenker. Michael Schenker was noticed by UFO, who snagged him from the fledgling Scorpions. When the band folded, Klaus and Rudolph joined Dawn Road featuring another smokingly talented guitarist named Uli Jon Roth. Dawn Road was then renamed Scorpions, and together the new lineup began embarking on a harder rock and roll journey. With Roth’s help, and a growing songwriting duo of Klaus and Rudolph, great things were ahead…….

Klaus Meine - lead vocals
Michael Schenker - lead guitar, backing vocals
Rudolf Schenker - rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Lothar Heimberg - bass, backing vocals
Wolfgang Dziony - drums, percussion, backing vocals

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