Tokyo Tapes is a live album recorded by the Scorpions during the band’s Japanese tour in 1978 and were the last performances of guitarist Uli Jon Roth, who had announced his departure after the release of the studio album Taken by Force. As well as two cover versions (Hound Dog and Long Tall Sally) the album also features Kōjō no Tsuki (荒城の月, lit. The Moon over the Ruined Castle, a Japanese song written in the Meiji period 1868-1912). The Scorpions’ version is in the form of a power ballad and is said to be one of the rare tracks that follows Taki’s original song. (A jazz arrangement was recorded by Thelonious Monk under the title Japanese Folk Song on his 1967 album Straight, No Chaser. This version can be heard in the movie La La Land, as one of the main characters tries to memorize and play it).
And after mining that little fact-nugget, we delve into yet another live album I’m really familiar with. The Scorpions were one of my favourite bands when I first started getting into rock/metal, mainly from around the Lovedrive period, and it was a few years later that I started listening to their older stuff (the aforementioned Taken By Force being the first Roth album I bought); and whilst I’ve not really been interested in them since around Wind of Change, I do find myself going back and enjoying their 70’s material as I find it to be some of their best work. Tokyo Tapes sees the 70’s incarnation of the band in full flight; vocalist Klaus Meine is excellent, Roth’s guitar playing is fluid and electrifying and the rythym section of Schenker, Bulcholz and Rarebell keep the band’s hard rock/quasi-metal sound going.
As with the Thin Lizzy album (see previous post), this is an album I’ve grown up with and barring one or two mis-steps (the two rock n roll covers, Uli’s vocals – a great guitarist no doubt, but not a great live singer, and the drum solo in Top of the Bill) it still holds up 40+ years later. If you want to hear prime Roth-era Scorps, then this is the album to pick up. It’s not very excessive or overblown (the drum solo is dropped in halfway through a six-and-a-half minute song), just a slab of great hard rock by a band who’ll go onto bigger, but not necessarily better, things. 8.5/10
When I first started this, I did so wondering how excessive, and overblown live albums from the seventies were but with the past few albums it seems to be moving away from excessiveness, the 20 minute drum solos, and the triple albums. Maybe it’s the punk era and influence of counting to four and just going for it. And with that said, join me next time for a band that personified counting to four! Until then, TTFN.