Heavy metal, hard rock or pop? …whatever… Scorpions' 1982 record Blackout (29 March 1982; Harvest/EMI and Mercury Records) is a fantastic album for guitar lovers and all fans of great music.
Having lost two top guitarists in the form of Uli Roth and Michael Schenker, in 1980, Scorpions identified Matthias Jabs as the man to combine with Rudolf Schenker to do the job; and the pair don’t disappoint.
Bassist Francis Buchholz, drummer Herman Rarebell and singer Klaus Meine completed the line-up of this incarnation of the band, however during the recording Meine’s vocal cords needed operating on, and it was unclear what the outcome would be. The band needn’t have worried, because the lead singer’s voice sounds as strong, inspired and melodic as ever.
Recorded over a 12 month period between Villa San Pecaire, Saint Jacques in Grasse, France, and Dierks Studios in Cologne, West Germany, the band wisely chose producer Dieter Dierks to work with them on the album.
A manic self-portrait of artist Gottfried Helnwein is featured on the album cover; while Rudolf Schenker plays this ‘character’ in one of Scorpions’ most famous videos. You might, or might not, like the artwork, but it certainly is instantly identifiable with the band.
The album’s title track, Blackout, is a great example of how Schenker and Jabs machine gun guitar-work defines what is to come. The classic opening riff that introduces the drug overdose theme has helped raise the roof at countless Scorpions’ live gigs.
Next is the powerful hook-laden track Can’t Live Without You, which is followed by what is possibly the album’s best cut, the single No One Like You, which was the first worldwide single release. The power ballad exemplifies the metal/pop crossover appeal that is a feature of the whole record and that again showcases Schenker and Jabs synchronicity. With lyrics about love and lust, and a catchy melody, it is no surprise that it made number 1 on the US Billboard Rock Tracks.
Side two kicks off with the powerful Dynamite, which is followed by the slower paced but feel good song Arizona. Next up is the album’s longest track, the heavy China White: “The more love you give, the more love you’ll find,” howls Meine. Anecdotally Schenker apparently found it difficult to choose between two of his solos for the track, which meant that astute fans will notice differences in the solos on the US and European releases.
The album closes with the atmospheric When The Smoke Is Going Down. This is a quieter rock ballad that contains lovely guitar melodies that are full of feeling, with Jabs opting for a white FireAxe Boris Dommenget on one of the live versions of the song.
The Hanover-based band all excelled themselves on Blackout, but Schenker and Jabs particularly gelled to produce great melodies, powerful riffs, and several red hot solos. When ballads, metal and pop come together in this way, it is madness to miss it.