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Michael Schenker - A Decade Of The Mad Axeman album review

The guitar genius shines strongly

There will be few people who would rank guitarist Michael Schenker’s output in the 10 years from 2006 as even coming close to matching what he achieved with UFO and MSG in the 70s and 80s. However, as this two-CD compilation proves, the music he has made in the 21st-century is far from disastrous.

The first CD is taken from a period that saw him release the undervalued MSG album The Midst Of Beauty, for which he reunited with vocalist Gary Barden, with whom he recorded much of the most celebrated MSG material. And the combination worked very well on songs like I Want You and Night To Remember. Less impressive, though, are the Temple Of Rock tracks, taken from the three albums released between 2011 and 2015. Although they don’t really live up to expectations, Doogie White’s singing is confident and competent, and the onetime Scorpions rhythm section of drummer Herman Rarebell and bassist Francis Buchholz adds a certain lustre. Even when the overall quality of the songs is a little below par, Schenker still proves himself to be spellbindingly creative on guitar, adding his own unique flavours to the sound.

The second CD is live, and comes from five shows between 2010 and 2016, including performances in Tokyo, London and Madrid. This is where things really take off, because they have energy, power and passion. Although different line-ups are involved, everyone is clearly committed to the songs and delivers at the top of their game. The spread of songs runs the gamut of Schenker’s illustrious career to date, and includes classics from UFO (Doctor Doctor, Lights Out, Rock Bottom) and MSG (Armed And Ready, Attack Of The Mad Axeman, Desert Song). There’s even a nod to the Scorpions with the inclusion of Rock You Like A Hurricane, although this is more about Rarebell and Buchholz, as Michael had nothing to do with the recording of the Scorpions’ mega hit. There’s bite and delight to these live recordings, and the main man himself is inspired throughout. The tracks from London (2011’s High Voltage Festival) and Tokyo (2010 and 2016) are the high points here.

Overall this collection is not vintage Schenker, but there’s still a lot to commend, and it’s a good reminder of his enduring brilliance.