Now that even Wilko Johnson’s farewell tour has proved premature, we know to take any rocker’s goodbye waves with a pinch of salt. The Scorpions have been pushing the art of the long goodbye to the limit since calling it quits in 2010, with an exhausting schedule of world tours, plus live and cover albums.
Return To Forever’s title finally admits that the Hanoverians aren’t going anywhere. But it was the idea of a last hurrah that made 2010’s Sting In The Tail so focused after years of drift, and snapped the fans to attention.
Now that minds aren’t concentrated on one final push for a fitting finale, we’re back to business as usual for a band who badly lost it in the 90s. Have they really got anything more to give?
They’ve evaded this thorny issue by re-recording strong offcuts from their 80s peak, spinning new writing off the back of this, and dragooning Sting In The Tail’s Swedish co-writer/producers Martin Hansen and Mikael Andersson to maintain comeback continuity.
It’s 1984 forever for the Scorpions, a return to slick, semi-hard rock and power ballads. What more, at this stage, would you really want from them?
‘If you see us falling/We’re gonna land on our feet,’ Klaus Meine informs us right at the start on Going Out With A Bang, and it’s the sense of undiminished joy at still being in a rock band that pumps blood through Return To Forever’s veins. Band and road life are familiar themes, but occupy almost every song here.
They feel re-energised now that Rudolf Schenker has spent a half-century supping rock’s age-defying elixir, and knows he’s getting yet another chance. There’s a rush of relief, in Meine’s vocals and the gang-chant choruses, that they’re fully back in business.
The diluted nature of much 80s chart rock, which took them closer to Bon Jovi than their metal roots, is faithfully revived, so not much really thrills. But All For One and especially Rock’n’Roll Band, with its revving pace, fuzzed-up chassis and Matthias Jabs’s focused solos, punch things up at the album’s heart.
The band, whose eye-watering early LP sleeves define the foot-shifting phrase that “it was a different time in the 70s”, still know how to rhyme ‘rocket machines’ with ‘wet dreams’, and dignified ageing isn’t on the agenda. Eternal, uplifting escapism is./o:p