Throughout the ’70s German band Scorpions remained fairly unknown in North America, but in the ’80s they’d become a big attraction, with signing to Mercury Records (previously with RCA), and releasing breakthrough classic albums Lovedrive [’79] and Animal Magnetism [’80]. Then came huge success with the album Blackout, featuring the hit “No One Like You”, and followed up that album with the album Love At First Sting, featuring the hit “Rock You Like A Hurricane” . The band softened up on 1988’s Savage Amusement, and would go on to record their biggest hit, the ballad “Winds Of Change” (I hate this song!), and subsequent albums really lost my interest, though there were a few good moments, like “Wild Child” from 1996’s Pure Instinct. For me, the first 2 Scorpions’ album I ever owned were Tokyo Tapes and Taken By Force. I received these albums, and a few other ’70s Scorps releases (compilations) from an uncle way back when I was about 12/13, and just in to the ’80s hard-rock at the time. With the success of the band in the ’80s, much of their ’70s catalogue probably saw re-issues and compilation releases. Although I liked much of their Mercury releases (the first 2 albums were their best of the era IMO), I was never a Huge fan, and their ballads from 1990 onward pretty much turned me off.
Anyway, they had a solid string of albums in the ’70s, and had a great guitarist / writer in Uli Jon Roth. Roth had replaced Michael Schenker, who had played on the band’s debut LP Lonesome Crow and then left to join UFO. He would also add the occasional lead vocal. I find the songs from this era heavier musically, and far more interesting than what came in the ’80s.
In Trance is the 3rd studio album,- second with Uli Jon Roth, and their best, IMO. Also here are founding members Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker (rhythm guitar), as well as Francis Buchholz (who came along with Roth) for the band’s 2nd album Fly To The Rainbow, and (drummer) Rudy Lenners, who would feature on the next Scorps’ album as well. The first in a long string of the band’s albums produced by Dieter Derks, who would also go on to produce plenty of metal albums including such bands as Accept and Twisted Sister. In Trance would be the first Scorprions’ album to include their logo (used for years to come), as well as the first of many controversial cover photos (this one showing the model on the front with breast exposed).
For the longest time I’d always favored Taken By Force as the best of this period, but after sitting through them all for a few days, I have to go with In Trance due (first) the performance of Uli Jon Roth & Klause Meine, and (second) the amount of great material — there is no filler on this album; just a solid set of 10 excellent songs. Though, for me – standouts have to be (1) “Dark Lady” (penned by Roth) which opens the album, with the guitar and then drums come blazing in. It’s fast paced with a lead vocal by Uli Roth, with Meine singing back-up and adding plenty of screams; kinda reminds me of Purple in their early Gillan era mixed with Lucifer’s Friend (see “Ride The Sky”). This must’ve been a great live track. (2) The album’s title track (penned by Meine & Schenker) is one of my favorites from the band’s ’70s period, along with “We’ll Burn The Sky” from Taken By Force, the Scorpions had a way of starting with a soft acoustic ballad and then changing the pace and feel with a very heavy & powerful chorus. This song would also be the band’s first single, released in a few countries. And (3) “Top Of The Bill”, a song about a rock n roll star; cool opening riff, and it’s Meine’s hard-edged vocal and Roth’s lead guitar that soars over top that really stand out.
Plenty of other great tracks here, from the rockin’ “Robot Man”, and the pair of heavy, semi-ballads – “Life’s Like A River” and “Living And Dying”, both about living and aging, with slower parts, a bit of organ in the background, and killer solos from Roth. This was Uli Roth’s most productive time with the band as well, having written or co-written on 6 tracks. Roth was also heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix; a very melodic and emotive player, who could make for those very cool ’70s atmospheric solos and songs. Much of side 2 of In Trance belongs to Roth, with those type of atmospheric numbers in the slower paced “Evening Wind” (great vocal from Meine), and the instrumental “Night Lights”, with a nice use of keyboards for extra feel on this one (courtesy of Achim Kirschning). The latter also features solid cuts in “Sun In My Hand”, a bluesy slow-mid tempo number, featuring Roth on vocals and the more mainstream rock of “Longing For Fire” (co-written by the band’s 2 guitarists); love the bass on this tune. Such a good listen straight through this album, with no filler tunes, and really not too bad lyrically (compared to some later Scorps’ tunes). Four songs from this album would go on to feature on the classic Tokyo Tapes. Too bad Roth would depart the band after the Tokyo Tapes; but he’d go on to record a number of albums with his Electric Sun project, and in more recent years has been returning to his Scorpions days with such albums as Scorpions Revisited and Tokyo Tapes Revisited. Roth was briefly replaced by Michael Schenker, who started work on the band’s next album, before the band would settle on Matthias Jabs as a permanent replacement.