Review by Tymell for Scorpions - Taken by Force (1978)
Probably like many, my main exposure to Scorpions prior to this was "Rock You Like a Hurricane". Taken by Force predates that by some years, so I thought it'd be interesting to hear what was there before.
I'm going to cut straight to the most important point here: "The Sails of Charon" is amazing. Every part of it, the funky riffs at the core, Uli Roth's gorgeous lead work, the twisting, snaking, menacing vibe that it oozes, it's all vintage heavy metal. It's that classic sound where everything gels and flows so well, and will lead to so much in later years. "Sails of Charon" is a track that deserves to sit proud among other early classics like "Don't Fear the Reaper" or "Children of the Grave", and whatever else I have to say about the album as a whole, this song should be in any metalhead's collection.
As for the rest of the album...it's fine. It's decent. There's some good and some bad. It's hard not to be overshadowed around a track like "The Sails of Charon", honestly. None of the other songs on here are bad (though I'll admit "He's a Woman, She's a Man" feels a bit dry and overly reliant on just repeating the title). It treads the sort of lines you'd expect during the 70s, when hard rock was starting to give birth to heavy metal. There are typical but effective rockers like "Suspender Love", "I've Got to be Free" and "Steamrock Fever" (in which I actually enjoy the use of construction sounds and children chanting), and others that play a bit more with quieter moments. "Your Light" is a lazy river drifter with funky bass groundwork, "Born to Touch Your Feeling" harkens to some of Aerosmith's more effective ballads, and "The Riot of Your Time" has a nice rising sense of energy. "I've Got to be Free" is another of the harder tracks here, and probably the one that works best, just with sheer catchiness.
But despite all the praise I can give to these individual moments or elements, something's missing from the whole. Most of the songs on here are good, but rarely do Scorpions genuinely impress me like some of their contemporaries. Black Sabbath were darker, Led Zeppelin more ambitious, Motörhead nastier, Judas Priest sharper, AC/DC committing more fully to the rock aesthetic. Most of Taken by Force is good, but I can't say I'm going to stick the album on much after this review.
Except for "Sails of Charon". That shit rocks.
Choice cuts: I've Got to be Free, The Sails of Charon