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Michael Schenker Group - In The Midst Of Beauty (CD)

Michael Schenker Group
In The Midst Of Beauty
by Grigoris Chronis at 10 June 2008, 1:17 PM

Listening to In The Midst Of Beauty again and again, you may be left with the impression that nothing's changed since the collaboration of Michael Schenker with Gary Barden in the first half of the 80s. Added fact: listening to the album just once, and not informed it's all about a new MSG album, you may not clearly notice it's Michael and Gary joining forces, supposing it's surely a CD done by 'big' rockers. A second full audition and you'll fall thinking well, is he, really? and then maybe and he, as well? Then on, you know what In The Midst Of Beauty's up to, and - with a wide smile on your face - you should confirm Michael's OK, he's back in good shape.
The impact of Michael Schenker and (1980-1984 era) MSG in the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal world is not something one would witness first time, especially not having been 'involved' in the 80s era. Still, bear in mind more than 66% of any 'heavy' guitarist has walked the paths built by the brother of Rudolf Schenker (SCORPIONS). Michael's contribution to Hard 'n' Heavy music's own existence is now considered more than 'established' (hence, surf the Net to find out why…), so the criteria for a new MSG album was separated in two facts.
a) Would Michael find the proper tranquillity to sit his ass down and write some descent tunes this time, gaining also the opportunity to stop humiliating himself? b) would the collaboration with the-one-and-only Gary Barden (STATETROOPER, SILVER, Gary Moore, PRAYING MANTIS) be a 'positive motive' for Michael to save his day? Would not start comparisons to post-80s MSG releases (The 'McAuley period' is out of the question, too), but - to save some facts' accuracy - a relation to the initial Schenker/Barden collaboration should 'export' some remarkable report.
So, what do we have here? First of all, the rest of the lineup: Simon Philips (check here and weep), Neil Murray (check here and weep again) and Don Airey (check    here and burst in cries). Hence, the album's a killer, anyway, xaxa!!! Serious, though: with such a G comeback and the rest of the company supplying energy, I bet Schenker got serious again and decided to roll on some good thingie goin', agree? Starting off with City Lights, a wide smile will probably appear. The lead theme let loose as the song begins, the fast-pace tempo, the deep vocals of Barden…OK, proceed. Competition speeds up things even more, with a more Rock-orientated formula, Michael being simple yet confident, Barden's voice showing lots of maturity, the multi-vocal refrain is good, the keyboards show a British Hard Rock style…OK, next one.
I Want You is as speedy as the previous, bearing a DEEP PURPLE/RAINBOW attitude, Barden is again in mid-pitch vibe, the keys/guitars leads are more '70s'…roll it. End Of The Line is a rock 'n' roller, with Barden again being mid-pitched. Think he's gonna put out some rage at some time later? Ooops, he just did, looking out for some David Coverdale series of up-range. And, a great lead by Michael do we get over 'ere! Summerdays, out of the blue, starts off in some piano and acoustic guitar and things could go 'moody': a wonderful slow-tempo, with some electric energy in the middle, this song has real class; a weird scale in the chorus, the vocals are difficult at times but Gary fits like a glove and…these lead fills by Michael; it's all here, in this song. Got HEEP/U.F.O./70s SCORPS crossing, just to mention.
Night To Remember is PURPLE-alike mid-tempo familiar 'thing', while Wings Of Emotion was the first or second song to get me to the early MSG albums; I'd love Glenn Hughes guest-singing to this one, due to the tempo and basic theme; some great work from Schenker, again. With Come Closer the tension returns; a staccato couple heading on to some intellectual bridge/refrain, 100% European. Cross Of Crosses (what a title, huh?) fastens more, but in a kinda relevant structure to its predecessor. Nana is exciting, not to say perfect. Great backing keys by Airey, Murray and Philips pull the strings here, Barden goes kinda 'ethereal' in the couples, while the chorus is his own brand.
The One marches on in Schenker-classic way, in a tremendous riff, with Airey co-painting and Barden reminding me of some more 'velvet' version of Graham Bonnet. This Time is a kinda weird cut; rather 'happy' in the beginning, it is transformed in a melodic 'early' 80s rocker, later on to unveil an - again - joyful refrain. The best part of it, still, is Michael's solo itself; powerful and colourful.
Enough with the songs, some general stuff is to be said now. The sound is - generally - retro. Was it a clear intention? Would it be a one-way decision, due to the reformation and players? Dunno, still I think it was a good verdict since the album will sound familiar anyway, plus - truth is - Schenker has implemented some more 'modern' Rock stuff in the songwriting, always in regards to the 70s/80s patters we've been knowing from him. Still, a more vivid production would - theoretically speaking - expose a more 'full' sound to support the notable creations.
Even if the 'first page news' would be the Schenker/Barden 'full case' reunion, a special note should be made for the rest of the clan. All three of them, be sure, did provide what's best for a good atmosphere in In The Midst Of Beauty, and - listening to the album again - their significance is again proved to be undoubted. Really, as a bottom line, would this album bring on core fans who felt somehow disappointed from their idol the last years? Yes, I think they'll be attracted. In addition, should the new album act as a good successor of the 1980-1984 monumental albums? Well, yes again. A good successor (not something to compare with, in serious terms), since - recalling all the problems Michael had the last years - all we needed was a good album. And, I think, In The Midst Of Beauty is (kinda) the one we were looking for.

3 Star Rating

City Lights
I Want You
End Of The Line
Night To Remember
Wings Of Emotion
Come Closer
Cross Of Crosses
The One
This Time
Michael Schenker - Guitars
Gary Barden - Vocals
Simon Philips - Drums
Neil Murray - Bass
Don Airey - Keyboards
Record Label: Inakustik


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