Michael Schenker Group – Walk The Stage Official Bootleg Box Set (Chrysalis) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Johnny H   
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 18:04


MSG_wtsHaving been a long time fan of Michael Schenker (with UFO and mostly everything else he’s ever touched), this box set initially struck me as being a bit of an oddly timed and slightly confusing release.  I mean, why now?

Also following hot on the heels of the recently released set of original Chrysalis MSG remastered albums, this five disc box set (four CD and a DVD) is no more of a bootleg in sound quality terms than the acclaimed One Night at The Budokhan is, so why use that Bootleg term and then give it such a whopping (£40+) price tag?  Who knows?

Confusion aside, this set kicks off with a concert from the Hammersmith Odeon in September 1980 and features the classic Cozy Powell, Paul Raymond complemented line up (Schenker, Gary Barden and Chris Glenn being the ever present trio throughout the band’s live career) capturing perfectly the musical buzz they helped generate to gain the bands initial chart and critical success. Having only the self titled debut album to dip into at that stage, the set list is bolstered with UFO tunes such as ‘Natural Thing’, ‘Rock Bottom’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’ and that fact alone does make this disc a bit of a completist’s wet dream.

Discs two and three are from an August 1981 afternoon and evening performance respectively at Osaka’s Festival Hall, and feature the same band line up, albeit just about to release their second self titled album and tour the UK under the On The Rack banner.  Of these almost identical sets (‘Courvoisier Concert’ added to the evening set) the afternoon set fairs better for Gary Barden who by the evening was feeling the strain vocal wise, but on both Michael is playing some of his best stuff improvising around some of the then newer tracks. The set list does read a bit like an MSG greatest hits, which is certainly a major plus point and tracks like the newer ‘On and On’ and ‘But I Want More’ contain some of the best powerhouse riffing MSG ever had to offer.

Disc four, is the Reading Festival headline set from August 1982, which saw the surprise return of Gary Barden after he had been unceremoniously ditched in preference of Graham Bonnet for the hugely underrated Assault Attack album (Ted McKenna having also replaced Cozy Powell behind the kit). Stepping back to the mic to save the bands reputation after Bonnet had made a bit of a fool of himself a few days earlier at Sheffield Polytechnic, this eleven-song set is an extended version of a previous BBC in Concert CD release and adds in ‘Feels Like a Good Thing’ and a slightly extended ‘Courvoisier Concert’. I remember listening to this continuously on a cassette copy I had made from the old Friday Rock Show, and this set in particular holds a great deal of sentimental value for me.

 

By disc five (the DVD) MSG had added Andy Nye on Keyboards and ex Ted Nugent sidekick Derek St Holmes on vocals/second guitar and were promoting their Built To Destroy album in the UK.  This album was aimed well and truly at breaking the band in the US and this visual document of that tour was recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in October 1983, having previously been available as the VHS, Rock Will Never Die.  Unfortunately the years have not been kind to this set and the hugely dubbed sound (the fake crowd noise and the drum tracks in particular) does make it hard to watch in one sitting. It is however always nice to see lesser-known tracks like ‘Desert Song’ and ‘Looking For Love’ given the live outings they deserved by this line up.

 

This set all comes with some uber cool sleeve notes from perennial journo nice guy Dave Ling and each disc is housed in a mini LP slipcase all sealed in a nice shiny clam shell case. This is so much more an all-encompassing tribute to MSG’s live glory than anything previously leaked into the market through Zoom Club; it’s just a shame that it carries such a lofty price tag that it will no doubt discourage any casual purchasers.

 

Not essential by any means, but if like me you love almost everything Michael Schenker has ever played on, it is a welcome addition to the collection.

 

http://www.myspace.com/michaelschenkerhimself