The question on the minds of most Michael Schenker fans is usually this -- when will he ever finally get his due? Apparently, the German axeman is practically the Rodney Dangerfield of metal. He's somehow managed to anchor two of the most important bands in the lineage of the genre and influence everyone from Metallica to Powerman 5000, and yet, while he continues have a rabid fan base writhing away in the shadows and is still widely recognized in countries like Japan where technical prowess is highly prized, he remains relatively unknown to American audiences. It is perhaps not fair that his clones have outsold him many times over and enjoy popular positions on the mantle place of rock & roll, but then again, if influence translated into acclaim, wouldn't so many countless others from Phil Ochs to Nick Drake or even Big Star be better off as well? In any case, though Schenker's efforts with UFO will always be the crux of his legacy, the Michael Schenker Group's One Night at Budokan is an excellent starting point for his solo career, because it contains the best tracks from his first two albums and gives him room to shine in the freewheeling atmosphere of a live setting back when he was still in his heyday. It also showcases the band's best lineup and features none other than legendary metal drummer-for-hire Cozy Powell behind the sticks.
However, as with all things Schenker, the main reason for owning this album to begin with is the brilliant guitar work, and in this, he excels far above and beyond the heads of his various imitators; only Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads could have capably traded licks with him in that day and age. As for the songs themselves, aside from standout favorites like "Into the Arena," "Are You Ready to Rock," and the UFO classic "Doctor Doctor," everything here is fairly good to average early-'80s metal, but it sometimes comes off as second-hand, discount Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, which is ironic given that both bands practically stole the blueprints for their entire approach from the Scorpions, whose sound, of course, Schenker himself originally helped to create. Nevertheless, One Night at Budokan is considered a highlight in Schenker's catalog and for the metal community as a whole, so it is definitely required listening for fans and serves as a good sampler for any prospective new Schenker zealots curious to find out what all the hype is about. Unfortunately, unless millions of people such as these suddenly descend upon it and immediately proclaim Schenker the great, lost Jesus of heavy metal guitar playing, he probably still isn't going to get his day in the sun. Sometimes life just works out that way.