Pictured Life: All the Best

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Before they became the poster boys for cheesy German hair metal, the Scorpions had a good ten-year run as one of the hardest and most creative '70s rock bands. This album concentrates on the first half of that period, when they were developing their famous twin-guitar assault and cutting away the psychedelic fat from the meat of their sound. Their lyrics balanced between glam rock sleaze and Sabbath seriousness, but they never fell back on the clich├ęs and generic rhymes that littered their material after 1984. Plus, they had the incredible dual-guitar work of Rudolph Schenker and Ulrich Roth to guide the songs along. That complementary style of playing simply faded away as the years went by, leaving one of the most recognizable aspect of their sound behind. "Pictured Life" rolls along with a mild punk rock influence, although the chorus negates just about any punk tendencies the verses lean toward. "Backstage Queen" is a rollicking blues-rocker that showcases the swagger and attitude that they used to flaunt. They do a good job of tempering their moody psychedelic tinges on "Drifting Sun" and "Living and Dying," while "Virgin Killer" is was one of the first songs that really showed how heavy and visceral they could be when they tried. "Top of the Bill" may be the purest distillation of their sound on the whole album, blending the passionate wail of '70s Klaus Meine with the grandiose guitar and soaring backup vocals that would show up on their early-'80s albums. "Life's Like a River" loses some of the Scorpions' momentum, but it was really one of their first stabs at balladry, and they got a lot worse than this in later years. The same could be said for the shimmering "Far Away," although the guitar part is much better here. Fans of the band who haven't heard this music should hunt this out immediately; this is an excellent sampler of the first half of their hot streak. And anyone who likes good '70s rock should check this out; there is some solid material here that might surprise someone who only knows the Scorpions from their radio tracks.

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