Written In The Sand

Michael Schenker Group

Positive Energy Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Even though I spent my teenage years growing up during the "glory period" of heavy metal, I never really followed Michael Schenker.

Oh, it's not to say that I didn't appreciate the work that he did with UFO, the Scorpions and his own bands. But for one reason or another, I didn't develop the type of hero worship that I did with other guitarists like Angus Young. Maybe this is why superstardom a la Eric Clapton never seemed to fall into Schenker's grasp, even though he constantly demonstrated his talents on the Flying "V."

Case in point: 1996's Written In The Sand (which, last I saw, was available only via import). Recorded with a band who I'd have to call unknowns, Schenker and crew put forth a valiant effort that deserves your attention. But if you're looking for flash and crash, you may be disappointed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Schenker and his band -- vocalist Leif Sundin, bassist Barry Sparks, drummer Shane Gaalaas and keyboardist Claude Gaudette -- are as solid a lineup that Schenker has had behind him as ever -- and they occasionally sound a bit like UFO, who, if memory serves me correctly, recorded Walk On Water around the same time as this album. There are no vocal histrionics -- but there also is a lack of guitar solos going at a thousand miles an hour.

Actually, the more of Schenker's work I listen to, the more I think I'm realizing that Schenker wasn't big into throwing a lot of fancy fluff into his solos. Schenker is more of a melodic soloist who prefers to stay in the structure of the song, allowing the whole work to speak for him. Nice idea -- though when you're considered one of the best guitarists out there, you can't blame the listener for expecting some fireworks.

As for the songs on Written In The Sand (produced by Ron Nevison), they're decent, but not chart-busters. Songs like "Brave New World," "Back To Life," "Love Never Dies" and the title track all show the talents this band has, as well as the strength of their songwriting. The problem -- and, looking back, it's a minor one -- is that there's nothing on this album that knocks my socks off, and I admit going into this album expecting to be floored often. The closest they come to this is the unlisted twelfth track, "Cry For The Nations," a song that especially shows the strengths of Schenker as a rhythm guitarist.

The two instrumentals on Written In The Sand (one intro-ed by a phone message of a child -- Schenker's? -- saying hello to his daddy) are decent, but they don't impress me in a way that Schenker's acoustic instrumental album Thank You did. Of course, the diehard Schenker freak will love every note of these.

Written In The Sand is a decent enough effort, and it does make me wonder why this disc hasn't been picked up by some label in America. True, it may not have material that sets the speakers on fire... but it does a good smolder, which is better than nothing.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Positive Energy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.