Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock – On A Mission: Live in Madrid

Temple of Rock

junkheadv1tmbMichael Schenker’s Temple of Rock – On A Mission: Live in Madrid

After recently posting about UFO’s excellent live box set, I was pumped to hear Temple of Rock’s new live album. The band’s last studio album, Spirit on a Mission, was one of my favorites of 2015, thoroughly capturing the lean songwriting skills of Schenker’s early years and rounding it out with great musicianship. Unfortunately, a minute with this album will make you wonder how much the studio glossed over the band’s shortcomings.

Singer Doogie White is the most noticeable problem, specifically on the first two tracks. Doogie must have got smashed in the face with a mallet right before he stepped onstage. He stumbles and stammers through “Doctor Doctor” and “Live and Let Live” like a prepubescent boy who just ran a marathon, sounding out of breath and confused. After those crucial fuck ups, he quickly recuperates and gives a mostly okay performance for the remaining nineteen tracks.

Another recurring issue is the goofy synthesizers. Nothing screams “we’re playing in some smelly ass club” quite like sub-Casio keyboard garbage. While often hidden in the background, tracks like “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and “Vigilante Man” pull out some pretty awful bleating synth orchestra sounds.

Probably the biggest issue for real Schenker-heads is the setlist itself. Very few of Temple of Rock’s great tracks are on the album, replaced with relics from Michael Schenker’s ’70s and ’80s heydays. It’s understandable that there would be so much UFO and MSG stuff since he wrote the songs. The Scorpions songs from Lovedrive made my eyes roll even though he played lead on the original tracks, but why is he covering “Rock You Like a Hurricane”? Schenker was nowhere near the band at that point, and its inclusion is gratuitous and more than a little sad.

The only thing that can save the album is Michael effin’ Schenker himself. With his semi-virtuoso blues-based solos, there’s never a moment to turn your ear away from the excellent guitar work. The fourteen minute version of “Rock Bottom” is easily the best thing here, his mid-range guitar work spiraling effortlessly into your ears with surprising variety.

So even if the vocalist sucks, the synths piss me off, and there’s too many songs Schenker didn’t write, skip forward to the leads people. On a Mission proves that with decades of hard work and dedication, you too can be a really old talented guitarist with a crappy singer, a crappy keyboardist, and a dumb setlist. This will also be released on DVD, probably with a segment showing Doogie’s mallet smashed face.