My oh my, don’t you just love records that mark the beginning of a band’s evolution? Well I hope so, because Scorpions’ Lovedrive is just that, and it so happens to be forty years old! Although it may not exactly jump the shark regarding style, there are some clear differences between this and the previous record Taken By Force (my personal favorite by the band). For years prior, Scorpions had gathered a huge following in their home country of Germany, and with the release of Lovedrive, they would break ground in America, with this album’s tour, which started in Richmond, Virginia, being their first one on US soil.
This may or may not have something to do with the change in sound, but there was a lineup change on this album, with Ulrich Roth exiting the band to form Electric Sun. With that, Matthias Jabs would step up to take his place; that’s quite a gap to fill, and fill it very well he did. Michael Schenker would also step in here and there to add some musical charm, but it seems that he and his brother, rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, just can’t make music together, as he left following this album. Rudolf Schenker actually has one of the most unique rhythm writing techniques and has always been one of my favorite guitarists, so I see this as having no huge impact.
Regardless of all of that drama, Lovedrive was still an absolute smasher. I wouldn’t say that the songs are overly poppy, but there are slight hints of it, which would increase slightly more with each following album through the ‘80s. This resulted in songs like “Always Somewhere” and “Loving You Sunday Morning,” the first being a laid back rock-n-roll song with clean riffs, and the latter being of a similar nature with a bit more oomph, and a catchy chorus. Of course, there is a lot of full-on, straight-to-the-face heavy metal here too. “Another Piece Of Meat” is gonna come in to take this role, as well as the title track. The title track is one of my favorites, as it displays some of Klaus’s finest pipe work on this disc. “Can’t Get Enough” almost borders on speed metal territory, being very fret-happy, keeping the heavy alive and well.
Ballads would also become more prominent from here on out. I already mentioned “Always Somewhere,” though that one is far less traditional and focuses more on the soft, bluesy guitar licks than anything. “Holiday,” on the other hand, wound up being one of the biggest ballads that the Scorps would ever drop, bringing in acoustic guitars, beautiful harmonies, and a very calm beat, stripping away anything super intricate. That’s nothing to take as a threat to their form because it’s delivered spectacularly and has a very magical energy around it; besides, it picks up later on. They played this live when I saw them, and the mood was achieved perfectly in the entire arena.
All of these elements prove to be very black and white, but there are two more tracks that stand apart from everything else mentioned. One of them is the instrumental “Coast To Coast.” This one is probably one of my favorite instrumental songs ever written, as it does an absolute bang-up job with replacing vocal harmonies with instrumental harmonies. It’s also gritty in the rhythm territory, only to resolve itself with a super sharp hook that acts as the center of attention. The team of guitarists here is a stellar one, and this one was perfected live when I saw them as well. The other is “Is There Anybody There?”, simply because it is so far off from the rest in the best way. It rips a hefty amount of influence from reggae, with the way the drums and bass are used and the beach vibes the lead sections give off. Klaus also brings on more of a humming and moaning style into the vocal formula. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked very well in my eyes. And yes, there’s still a nice solo tacked onto it as well.
The opening of my take on this record should tell you all you need to know about this disc’s impact and relevance, but in case you didn’t catch that, Lovedrive certainly did a lot for both the band and for this breed of metal. Like I said, it marked the beginning of the sound that most rock n roll and metal goers would associate with Scorpions for decades to come. Bringing them to America did a lot for them and pushed them to be even more successful. This would also lead them into the style that would help them blend into the ‘80s metal movements, making them larger than ever.
As far as today goes, it’s not one that tends to be the top pick of most fans, but very seldom will you hear anything bad about this. “Holiday” is also a pretty recognizable tune, as well as the title track and perhaps even “Coast To Coast” for those that call themselves fans of this band. So it’s without a doubt still loved by many fans to this day, it’s just out shadowed by other records that may have been bigger, or had a larger impact.
Lovedrive came out on January 15th, 1979 through Harvest in Europe and Mercury in America. There are vinyl copies of this, as well as versions with a censored album cover in circulation, as well as CD and cassettes. Deluxe editions and LP repressings are also available, and all versions can be found over yonder.