Schenker/ Pattison Summit: The Endless Jam (Shrapnel, 2004) Reviewed by: Vinaya
1. Shapes Of Things To Come 2. Hey Joe 3. Pearly Queen 4. A Whiter Shade Of Pale 5. Never In My Life 6. Long Misty Days 7. I Got The Fire 8. Voyager 9. The Stealer 10. Theme For An Imaginary Western 11. Built For Comfort
Okay, at this point I am beginning to think Metallica’s two-disc covers extravaganza Garage Inc. has been almost as influential as their own early compositions. Ever since that collection of choice NWOBHM, classic rock and punk covers hit the racks (most likely saving the band from desertion by legions of pre-Load fans), dusting off old band and fan favorites on record seems to have served as damage control for those with faltering reputations. Think about it: Guns ‘n’ Roses, Metallica, Aerosmith, L.A. Guns, Clapton… heck anyone who has suffered a lapse (even an arguable one) in album quality, poor album sales, less than glowing reviews, messy departures of key band members, or inability to produce a timely follow-up album…. They all seem to have learned a new industry credo: Never underestimate the redeeming power of a few good covers.
Michael Schenker may not have invited accusations of sell-out recently, and he certainly has never kept his fans waiting ten years for a decent follow-up album. But by his own admission, the German guitar hero has had his share of ups and downs recently, apparently including ugly bouts with alcoholism and exploitive managers. For a long time, Schenker managed to stay afloat musically, even as tour plans went awry and quibbles with his UFO band mates ensued. By the time of the last Schenker-era UFO album (2002’s Sharks), however, the personal strife was beginning to take a noticeable toll on his writing and performing, and the next MSG record, "Arachnophobiac" only confirmed the fears of many fans. A major creative anticlimax after the awesome "Written In The Sand" and its two commendable follow-ups ("The Unforgiven" and "Be Aware Of Scorpions"), the album was a product of times so troubled that Night Ranger’s Jeff Watson was called in to solo on some of the album’s tracks in place of Schenker.
Thankfully, I can now report (with cautious optimism) that Schenker seems to be back on track. Now reportedly on the road to recovery, the man has found a splendid, if surprising new playing partner in former Gamma vocalist Davey Pattison. For some reason, Pattison never really impressed me on those three classic Gamma albums from the late seventies. Here, however, he absolutely shines, coming to life on these eleven classic rock covers, as does the inimitable Schenker. A close perusal of the album’s liner notes suggests that "The Endless Jam" is a somewhat misleading title, as the musicians involved were apparently in separate states during the recording (basic tracks recorded in Nevada, Schenker’s solos in California, Leslie West’s “guest appearance” in New York…).
The slightly less than jam-like nature of the recording, however, does not mean that the album comes across as artificial or soulless; Far from it. Schenker, for one, seems to have been freed up somewhat by the opportunity to play on some old favorites, without the pressure of producing new material, and he seizes the opportunity with considerable vigor, playing inspired licks the likes of which were in short supply on his last couple of albums. And the material is a treat too, including lively versions of the Yardbirds’ “Shapes Of Things,” Mountain’s rumbling “Never In My Life” (one of two tracks featuring Leslie West trading licks with Schenker) and a smoking version of Montrose’s “I Got The Fire.” Bassist Gunter Nezhoda and drum legend Aynsley Dunbar prove themselves an excellent, vibrant, and totally appropriate rhythm section, so much so that even the predictable inclusions of “Hey Joe” and Willie Dixon’s “Built For Comfort” (different from the UFO version) don’t have me hitting “skip” as they otherwise might.
Okay, so it’s another covers album, but damn it, I like it! There is sufficient soul and creativity in the delivery, in fact, that it often amounts to art despite the absence of originals. Still, with a band this good, I for one would like to hear more, and more to the point, would like to hear what sort of music the band can come up with on their own. How about it, guys? An album of all original material in the same inspired, old-school rock vein, followed by a tour featuring material from that as-yet-unborn album and a few choice cuts from this one. Now that’s something I would absolutely love to see: the real Endless Jam. This album shows that it could work magnificently.
About this Writer: Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.
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