Album: "Fly to the Rainbow"
Style: Heavy metal/Hard rock
Release date: 1974-10-07
1. Speedy's Coming
2. They Need a Million
3. Drifting Sun
4. Fly People Fly
5. This is My Song
6. Far Away
7. Fly to the Rainbow
Ah, Therion. Not only responsible for giving Metal Monuments the most traffic ever with their agitated fan-outburst for my review of "Les Fleurs Du Mal" in 2012 (even composer/guitarist Christoffer Johnsson wrote some defensive words in the comment-section), but also for introducing me to Scorpions of the 70's with their cover of "Fly to the Rainbow" on their weird album "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" (which I really should do a retro-review of some day) back in 1997. Said cover was the first version of a Scorpions-song that I heard that wasn't a ballad about wanting celestial creatures, a ballad about winds or an 80's "hardrock-song" about rocking like a weather phenomenon. That Therion-cover got me so interested in how this (in most metal-circles) ridiculed German band sounded before they got all huge and commercialized. I picked up "Fly to the Rainbow" and, besides the title track, wasn't prepared at all for what I was in for.
What I got was not just a better version than the one Therion recorded. No, I got an album full of fantastic songwriting, memorable songs and a perfect mix of soft moments and more aggressive outbursts. "Fly to the Rainbow" became my introduction into the world of Scorpions and I soon discovered that the band made three fantastic albums after this one. But for now, let's just focus on these seven songs of German craftmanship (and it's unholy cover).
And we're off to the worst start ever when it comes to what I would like to call a metal monument. Scorpions aren't exactly known for having good album covers. On the contrary, they're known for some of the most repulsive covers ever. If you've ever seen the original cover to "Virgin Killer" (1976) or "Lovedrive" (1979) you know what I mean.
"Fly to the Rainbow" isn't repulsive like those two, it is just horrificly ugly-looking. I was hoping there would be something, a small detail or whatever, that I would find redeeming on this monstrostity of a cover. But there isn't. The entire picture just reeks: A boring concept, disgusting colours, bad execution and a motif that leaves so much to be desired. To make things even worse, the back of the album sleeve shows the band members names right on the ass of the airplane-weirdo.
So that's the cover then. One can only hope that things will improve from here on.
1. Speedy's Coming (03.33)
Groovy heavy metal. Yes, it sounds very 70's and quite dated. But in a good way though. The production is top notch for it's time and each and every instrument can be heard clearly. I especially like bassist Francis Buchholz's sound. Guitar-mastermind Uli Jon Roth also get a brief time to shine in this short rocker. Vocalist Klaus Meine sounds a bit more aggressive on this song and not as emotional as he does on the rest of the album. The lyrics are as retarded as they usually are when it comes to Scorpions with lines such as "You like Alice Cooper, you like Ringo Starr, you like David Bowie and friends" Just...wow. As an opener, "Speedy's Coming" does the job perfectly as it's fairly short, doesn't loose tempo and has a memorable chorus. A nice opening but not one of the band's best.
2. They Need a Million (04.50)
Oh my fucking god how I simply love those acoustic guitars in the beginning! Uli Jon Roth for president now! And compared to the previous song, Klaus sings with pure passion - the man surely has a very unique voice. When the intro is over, the song has a wonderful midtempo-pace with amazingly tight, almost march-like drums. Another solo from Roth, where the cozy 70's-synthesizers keeps up with his playing. Lyrically, we're still in moron's land: "I feel fine though I have eyes
To see my world and all it skits on ice". The band makes wonderful music but lyrically, there not exactly top-notch. It's more or less random words thrown together, but who cares when the music sends shivers down your spine and make the hair on your arms raise, right?
3. Drifting Sun (07.40)
Now this is an oddity. The main vocals are handled by Uli Jon Roth and the man sure does have a ...uhm... strange voice I guess? Far away from the intense emotion of Meine's but still not bad. Well, he sound a bit weird to say the least, but it somehow works anyway.
Musically, this song is more classic 70's prog-like rock compared to the majority of material on "Fly to the Rainbow". It has a fairly lengthy part in the middle of the song which is very proggy, but without getting tiring on the ears, complete with weird effects on Roth's vocals. I like it, but it's a bit too bloated for it's own good.
4. Fly People Fly (05.02)
To begin a song with a guitar solo is to tread a very dangerous road. But since it's Roth, it works. The man would never do a solo half-hearted. When Meine starts to sing, it's a joy for the ears, especially with the previous song in mind.
The song is a fairly standard semi-ballad that one easily could hold a lighter in the air to. But it's highly contagious chorus - which for once doesn't have dreadful lyrics, albeit a bit corny. All in all - it's a very good song with great performances.
5. This is My Song (04.14)
I love the fact that the song begins with quite a long fade in. The way your ears are introduced to what just might be the best guitar melody ever left my jaw wide open the first time I heard it. After that comes a wonderful verse where the bass really stands out. The lyrics might be simple, but they're far from cringe-worthy and some of the best on this album.
I remembered when I heard the chorus for the first time in life, then I just capitulated. I know when I hear a great song and I cannot fathom how this isn't up there with the band's most known songs. It is so catchy that it should have been all over the radios in 1974. But alas, people are idiots and most will never hear this incredible song. The only minor complaint I have is that I find it too short, but that wont stop me from giving out a full score!
"Forever love everyday!"
6. Far Away (05.39)
Again, we begin a song with acoustic guitars, this time with Meine going all "do-do-do, di-di-di". Well, it's better than some of their other lyrics that's for sure. The guitar-melodies are good but not as good as on "They Need a Million" and it also drags out a bit too long in my opinion. When the song finally errupts into one of Roth's less memorable guitar solos, it has been more than 2 minutes already on this 05.39-track. But again, we're in catchy-town and the vocal-melody works so well together with the guitars. The saddest thing about this song is that when there's roughly 50 seconds worth of music left, it changes completely and starts to build up to something. It sounds like a completely different song and one wonders what will happen. Well, the bloody thing just fades out! What should have been an amazing intro to some other song was in fact an outro to a song that's kinda bland compared to the rest of the songs here. We have a saying for this in Sweden: "Snuvad på konfekten".
7. Fly to the Rainbow (09.32)
Wait a minute, the Therionized version I had heard doesn't start like this at all, what's this all about? Spanish guitars again, equally wonderful as those on "They Need a Million" - Uli Jon Roth does this so goddamn good. And then another guitar melody that is to die for. Meine's vocals is spot on and works so well in symbiosis with the guitars. When this "intro" is over is when the actual song begins and I can only assume that no guitarist in Therion at the time dared to try copying what Roth does here. I'm no guitar player but I totally get why. The song is about a 1000 times better than the version that I sort of enjoyed with Therion and that main melody is played to perfection by Roth. As the case was on "This is My Song", the lyrics here a quite simple but they never become as stupid as they do on the first two songs.
After about 5 minutes, the song slows down as Roth plays a very mellow solo as a dreamlike synthesizer dominates the background. Uli himself takes over the vocals in a long speech that is so damn 70's one cannot help but smile. After the speech is over, this epic concludes with a lengthy solo that is spot on. One of the best damn songs I've ever heard and the rating is a given.
Ok, so the entire album might not be a masterpiece but it's not particularly uneven either. All the songs are good and there's a flow whilst listenting to it in it's entirety. I'm not very much into 70's-rock otherwise, but those early Scorpions-albums are pure gold to my ears. I seldom care that much about guitar solos at all when I listen to music, but there are so many moments on "Fly to the Rainbow" when I'm absolutely blown away by Roth's craftmanship. The man is also a genius when it comes to infectious melodies. That, in combination with one of the best bass-players I've heard in heavy metal - the very underappreciated Francis Buchholz - makes this album such a magnificent opus in it's own. And let's not forget about the emotional vocal-deliveries from Meine either.
So if you're one of those people that has only heard songs such as "Wind of Change", "Send Me an Angel", "Rock You Like a Hurricane" or "Still Loving You" - forget about those! You have no idea what you're missing if you leave this album unheard based upon the 80's/90's-version of the band.
Oh, and thank you Therion. Without your version of the title track, I might never have listened to this album at all.
With cloudy looking mountains,
The lake made out of crystal raindrops.
Run through space, 2000 years ago,
I've seen the giant city of atlantis,
Sinking into an eternal wave of darkness.