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1996 – Part 5.3: Michael Schenker Group – Written In The Sand

Every label head said Schenker was finished, washed up.

It’s 1991 and a supergroup called Contraband drop their debut album. And it keeps on dropping because it is so bad. The nice advance payment that Schenker got to be involved in the project didn’t do much to enhance or move forward his career. In fact his manager and ex-partner took most of it.

But he stays alive, because he’s a lifer. When you have been in the game for this long, the only thing you know how to do is play. And play he did. He jumped on board the unplugged bandwagon and released an album. He called up Robin McAuley and released another McAuley Schenker studio album.

Then he re-unites with Phil Mogg and they start writing. The songs got the labels interested and the “Walk On Water” album from UFO, released in 1995 surprised everyone. Suddenly Schenker was back on the agenda and he’s getting money thrown at him again. He had a lot of bad people in his life at this point in time, from managers and partners, so it was always going to happen that MSG would return.

I didn’t think it would be that quick. Because a year after “Walk On Water”, “Written In The Sand” is released, the eighth full-length studio album that falls under the MSG brand.

The only thing consistent with all of these MSG albums is the name and Michael Schenker himself. The other members are in a constant flux. For this album, Schenker is joined by Leif Sundin on vocals, Shane Gaalaas on drums, and Barry Sparks on bass. All the music is by Michael Schenker and all lyrics by Leif Sundin.

Ron Nevison is doing all the Producing, Engineering and Mixing.

It’s not on Spotify which irks me, but YouTube has it.

Brave New World

It’s got groove, swing and lot of rock and roll. And the first thing that grabs my attention are the vocals from Leif Sundin. His voice is very melodic, fluid and unique. I would say he’s up there as one of the best singers in MSG.

The lead breaks are impressive, with Schenker even soloing over a harmony solo which acts as a rhythm guitar.

Cry No More

Press play to hear the intro. Its heavy and a lot of acts who went alternative to survive weren’t doing riffs like this during this period. The song could have been on a Deep Purple album and it wouldn’t be out pf place.

I Believe

It’s a ballad that turns into a rocker. It’s not original, yet it is an easy listen.

Back to Life

No one was writing riffs like this in 1996. Its old school and I like it. Barry Sparks is massive on the bass here as well.

Written in the Sand

This track is essential MSG. It has a sleazy bluesy riff and a lot of melody. And Schenker delivers a tasty guitar-solo in the middle and for the outro.

Essenz

It wouldn’t be an MSG album without an instrumental. This one has an “Eruption” vibe before moving into a fast blues. Think of “Hot For Teacher” when it picks up.

Love Never Dies

Imagine “Finish What Ya Started” merging with the melodic rock genre. Well this is the outcome. Another close favourite with a killer Schenker lead break.

I Will Be There

Press play to hear the verse riff. Schenker makes it sound technical, yet it rocks so fluidly.

Take Me Through the Night

Its classic heavy metal while the singing is happening and the solo section is barroom blues brawling.

It wouldn’t be out of place on any metal album from the early 80’s.

Down the Drain

The album closer showcases how Schenker decorates in a creative way. You cannot ignore how good it is.

While Schenker’s North American career had stalled, he was still a big draw in Japan and certain European markets. And just like that, the whole “Contraband” affair was forgotten. That is if you heard the album. Which wasn’t easy to do.

Crank it.

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