By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
McAULEY-SCHENKER GROUP – SAVE YOURSELF (1989)
Though this article is about the second McAuley-Schenker Group album, I first need to go back to the group’s 1987 debut album Perfect Timing album.
In ’87, I was 16 and had a job where I was making my own money. I had very little in the way of bills and could spend the money I made any way I wanted to. Since this was before the Internet and the idea of hearing songs before the album was even released, I would on occasion buy albums just from seeing an advertisement in a magazine. And yes, you could go to the record store knowing that they’d have the album in stock, imagine that!
So I saw the ad for Perfect Timing and was struck by how cool the guy with the guitar looked with his long flowing hair (This would be at the time when I still thought that I could grow my hair long to fit in more with the look of the day). I say “the guy” because I had no idea who Michael Schenker was at the time. As you recover from that bit of musical blasphemy, let’s just say once I did get the album, I was blown away. The album sounded like everything I loved at the time. Commercially accessible sound full of flying guitar work, killer rock tracks and believe it or not, really great ballad tracks. I was hooked!
So when I saw the news that the band was releasing a second album, it went to the top of my list. And with Save Yourself, they didn’t disappoint in the least.
The album kicked off with the title track. The song opens with a kind of mood setting lone bell ringing in the background before Schenker lets loose with a killer opening riff/solo. The song then bursts into flames as waves of pure energetic rock flow over you. Describing the song as fast paced fails to do justice to how relentless it is. Unsurprisingly, the band shreds throughout the song and McAuley’s vocals are not only on point with rapid fire they are in the delivery, but they are also really gritty in the vocal inflections. I’l say that by this point, he’d become a singer I greatly admired at the time. I thought he was just a fantastic vocalist!
While “Bad Boys” is slightly less frantic in the delivery, it is still a pretty uptempo anthem that kept me on the edge of my seat.
When talking about Perfect Timing earlier in the article, I mentioned how I loved the power ballad tracks on the album. You can say that about those type of tracks on Save Yourself as well. The song “Anytime” gave the band their most successful track of their three album run in terms of chart recognition. And while I’m really down on ballads these days, it is a highly enjoyable song.
The more rocking side of the band returns with “Get Down To Bizness”. The first side of the album comes to a killer conclusion with more of a mid-tempo rocker called “Shadow of the Night”. The track settles quickly into a groove quickly and locks it in for the length of the song.
Every song on the first side of the album is superb, and it sets the stage for more rocking good music on side two. I will say that while the instrumental “There Has To Be Another Way” wasn’t quite necessary to be included, it is a pretty decent run through by Schenker and company.
Otherwise, the second side of the album features five more songs that further cemented my opinion of just how great the band was at the time. “What We Need” kicks things off, rocking its way into your head. The title of “I Am Your Radio” might seem a bit silly, but when you listen to the song, it’s an undeniable rocker that captures the imagination and if you are like me, it kind of served as a personal anthem at the time you first heard it.
“This Is My Heart” definitely falls under the power ballad classification but it has far more of an uptempo feel to it at the same time. The lyrical sentiments are what gives it the ballad feel, but I really appreciated the lack of complete slowdown musically.
Two more adrenalized rockers close out Save Yourself with “Destiny” being a blazingly fast and intense track and “Take Me Back” sealing the deal for just how great the McAuley-Schenker Group was. The musical partnership between singer and guitarist was a fertile mix of great guitar and vocals and had both the songs and musical chops to pull off this vastly commercial sounding project that is flush with great music that doesn’t give you the feeling that they were “selling out” for more of a chance at monetary success.
At the beginning of the McAuley-Schenker Group’s run, I didn’t realize that this more mainstream hook laden sound was not what Schenker was best known for. I know that the majority of his fans comes from Schenker’s time with the Scorpions, UFO and the Michael Schenker Group. But for me, the three McAuley-Schenker albums will always be what I most remember him for. My love for Robin McAuley’s vocals remains unabated as well.
If you love great guitar work with the more accessible sound of the mid-to-late 80’s rock and metal, you’d be doing yourself a great service by picking up Save Yourself and diving headlong into some of the most entertaining rock of the day.
NOTES OF INTEREST: I attended the May 10th, 2019, Michael Schenker Fest concert in Worcester, MA. The show featured Michael Schenker playing songs from throughout his career and included Robin McAuley singing three songs from Save Yourself (plus one from Perfect Timing) during the course of the show. In fact, given the band lineup for this tour, four-fifths of the lineup that recorded the Save Yourself album (including drummer Bodo Schopf and guitarist Steve Mann) were onstage during the performance! It was utterly awesome for me!
The album got a Japanese reissue in 2000 that included three bonus tracks. Two of them were the radio single edits of “Save Yourself” and “Anytime” but the third bonus cut was a previously unreleased song called “Vicious”.
The album was produced by Frank Fillepetti, who had produced Survivor’s Too Hot To Sleep album in 1988. Singer Robin McAuley would go on to front Survivor for five years between 2006-2011, though he never recorded any music with the band.