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CD review: Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock shines on 'Bridge the Gap'

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While Michael Schenker is nearly 60, he is still banging out thick riffs and soaring solos as if he were still that kid who made his bones with UFO and Scorpions in the early 70s. In recent years the legendary German guitar icon has been all over the map with his releases, but “Bridge the Gap” lives up to its name, and finds Schenker returning to his rock roots while still keeping a relevant foot in the now.

This marks the second album under the Temple of Rock banner. While the first had a varied parade of guests and performers, “Bridge the Gap” is a more cohesive piece with a set line-up, which includes former Scorpions bandmates, Francis Buchholz on bass and Herman Rarebell on drums. The two set the rhythmic foundation for the band and add stability to the project. Wayne Findlay (keyboards, guitar) adds depth to the line-up while vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen) brings just the right presence and delivery to each song to glue it all together.

Schenker wrote all the music for the album and White handled the lyrics. Schenker also produced the album along with Michael Voss. The album is set for release on January 7, 2014 through Inakustik.

Throughout the album, one cannot help but sense a Ronnie James Dio era Rainbow feel. Much of this is attributed to White’s vocal delivery and nuance, but on some tracks, Schenker channels a bit of Ritchie Blackmore into his own style. It adds a touch of homage, intentional or otherwise, to the album. The first taste of this comes on the opening track, “Where the Wild Winds Blow” which carries a hint of an Arabian undercurrent. This takes us all the way back to his debut 1980/81 Michael Schenker Group releases: This track would have fit quite nicely alongside “Armed and Ready”, “Are You Ready to Rock” or “On and On”. Schenker even throws in an acoustic cameo on the break. The song reminds us that metal is all about the riff, and “Bridge the Gap” is packed with great ones.

“Horizon” offers a foot-tapping, uptempo chugger of a riff. It is one of the albums most energetic tracks. When Schenker breaks into his solo it sounds almost as if he has stepped through the speakers into the front row of your life.

White returns to his Dio-esqueness on the brilliant, “Lord of the Lost and Lonely”, with its big, hooky, melodic chorus. Findlay brings some fantastic Hammond touches to “Rock ‘N’ Roll Symphony”, adding a classic rock atmosphere to it.

“Land of Thunder” is a balls-out, guitar juggernaut, while “Shine On” blazes with beautiful guitar work from Michael and an emotive atmosphere set by Findlay.”Black Moon Rising” is another addictive rock and roll riff-fest.

Much like his trademark black and white guitar, “Bridge the Gap” is a fine balance of darkness and light moods and tones. This balance can also be found in the contrast of Schenker’s weighty fretwork against White’s soaring vocal delivery.

While this is definitely a Schenker record, it is also a band effort, more so than anything we have heard from him in a long while, and it suits him well. “Bridge the Gap” finds Schenker and his merry band of rock and roll patriots laying down a grand, modern hard rock album with classic roots. These are the same guys who have been paving the rock and roll highways for more than four decades, leaving sign posts to guide the newer generations. “Bridge the Gap” is an example of why Schenker and company have earned iconic rock and roll reverence.

Rating: 8.4/10

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