1974 was a very important year in hard rock and Heavy Metal. Bands like Deep Purple and the Who were becoming fragmented it seems. Black Sabbath released their last great album in 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' and Led Zeppelin had begun to start their own record label.
Peter Gabriel was about to leave Genesis. Punk rock was about to be unglued in England, while Ritchie Blackmore was quietly working behind the scenes with Mik Kaminski and Hugh McDonnell from the Electric Light Orchestra along with an unknown singer by the of Ronnie James Dio to lay the foundation of what will become Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.
While in the in the United States of America, the 37th President, Richard Millhouse Nixon, would leave office in disgrace.
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Since the formation of rock and roll in the early 1950s artists and bands have come from the United States and the United Kingdom. Any other place else would have been considered foreign.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Germany began to make its mark on the international rock stage. German music was very much lightweight pop and bands imitating The Beatles and Elvis. It did not have a serious rock act of any sort.
In 1968, the rise of the counter culture and the formation of Krautrock with bands Amon Dull II and Tangerine Dream gave some indication that a possible rock band could happen in Germany.
From 1969 to 1973 Deep Purple was one of the world's most popular progressive rock and Heavy Metal bands. During this period, they hit a Grand Slam of a four album home-run of 'In Rock', 'Fireball', 'Machine Head' and 'Made In Japan', albums that set the standard and raised the bar and the tension between Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan was so explosive that it basically threatened to tear the band apart.
Born in December 18, 1954 (age 58) in Düsseldorf, Germany, Ulrich Roth, more commonly known as Uli Jon Roth, was founder alongside Rudolf Schenker as well as one of the earliest contributors to the neo-classical Metal genre. He is also the founder of Sky Academy and inventor of the Sky Guitar.
The Scorpions, and in four short years of his tenure,the guitarist created a legacy that still dominates any discussion of what has been an incredibly varied and productive career. In those years (1974-1978), Roth recorded five albums (four studio and one live with The Scorpions, and arguably created a genre of rock guitar known as shred.
This last comment may raise the hackles of fans of Blackmore, Page, Schenker, Beck, and Iommi, but Roth brought to the table some skills that none of these greats could quite claim.
Uli Roth took the Stratocaster and Marshall sound of Jimi Hendrix and injected it with a sense of precision, daring, and technique that had not previously been demonstrated. His speed was unparalleled, his knowledge and use of theory unique to the world of hard rock and his whammy bar histrionics set the stage for Edward Van Halen.
'Speedy's Coming' was the first song on 'Fly To The Rainbow', Roth's first album with the German rockers in 1974, and never had any guitarist introduced himself in such an auspicious manner. He begins every solo and fills with almost unbelievable violent tremolo bar work, performing huge dives, and shrieks only to follow them with fiery licks - Even Ritchie Blackmore rarely played with this amount of fury, and passion.
'Fly On The Rainbow' is the band's second album and their first with Roth. Uli sings one track on the album, a composition called 'Drifting Sun'. He sings like Dylan sounding like visionary poet while taking rock guitar to a new level.
By 1975 The Scorpions were doing big business across Europe (co-headlining with Kiss), and debuting in England at the Cavern Club, most famous for being the Liverpool home of The Beatles.
The band released their third album, 'In Trance'. This is the album in which Uli Jon Roth stepped up to write six of the album's ten tracks, including the LP's opener, 'Dark Lady'. This album is about exciting as it gets, it screams, howls and growls.
'In Trance' also signaled the beginning of a heavier straight forward hard rock attack, mostly coming from the riff rich guitar of Rudolf Schenker. Songs like 'In Trance', 'Top Of The Bill', and 'Robot Man' placed The Scorpions directly in the sights of THE Americans, who were starting to take notice of this Teutonic super-group. Unfortunately, due to a lack of faith in their commercial potential, the Scorpions with Ulrich Roth never set foot on American soil.
'Virgin Killer' is a tour-de-force of album with six-string heroics and Germanic vocalization from beginning to end. Uli is covering new territory and expanding his virtuosic palette.
During the 'Virgin Killer' tour in England Uli's big dream came true, recalls Rudolf Schenker, leading to Roth's departure. "We played the Marquee in London, where Uli met Monika Dannermann (Hendrix's last girlfriend). From that moment it was clear to him that he no longer wanted to be involved with The Scorpions, preferring to look for new greener pastures. We didn't even try to
change his mind."
Uli would stay on to the end and 'Taken By Force' was Roth's final studio album with The Scorpions. The disc includes just three tunes written by Roth, 'Your Light', a typically spiritual number in the tradition of Roth's balladry, the shred guitar classic, 'The Sails Of Charon', and the prophetic, 'I've Got To Be Free', which features lyrics that state his case for leaving the band very bluntly, with lines such as: "I'm not your Bugs Bunny, and you're not my wife..."
However, Roth's playing on the album is superb. He may have considered it a job now, but it was a job he performed as few could.
The album contains two of Roth's finest guitar moments, those being the whole of 'The Sails Of Charon', and his epic soloing on the Monika Danneman penned, 'We'll Burn The Sky'. Both are sublime examples of the finest, fastest, and flashiest rock and roll guitar playing.
Being the world class gentlemen that Uli is, he fulfilled his commitment to the 'Tokyo Tapes' recording. The band played Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya and delivered. The goods and were in top form. In many ways, 'Tokyo Tapes' can be seen as the band's tribute to Deep Purple's 'Made In Japan'.
Like the DP Mark 2 lineup of 1969-1973, the Scorpions period with Jon Roth can be viewed as or looked at in a very scholastic way, a birth of European kind rock music that can be traced back to British Blues and early American rock and roll but having distinctive Germanic qualities.