Controversy had followed the band up to this point in their career, with the provocative cover to Virgin Killer getting a ton of attention. Thankfully, the band seemed to have gotten through their “nude children on cover art” phase of their lives. Taken By Force takes a more subtle turn by having a cover of two kids playing with guns in a military cemetery. The offensive meter didn’t rise as high as it did with the tasteless Virgin Killer artwork, but it still continued the streak started with In Trance.
Taken By Force was the last album before the band began to flirt with the radio rock crowd with Lovedrive. “He’s A Woman-She’s A Man” was the type of rocking single that the band became known for, though with a definite NWOBHM vibe going on. None of the other tracks scream out as single-worthy; however, the sing-a-long opener “Steamrock Fever” had its charm.
The progressive edge heard on the first few records peeks up on “We’ll Burn The Sky” and “Born To Touch Your Feeling.” While the latter is an acoustic ballad blown out of proportion, the former is a classic that the band has ignored for much of the past 30-plus years. Vocalist Klaus Meine puts on a show with his timeless vocals, as he does on the rest of the record, and the song builds from a tender opening to a hip-twisting melody.
This would be the last album with lead guitarist Uli Jon Roth at the helm, and he leaves a lasting final impression. His solos on “The Sails Of Charon” sparkle and light up the song, in the same way much of his guitar playing does. With this being his fourth album with the band, Roth and rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker had a tight bond and easily exchange leads and riffs.
Very few albums nowadays rock as hard as Taken By Force does. It has the progressive sound heard early on in their career, while welcoming in more radio-friendly melodies. Scorpions hadn’t even reached their full potential yet, though they did water their sound down a bit once guitarist Matthias Jabs was brought in. For being the last great Scorpions album before the band went in a mainstream direction, Taken By Force gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.