Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SCORPION – I Am the Scorpion (MNW, 1970)

International relevance: ***
English vocals

One of the most legendary albums to come out of the Swedish progg scene, and also one of the earliest. It's almost mythical to collectors, being extremely hard to find and fetching ridiculous prices any rare time it's offered for sale. It was ninth album release on MNW, one of the most important labels of the Swedish 70's, putting out many stellar albums of the era.

Scorpion was in fact MNW head honcho Bo Anders Larsson's own one-off project. Larsson had previously been in Tintacs who had two singles out in the late 60's. Tintacs soon became Ron Faust who put out a fine 45, ”I Wanna Hold You” b/w ”I Keep on Moving”, in 1969. Both incarnations of the band also featured Lorne de Wolfe who later made a mark in history as a member of Contact, Vargen, and much later and to a lot lesser artistic extent, Hansson de Wolfe United. The entire Contact back Larsson on ”I Am the Scorpion”, and being produced by Kim Fowley, it's like the evil cousin to Contact's – much more subdued – debut album ”Nobody Wants to Be Sixteen”.

Delivered in a stunning monochromatic sleeve, ”I Am the Scorpion” is a partly wild affair, sometimes reminiscent of the Stooges or any other late 60's/early 70's Detroit band of your choice. Side A of the album is hard-boiled psych rock with frantic fuzz guitars. The title track is a classic, as is the garagey ”Hey Girl, I'm Ugly” (which also can be found on the MNW sampler ”Ljud från Waxholm”) and the heavy ”Red Queen of the Underground”, plus the short but great ”Blues for Jimi Hendrix”. If you want to know why this album is in such high demand, these tracks ought to explain it!

With the first side of the album having the guitars going on the red and the drums pounding on your eardrums, side B might come as an unpleasant surprise. Much mellower, and in parts downright terrible. It begins with one of the lousiest tracks ever recorded in Sweden, ”Michoican” (backed with another pointless album track, the parodic blues track ”Everybody Knows My Name”). Why this jolly-jolly-ho-ho-ho-thumbs-up-yeehah crap was chosen as a single – A side at that! – is a complete mystery. Somebody must have had a severe brain loss picking that as some kind of attempted hit.

The rest of the second side is much better, but a far cry from the stunning first one. Much more in a 60's beat style, it does have its pleasant moments, such as the freakbeat rumbler ”Hey La La La” if you're into that sort of thing.

”I Am the Scorpion”, as a whole, is a disappointment – especially if you fork out the money dealers ask for it without knowing what the B side is like. Side A, however, is as heavy and rough as music got in 1970, up there with the best and rawest US garage rock of the era. Do keep in mind though, that nice copies are hard to find of the early MNW releases, including "I Am the Scorpion". The vinyl they used were hardly audiophile stuff...

As an afterthought, Scorpion released a non album 45 in 1971, a cover of ”It's All Over Now”, made famous by the Rolling Stones, coupled with a screaming five and a half minutes of ”Wolves Mouth Song”. Almost as impossible to find as the album, this certainly is in the vein of the album's prime side. ”It's All Over Now” gets a blasting devil-may-care treatment sure to fry your brain. ”Wolves Mouth Song”, although being entirely instrumental, is Scorpion at their (or his) uttermost finest. Both tracks were in fact outtakes by Swedish-Norweigan hippie duo Charlie & Esdor. 

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