domingo, 28 de abril de 2019

UFO (UK) - Live (LP, Decca, 1972)


Given that the early albums from UFO didn't exactly skyrocket to the top of English and American charts, the Beacon label wasn't exactly enthusiastic about offering the lads a contract extension, which meant the band were left with no firm financial backing for a while. The departure of original axeman Mick Bolton in the early days of 1972 was also something of a shock, and it's fair to say that the group's future was effectively in doubt by this juncture. As many bands do when faced with similar adversities, UFO kept plugging in regardless, bringing Larry Wallis in to perform guitar duties and playing as many gigs as possible wherever a venue would have them.

Despite the modest sales figures of their first two LPs, UFO had a strong following in some specific countries, most of all Japan - so it was only natural that Stateside (the label that distributed UFO's music for the Japanese market) opted to issue a live LP, taken from a concert at Hibiya Park in Tokyo on September 25, 1971. Originally released under the name "U.F.O. Landed Japan" shortly before Christmas 1971, the LP came to be known as the more straightforward "Live" once it was issued in Germany by Decca sometime in 1972 - a packaging that is surely the more recognizable version, being the template for countless reissues ever since. With that in mind, let's just call the album "Live" from now on to avoid any confusion, though acknowledging that it originally came out under a different guise.

It makes for an interesting listen nowadays, that's for sure, as it shows that the distinctive features one can hear in UFO's early studio offerings were also discernible (though in slightly different terms) when they were upon a stage back then. The instrumental sections are very prominent, the band as a whole being much more keen to jam and improvise than on later live recordings. To be frank, the mood around here is very much the mood of 1970s' live rock performances in general: expanding, exploring and rearranging songs rather than simply reproducing it more or less like the studio versions. And it's quite fascinating to hear UFO playing in such a jam-oriented style, especially when you consider that they would adopt a much more strict, no-nonsense approach for most of their live endeavors in years to come. Fortunately, the enthusiastic nature of the band's live delivery seems to have been a constant, being a much-welcomed feature in all of their concert releases through the years - and there are quite a few, you know, and they're all very good, you know.

Recorded while Mick Bolton was still in the band, most songs taken from that night's setlist are from UFO's first album - an understandable option, no doubt, as I suppose it would be hard to fully recapture all the oddball "UFO 2: Flying" ambiences upon a stage. Curiously, the best song from "Live" is the only one taken from their second studio effort: "Prince Kajuku" sounds extremely intense here, the natural extra energy of a live performance adding lots of heaviness to the whole thing - and man this riff kicks ass!  It's also the track that sounds closer to their "Strangers in the Night" period, so perhaps my special liking to it is not a mere coincidence.

Also worthy of mention is "Follow You Home" (they one they ripped off from The Kinks' "You Really Got Me", if you remember the review for "UFO 1"), where they show some pleasing sense of humor by including excerpts from... "You Really Got Me" from The Kinks! Maybe it was a way to acknowledge the coincidence, or else it was the whole idea all along; in any case, it was a spirited move, improving the otherwise unspectacular song with a lighter, playful (and very much welcome) atmosphere. There's even a song that never appeared on any other record from the band, before or ever since, a Paul Butterfield cover called "Loving Cup" - not a truly memorable rendition to be honest, but also far away from any sort of letdown. The sound quality is nice throughout, the band's musicianship is tight and, though some songs are a bit longer than they should ("Boogie for George" gets boring halfway through, for instance), "Live" fulfills its mission without any major hiccups, being a good album to have around if you're interested in UFO's formative years.

You see, finding a fitting substitute to Mick Bolton took UFO way more time than originally expected: Larry Wallis left the group after a mere eight months (he would later enjoy productive spells with Pink Fairies and Motörhead), being replaced by then-unknown Bernie Mardsen later in 1972. The guitarist took part in a European tour early next year and got as far as to record a handful of demos, but the Mogg-Way-Parker nucleus concluded Bernie (a future member of Babe Ruth and Whitesnake) wasn't really what the band needed, and made their way to Germany to recruit the youthful Michael Schenker (then a mere 18-years-old) from Scorpions in June 1973. Now under the auspices of Chrysalis Records, UFO was soon to become the entity we all know and love, but let's not rush things, right? See you in the next review, bye bye \m/

Phil Mogg (V), Mick Bolton (G), Pete Way (B), Andy Parker (D).

01. C'mon Everyody (Cochran, Capehart) 4:30
02. Who Do You Love (McDaniel) 9:39
03. Loving Cup (Butterfield) 5:22
04. Prince Kajuku / The Coming of Prince Kajuku (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 8:30
05. Boogie for George (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 11:42
06. Follow You Home (Way) 6:28

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me ( and let me know!

sábado, 27 de abril de 2019

UFO (UK) - UFO 2: Flying (LP, Beacon, 1971)


There are at least two different (and valid) points of view to be taken while reviewing this album. You can set your mind to what was the state of heavy music in the early 1970s, without taking into great consideration all that UFO was about to do in later years - a decision that will surely help you to appreciate what this album have to offer (maybe even getting as far as to consider it UFO's finest moment, as some people actually do, believe it or not). And you can listen to the music herein while comparing it to the classic albums with Michael Schenker performing guitar duties - and this very long record (the "One Hour Space Rock" warning on the cover isn't just a figure of speech, you know) will dwarf considerably, possibly sounding a lot more like an ill-fated piece of pretentious experimentation than anything else. Whether you decide to give "UFO 2: Flying" a fair chance or not, I guess it was natural for a band with such a name to make some flirting with space rock, and Pete Way (B), Phil Mogg (V), Andy Parker (D) and Mick Bolton (G) did not take the whole interstellar route halfheartedly, you see.

It's a reasonably widespread (and perfectly understandable) notion to consider the phase with Mick Bolton on the guitar as a unit, but I'd say it can cause the casual listener some sort of confusion, as this LP brings to the scene a very different musical entity from its predecessor, the bluesy/boogie proto-metal "UFO 1" (1970). This sophomore record is the kind of album that takes time: you can't just put it on as background music, you gotta give it some dedicated attention in order to fully appreciate it (or else you can be fully engaged on a LSD trip, which is going to be a entirely unrelated journey of course, but you know what I mean). Being partial with a fair bit of Hawkwind or Eloy in your spare time will surely be helpful, though ignoring everything else that was recorded by UFO before giving this one a spin may be a more challenging task for most first-time listeners. Personally speaking, I reckon you should really give this one a try in any case, as "UFO 2: Flying" is a mostly pleasant record after all.

For the diehard heavy rockers among you, "Silver Bird" and "Prince Kajuku" tend to be the more relatable tracks around here, as both showcase an interesting heavy edge - specially the latter, carried along by a memorable riff and that turned out to become a live favorite for many years to come. "Star Storm" and "Flying", on the other hand, are the ones where the "space" quality takes over "rock", with the group doing their utmost to create absorbing soundscapes via lengthy instrumental suites and the occasional use of sound effects and reverberations.

Sometimes it sounds loosely put together, to be honest (you have to be very much into it to fully appreciate "Star Storm"s ambiences midway through, for instance), and it's undoubtedly difficult to create an one-hour-plus musical adventure without any filler material in places. Almost all of the five tracks could be a few minutes shorter without losing anything substantial in the process, which is in itself a testimony of how we're nowhere near a world-beater with this one. Still, it works quite effectively most of the time, and I think it has a lot to do with the tight, busy instrumentation: where "UFO 1" sounded a bit too rough-edged and rudimentary for its own good, "UFO 2: Flying" is cohesive and solid, and most of its textures are the evident result of conscious effort, rather than hit-and-miss experimentation. It's all very spacey for sure, but the 'rock' element is always there as well; you can let yourself fly (ahem) with the music, but you'll always feel you're being taken somewhere rather than just randomly floating in zero gravity, or something.

It's puzzling to wonder what UFO would have become if Mick Bolton had stayed in the group - which wasn't going to be the case as we all know, as he opted to eject himself out of the group's starship in early 1972. Maybe we would be dealing with an experimental, sci-fi oriented progressive rock band rather than the hard/heavy monster we all know and love, who knows? Or else we would live in a world where UFO were little more than an early 1970s curiosity, with obsessive collectors falling over themselves to buy scarce original copies of a seldom-seen, never-reissued LP... Oh well, one can fantasize as much as wanted, but we live in a dimension where the nucleus of Mogg-Way-Parker felt there wasn't much of a future in the space rock niche, and gave up all hopes of traveling beyond the Solar System in order to adopt a more down-to-Earth, easily recognizable hard rock sound. I'm entirely convinced the change was all for the best but, judging on this sample, UFO would still be interesting if things were a bit different, I suppose.

Phil Mogg (V), Mick Bolton (G), Pete Way (B), Andy Parker (D).

All songs by Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton

01. Silver Bird 6:56
02. Star Storm 18:55
03. Prince Kajuku 4:01
04. The Coming of Prince Kajuku 3:57
05. Flying 26:29

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me ( and let me know!



Saying that Ethel the Frog were a hot prospect for British metal in 1980 would be a bit of an overstatement perhaps, but it's fair to point out the undisputed fact that they would have never signed the dotted line with the mighty EMI if there wasn't any genuine potential going on. Doing the rounds since 1976 at least, this four-piece were seemingly huge fans of Monty Python ("Ethel the Frog" being the name of a fictitious BBC documentary mentioned on a classic sketch from the comedy group), but also the subject of a fair bit of adulation on their local Humberside area, having already released a introductory 7'' ("Eleanor Rigby" B/W "Whatever Happened to Love) in 1978 - a piece of wax that safely put them among the pioneering combos from the entire NWOBHM.

Doug Sheppard (V/G), Paul Tognola (G), Terry Hopkinson (B) and Paul Conyers (D) never shied away from the hard work necessary to make a band stand out in the crowd, and their efforts were finally rewarded when the now-legendary DJ Neal Kay recommended them for inclusion on the "Metal for Muthas" compilation. With their "Fight Back" number being regarded as one of the finest cuts from the LP, EMI felt there was enough mileage to justify the investment on a full LP. Curiously, no recording sessions were commissioned for such a purpose: after listening to their demo recordings the lads had under their possession, the executives involved felt the material had the standards required to be released in its original form, simply choosing the most capable tunes to comprise the eponymous LP.

Ethel the Frog's cover to "Eleanor Rigby" (yeah, that one) was seemingly identified as the selling point for the album, with the label getting as far as releasing a second single around it in 1980 (this time with "Fight Back" as the B-side). It's not groundbreaking stuff to be honest, being miles away from the ingenuity displayed by Jeddah when reworking the same song for their sole 7'' - easily my favorite version for a Beatles' song from the entire NWOBHM, incidentally (not that there ever was that much of a competition, but never mind). Still, I personally like this particular recording: it's a safe, mid-tempo-rocker version with very little to offer in terms of reinvention, but it sounds very heartfelt and not like a shameless cash-in at all, which makes for an interesting enough listen and a good way to open proceedings.

Despite not being strong enough to qualify as a classic NWOBHM record, Ethel the Frog's sole LP is mostly very good, you see. Light-hearted, upbeat tunes like "Apple of Your Eye" and "Fight Back" truly epitomize what NWOBHM was all about at the time, while less predictable, convoluted songs like "Bleeding Heart" (nice atmospheric parts in places) and most of all "Fire Bird" serve to show that the lads were more than capable to create some quite individualistic music when determined to do so. But my personal highlight would perhaps be "Whatever Happened to Love": the fast-paced riffing is very functional, the arrangements are actually pretty inventive for such a straight-to-the-point track, and it also presents a rare case of let's-turn-the-song's-title-into-a-chorus which actually works remarkably well, pleasantly sticking to your mind for days afterwards. Give it a listen and, in case you don't feel like listening it ever again, then I'm afraid NWOBHM isn't really your cup of tea.

The sound quality is respectable throughout (way better than one would expect from demo tapes, actually), but I'd say the compilers could have applied a slightly more strict quality control to this one, given that the early-period, still-developing nature of some songs is too clear to be ignored. "Staying on My Mind" (an ultra-predictable, almost yawn-inducing boogie that Status Quo would have churned out in their sleep) "Why Don't You Ask" (ditto) and "You Need Wheels" (a biker-friendly, anthemic tune that is not that bad, but would have surely benefited from a better chorus) are not in the same league of the better cuts, as simple as that. "Don't Do it" is as predictable as it gets (with a song title like that, it hardly comes as a surprise), and you can almost sing the chorus along without having ever listened to it (seriously) - but it's all very enthusiastic, admittedly, and I like the basslines on this one, so let's gallantly spare it from any harsh criticism.

Similarly, some of Doug Sheppard's singing performances are a bit substandard if you ask me, something that could surely have been corrected if EMI had ever bothered to offer the lads a proper recording budget. But let's not blow these shortcomings out of proportion: "Ethel the Frog" is a worthy addition to any respectable NWOBHM collection, and a recent LP/CD reissue by High Roller Records means you won't have to spend too much of your hard-earned money in order to obtain a copy.

As we all know by now, the band's association with such a powerful record company didn't make much of a difference, as Ethel the Frog had mostly ceased to exist by the time the original LP was out. Apparently, Doug Sheppard got increasingly disenchanted with the hardships of the road, a very significant development considering that he was also the band's producer and main songwriter - and this, added to bassist Terry Hopkinson's decision to quit the music scene and seek a degree, pretty much signaled the end of the line for the ensemble. With the band's activities reduced to a minimal, it's perfectly understandable that EMI decided to bet their chips on Angel Witch and Iron Maiden instead, making little (if any) effort to promote Ethel the Frog's release as a result. Paul Tognola and Paul Conyers would persevere in the scene though, soon joining the ranks of Salem - a band that have a fair number of releases to their credit, all sure to be reviewed around here in due course.

Doug Sheppard (V/G), Paul Tognola (G), Terry Hopkinson (B), Paul Conyers (D).

All songs by Sheppard, except 1 by Lennon/McCartney and 6 by Sheppard/Conyers/Tognola/Hopkinson

01. Eleanor Rigby
02. Apple of Your Eye
03. Staying on My Mind
04. You Need Wheels
05. Bleeding Heart
06. Fight Back
07. Don't Do It
08. Why Don't You Ask
09. Whatever Happened to Love
10. Fire Bird

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me ( and let me know!

quinta-feira, 18 de abril de 2019

UFO (UK) - UFO 1 (LP, Beacon, 1970)


UFO's quest for world domination starts with this humble LP from 1970, a low-budget album recorded in almost live-in-studio fashion and released by a medium-sized record label. But the roots of the story behind this huge (if not comercially ultra-successful) entity lie in a previous outfit called Hocus Pocus, formed in 1968 and already with the recognizable line-up of Phil Mogg (V), Mick Bolton (G), Pete Way (B) and Andy Parker (D). It was pretty much UFO under an early guise, you see, and it makes sense to add this period to UFO's timeline, as they would only adopt their alien-influenced household name after signing with Beacon Records in late 1969, as something of an homage to the London club where they played countless times and were finally spotted by the label's representatives.

Those were still formative years for heavy rock music as a whole, you see, and it's perfectly understandable that the music here feature isn't exactly analogous to the hard/heavy input that would earn them a living in later years. It's heavy enough already in a sense, but way more in a Blue Cheer approach of heaviness if you know what I mean, with many bluesy/boogie overtones and some distinct psychedelic influences. Therefore, one must have in mind that this is not archetypal UFO by any stretch: what you're going to get is proto-metal stuff, produced by a band willing to explore some then-recent musical recipes, but also a bit insecure about what ingredients they should or shouldn't add to the cauldron.

The basslines of Pete Way are in your face here, showing how hugely influenced by The Who's John Entwistle he is, which is not a bad thing at all, of course. Phil Mogg's voice would surely mature with time, but one can easily hear the promise in songs such as the ballad "(Come Away) Melinda", one of the finest moments IMO. Andy Parker and Mick Bolton do their job in a less spectacular manner perhaps (though Parker is the driving force behind the passable "Who Do You Love?"), but the band sounds tight and catchy most of the time. Still, the production values do very little to disguise the occasional rough edges of the performance, something that may surely be unpleasant if you're unwilling to take the context of the recording that much into consideration.

"Boogie for George" and Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" would be successfull singles in the Japanese charts, and both are adequate, although a little bit too simplistic for my liking, if I'm to be point-blank honest here. Interestingly, the main riff of "Follow You Home" is a total rip-off from The Kinks' "You Really Got Me", in such a glaring fashion that I sincerely hope UFO were never sued for that! Some songs here featured are quite nice, with "Evil", "Shake it About", opening instrumental "Unindentified Flying Object" and the aforementioned "Melinda" being good examples. But listeners must be aware that most tracks are a bit too rudimentary (and with far too throwaway lyrics) for their own good, and I'm afraid nearly half of the compositions didn't exactly stand the test of time.

Despite its shortcomings, "UFO 1" made quite an impact in places like Germany and most of all Japan, prompting the group to tour the Land of the Rising Sun quite extensively from an early stage. This recognition was very important to secure them a continuing career, as the LP caused little to no reaction in its two high-profile targets, England and USA. It's not a record you should buy whatever the price, mind you, but it's a pretty decent record that surely reaches the 3-star mark, and it also works as a nice document from an era when heavy metal, as we all came to know and love, was still taking shape.

Phil Mogg (V), Mick Bolton (G), Pete Way (B), Andy Parker (D).

01. Unindentified Flying Object (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 2:19
02. Boogie for George (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 4:16
03. C'mon Everyody (Cochran, Capehart) 3:12
04. Shake it About (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 3:47
05. (Come Away) Melinda (Hellerman, Minkoff) 5:04
06. Timothy (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 3:28
07. Follow You Home (Way) 2:13
08. Treacle Peopel (Bolton) 3:23
09. Who Do You Love (McDaniel) 7:49
10. Evil (Way) 3:27

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me ( and let me know!