segunda-feira, 20 de julho de 2020

UFO (UK) - Force it (LP, Chrysalis, 1975)

RATING: ****

It's funny how UFO built a great reputation for themselves without actually recording a proper "classic" studio album. Don't get me wrong: they sure released some memorable stuff in the mid-to-late 1970s ("Force It" being one of these, of course) but I have the distinc feeling there's no album on UFO's studio discography that actually stands out as the pinnacle of their career or anything like that. Actually, live album "Strangers in the Night" is the best thing they ever did IMO, the crowning achievement of their career - the only album from the lads that's going to get a 5-star rating around here, sorry for the spoiler. I personally think that a perfect album must be a near flawless compilation of songs, or else a truly groundbreaking release in its own right, and none of UFO's studio LPs really fit the criteria, I'm afraid - a feat that their marvellous second live album achieves with great aplomb, but let's take reviews one at a time, right? Which is not to say their studio efforts are useless, of course: "Force It" is the first of at least three excellent albums in a row, and surely one of the finest in their discography too. You can count the 4-star rating as an almost perfect score if you like!

The metamorphosis ignited by "Phenomenon" is now complete. The lenghty jams and pieces of experimentation from their early releases are left behind for good: from this point onwards, UFO comes out like a confident and intense hard/heavy proposition, a group of musicians that know very well what they're doing and what they want to achieve. What was loose now is real tight, if you know what I mean, and still it's not like the adventurous spirit is nowhere to be found - quite the opposite actually, as many of the band's finest moments are more than adequate to demonstrate. The fundamental change here have little to do with creativity: it's a matter of approach if you like, being in control of the songs rather than trying to catch clues while playing them. It was the right choice in the end, and a lifetime of rock and roll achievements are there to bear witness of their triumph.

Schenker and Mogg are a much stronger songwriting theme now, and Pete Way's contributions are well fit into place too, so even the most casual listener may rest assured there's lots of fun to be found within the grooves. Opening  tracks "Let it Roll" and "Shoot Shoot" represent their harder edge in no uncertain terms, both being staples to UFO's setlists to this day. I'd even say that "Let it Roll" is one of the finest songs ever penned by the group: heavy and engaging, but also featuring a convoluted instrumental section that captures the listener's imagination and never let it go. Trully brilliant stuff. On the other hand, tunes like ballad "High Flyer" and the excellent, somewhat somber "Too Much of Nothing" are prime examples of how serious and pensive UFO could be when circumstances allow.

The album's stand-out track, though, has to be the truly amazing "Out in the Street". It's easily one of the most well-crafted things they ever recorded, an emotional roller-coaster of a song which is also their first recording with prominent keyboard arrangements (performed by Ten Years After's Chick Churchill). I guess the excellent results of this composition set the collective minds of UFO into augmenting their group with a dedicated keyboardist, something that took them some effort to fulfill but undoubtedly was all for the best in terms of music itself.

The hard-rocking "Mother Mary" would also become a live favorite, and it's a shame that the unremarkable "Dance Your Life Away" is here to lower the album's rating, as it could surely have been replaced by something more substantial. The final duo "This Kid's / Between the Walls" is also something of a letdown if you ask me - and yeah, I know many rockers out there regard the first portion as a classic, but I honestly feel it pales somewhat compared with everything that happened before it, and the anodyne accompanying instrumental cut doesn't help matters at all. Apart from these minor shortcomings, though, "Force it" is a excellent and extremely respectable LP that deserve every cent of your hard-earned money, and the eye-catching, provocative cover (at the time, at least) is a personal favorite for me as well. If you want an introduction to UFO and would prefer not to start with a live album, "Force It" is the perfect buy for you.

Phil Mogg (V), Michael Schenker (G), Pete Way (B), Andy Parker (D).

01. Let it Roll (Schenker, Mogg) 3:57
02. Shoot Shoot (Schenker, Mogg, Way, Parker) 3:40
03. High Flyer (Schenker, Mogg) 4:08
04. Love Lost Love (Schenker, Mogg) 3:21
05. Out in the Street (Way, Mogg) 5:18
06. Mother Mary (Schenker, Mogg, Way, Parker) 3:49
07. Too Much of Nothing (Way) 4:02
08. Dance Your Life Away (Schenker, Mogg) 3:35
09. This Kid's (incluiding Between the Walls) (Schenker, Mogg) 6:13

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!

domingo, 19 de julho de 2020

UFO (UK) - Phenomenon (LP, Chrysalis, 1974)


This is when UFO really got their party started. Not that everyone would agree with that, you know: the departure of original axeman Mick Bolton in early 1972 was not at all easy for the band to come through, and a fair percentage of music fans still feel the early incarnation of this much-loved flying saucer was the best of all - an assessment I don't really agree with, but everyone's entitled to their own opinions of course. There was a long-enduring misconception  going on that Mick Bolton was  the same guy involved with Mott the Hopple, Dexy's Midnight Runners and Linda McCartney's "Wide Prairie" LP (I even made such mistake myself for a while), but it's now safe to say that it's a simple case of similar names: as it transpires, the talented guitarist opted to settle down after his run with UFO was over, not being involved with any other bands of note. It seems he did a bit of guitar tech work for Michael Schenker and his Group back in the early '80s, and some say it was also the case during UFO's "Mechanix" era, but that's pretty much it as far as I know, which is a bit of a shame really. But oh well, just hope the guy is still enjoying a nice life in whatever activies he decided to focus on after his brief stint with the rock 'n' roll universe was over.

After trial runs with Larry Wallis (from Pink Fairies) and Bernie Marsden (then a near-unknown guitarist, that went as far as to record a few songs with UFO in 1973) the nucleus of Mogg-Way-Parker decided to invite German guitar hero Michael Schenker (from Scorpions) to join the fun. The kid was something of a child prodigy really, having made his first live show at age 11, and recording Scorpion's "Lonesome Crow" when he was only 16 years old. Scorpions were an opening act for UFO in Germany (a country where the British band was quite successful) and, though being a mere 18-year-old and not even knowing how to speak English, the youthful Schenker was tempted by UFO's offer and ultimately decided to embark. As you all know far too well by now, there couldn't have been a better choice, as Schenker was a decisive feature in metamorphosing UFO's sound and taking the band to a whole different level of popularity.

Although their collective talents are not fully developed just yet, "Phenomenom" (their first record with Chrysalis, a label that would provide them a much needed backing for over a decade) brings to the forefront all the things we learned to immediately recognise and love on UFO's trademark sound - most of it already present in the group's formula from an early stage, but surely not that prominent up to this point. The space rock days (that would mostly be confined to their "Flying" LP, to be fully honest) are not completely gone just yet, but now UFO are determined to be a hard / heavy band to make you shake your head and sing along, while keeping the subtlety and the will to experiment from the first records. And it works, no doubt about that.

'Intense' always have been, in my humble opinion, the perfect word to describe Schenker's playing: the man can attack the strings of his guitar like a demon, but his riffing and soloing never lack emotion, and this is the exact formula that made him one of the most inspiring guitarist in heavy rock. Pete Way and Andy Parker are more than happy to provide a tight backing for their youthful monster of a guitarist, and Phil Mogg's unmistakable voice was growing stronger with every release. Still, "Phenomenon" lacks something in the songwriting department, as Schenker and Mogg (both sharing the lion's share of composition at this point) were probably still getting used with each other, I suppose - something they seemingly never fully did, at least on a personal level, but oh well. It shows even on an all-time classic like "Doctor Doctor": unlike the exciting live staple of later years, the original studio version sound almost like a (very promising, admitedly) unfinished demo here, with some "oooh the mess I'm in" thrown in to fill the gaps in the lyrics. It's clear that this particular song would only fully mature in the grind of the live environment, which is to say something about just how good these guys worked together upon a stage (but that's a subject for another review, so let's not rush things just now, right?).

But it's only a minor criticism, you know, so don't be afraid to buy this album if you still don't have it in your collection. Songs such as "Too Young to Know", "Oh My" (one of my personal favorites here) "Queen of the Deep" and "Time on My Hands" may not be as powerful as the stuff soon to come, but are pleasant examples of concise, easy-to-enjoy hard rock songwriting, whereas "Crystal Light" and "Space Child" are nice semi-ballads with a melancholic touch that don't overstay their welcome at all. And if most of "Phenomenon" may fall short of being truly memorable, there's at least one tune here that is an undisputed classic for the ages: "Rock Bottom" is EASILY one of the finest guitar riffs I've ever heard, and I mean it! What a bloody awesome tune, and an everlasting testimony of UFO's ability to write engaging, ground-breaking hard/heavy music.

Phil Mogg (V), Michael Schenker (G), Pete Way (B), Andy Parker (D).

01. Oh My (Schenker, Mogg, Way, Parker) 2:26
02. Crystal Light (Schenker, Mogg) 3:47
03. Doctor Doctor (Schenker, Mogg) 4:10
04. Space Child (Schenker, Mogg) 4:01
05. Rock Bottom (Schenker, Mogg) 6:32
06. Too Young to Know (Way, Mogg) 3:10
07. Time on My Hands (Schenker, Mogg) 4:10
08. Built for Comfort (Dixon) 3:01
09. Lipstick Traces (Schenker) 2:20
10. Queen of the Deep (Schenker, Mogg) 5:49

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!