Album review: UFO – The Complete Studio Albums 1974-1986

UFO - The Complete Studio Albums 1974-1986

Chrysalis/Warner Music [Release date 17.03.14]

A growing trend in recent times is for labels to re-package a band’s albums in facsimilie sleeves.  Invariably these are fairly basic, with no bonus tracks, credits, or enlightening essay.  As a quick fix, and usually for a reasonable price, they offer good value and are ripe for ripping to your iPod or MP3 player.

Where the UFO (and also a similar Saxon set) has the edge is in the inclusion of bonus tracks.  They’ve mostly been available before on the single-disc reissues (2007/9) but for first-timers they are a worthy addition.

Phenomenon was their first album to feature guitarist Michael Schenker and it has the classic ‘Doctor Doctor’, although songs like ‘Space Child’ don’t stand up so well all these years later. Five bonus tracks including ‘Sixteen’, a previously unreleased song on here in demo and finished version (the demo along with a demo version of ‘Oh My’ were both produced by Dave Edmunds). There is also a great live version of ‘Doctor Doctor’.

Two German only songs complete the set, namely ‘Give Her the Gun’ and ‘Sweet Little Thing’. UFO had certainly found their hard rock style on this album and would go on to refine it further over the next few albums. ***

Force It is a UFO ‘must have’ album in our book and their first to feature keyboards (provided here by Ten Years After band member Chick Churchill). You’ve got so many great rock tunes on here like ‘Let It Roll’, ‘Mother Mary’, ‘Shoot Shoot’ plus the epic ‘This Kid/Between The Walls’ when UFO go all Wishbone Ash in the second part of the song!
Three bonus songs on here, two being live versions of album songs and ‘A Million Miles’ is previously unreleased. This is a good slow UFO song, starting off with Phil Mogg and the piano before stepping up a gear when the rest of the band joins in. ****

UFO - No Heavy Petting

No Heavy Petting saw Danny Peyronal join on keyboards (although he was gone by the band’s next studio release). Musically it is a mixed bag with ‘Martian Landscape’, the Peyronal penned ‘Highway Lady’ and ‘Can You Roll Her’ stand out songs.

The bonus songs are a very enjoyable cover of the Small Faces ‘All Or Nothing’, along with four previously unreleased songs – ‘French Kisses’ (nice little rock ‘n’ roller), ‘Have You Seen Me Lately Joan’ (an average UFO mid tempo rocker), ‘Tonight Tonight’ and ‘All The Strings’.  ***½

1977′s Lights Out was the first UFO album to make extensive use of strings and includes ‘Love To Love’ which remains a staple in their stage act to this day.  It was also the band’s first album produced by Ron Nevison who worked with them on the follow up, although after that it wasn’t until 1995 that they would be reunited.  ****

Obsession was the last studio album featuring Michael Schenker until his return to the band in 1983.  Some reviewers have described this album as “patchy” but still it yielded several songs that the band continue to play live including ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Cherry’ and ‘Ain’t No Baby’.  The band even attempt another power ballad in ‘Lookin’ Out For No.1′ complete with more of Alan McMillan’s string arrangements.  ***1/2

UFO - No Place To Run

No Place To Run was Paul Raymond’s last album with the band before he left (only to rejoin back in the 90′s) and the debut recording by new guitarist Paul Chapman. Perhaps not one of the band’s best although the cover of the Elvis tune ‘Mystery Train’ still graces the live set today and is a damn fine rocker.

‘Anyday’ and ‘Gone In The Night’ are classic UFO hard rock tunes, great vocals from Phil Mogg coupled with tight rhythm and hard rockin’ guitar. But the title track and the very dated instrumental ‘Alpha Centauri’ are very lacklustre.

One for fans only and the band’s next two albums featuring Paul Chapman are much better investments for your collection. ***

The Wild, The Willing & The Innocent was originally released in 1981 and the second album to feature Paul Chapman (ex-Lone Star) era of UFO plus the the debut of Neil Carter on keyboards (although Jon Sloman played uncredited keys on this album). This remastered version adds three bonus songs – live versions of ‘Lonely Heart’, ‘Long Gone’ and ‘Makin’ Moves’.

There are some classic UFO hard rockers on here in the shape of ‘Chains, Chains’ and ‘Long Gone’ highlights some very tasty sax and piano parts. Paul Chapman lets fly with a short but sweet solo as well, midway through.  The ballad ‘Profession Of Violence’ closes the album and Chapman really comes into his own on the wonderful soloing – tight and melodic yet never OTT.

Great album all round and proves the band could still cut it after Michael Schenker had left the band. ****

Mechanix was one of the albums to feature guitarist Paul Chapman and also on keyboards/sax was Neil Carter, joining the long standing trio of vocalist Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way and drummer Andy Parker.

Kicking off with ‘The Writer’ you have a superb song, big guitar riff and the way the keyboard solo segues into a sax then the guitar solo is sheer bliss to the ears.  In fact the use of sax on here is never OTT but greatly adds to some songs including the b-side ‘Heel Of A Stranger’, a cracking melodic rock song added on this release as a bonus track.

The band do some very commercial tunes as well like ‘Let It Rain’ and of course Phil Mogg gets to pour his heart out in the big production number ‘Terri’, UFO do like using their string sections!

‘We Belong To The Night’ and ‘Feel It’ keep the hard rock quota going nicely whilst the band’s cover of Eddie Cochran’s rock ‘n’ roll classic ‘Somethin’ Else’ you will either love or hate but it is a good cover and, again, the sax added to the guitar works very well.

Bonus songs are the aforementioned b-side plus three live songs – ‘We Belong To The Night’ (complete with ‘Hello Oxford’ intro very Spinal Tap), ‘Let It Rain’ and ‘Doing It All For You’.

One of the band’s best albums and this re-release/re-master is worthy of a place in your collection.  ****

Founder member/bassist Pete Way had left the band by the time of Making Contact (1983).  Many regard this as UFO-lite with only Phil Mogg now remaining from the original line-up and the spark of Schenker missing.  The album also sounds less like the band of old and more American AOR-influenced, a bug that fellow journeymen Uriah Heep were also to catch at this time.  Three bonus tracks including the b-side ‘Everybody Knows’.  ***

UFO - Misdemeanour

The band split after the tour promoting ‘Making Contact’ and the following album Misdemeanour (1985) was like a last gasp.  Although Mogg managed to re-enlist Paul Chapman, the guitar and keyboard player would leave the band after their US tour in summer 1986.

Again the album has AOR stylings with Tommy McClendon (Atomik Tommy M) on guitar and if assessed on its own merits, rather than as a UFO album, it isn’t bad.  Bolstered here with several US remixes and the b-side ‘the Chase’.   The album features one-time Magnum drummer Jim Simpson and one or two tracks are a little Magnum-esque in an early eighties sort of way.   ****

It would be another seven years before UFO re-convened properly for their next album with yet another line-up.  Whilst the common denominator is Phil Mogg, it wasn’t until 1995 that the “classic” line-up reformed for the excellent ‘Walk On Water’.

This box set is another great way of catching up, especially if you never bought the remasters several years ago.  However, buyers should also be aware that the first five albums were re-issued in ‘The Original Album Series’ as recently as  January 2014 – but with no bonuses.

The latest boxed set contains studio albums so you don’t get the classic ‘Strangers In the Night’ although that appears in the 5-CD set ‘The Chrysalis Years 1973-1979′, issued in 2011.  This included BBC sessions as well as a previously unreleased US gig recorded in 1974.

Duplication – and recycling – therefore abounds and it is perhaps a pity that the compilers of  the latest box didn’t include an extra disc which contained these “extras”.  The lack of any legible credits and lyrics is another omission although many punters will not miss the mandatory Malcolm Dome liner notes.

Review by Jason Ritchie and David Randall

The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 February, 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

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