1992 era UFO – in the studio and live.
Release Date: 22nd July 2022
Label: HNE Recordings / Cherry Red Records
Format: digital / CD
The UFO story is a long-running saga, as involved, convoluted and with as many twists and turns as the best of our soap operas. Their work on the Seventies albums from Phenomenon to Obsession culminated in the magnificent double live album Strangers In The Night. We’ll leave the debate over the ‘live-ness’ factors for others to take up. Suffice to say that the recent box set of Sttrangers era recordings is the business.Phil Mogg, Pete Way, Andy Parker, Michael Schenker and eventually Paul Raymond became what’s now seen as the classic period with the classic line up.
Things went off the rails with the departure of mercurial guitarist Michael Schenker, and we enter the ‘Chapman era’ and eventually the dissolution of this era with 1983’s Making Contact. More lineup changes, a couple of misfires, including the much-derided Misdemeanour saw almost ten years pass before the Mogg/Way combo welcomed the Wild Horses pairing of guitarist Laurence Archer and drummer Clive Edwards for what in hindsight is a comeback of sorts.
On High Stakes & Dangerous Men, we find them in 1992. Almost a decade on from the last Paul Chapman album, UFO is a band fallen on hard(er) times. In hindsight, High Stakes… is a set that sees them recapturing some of their form. For Archer and Edwards’ only appearance on a UFO studio set and the continued lineup changes that were to follow, they do a decent job in channelling the Mogg/Way energy, Archer sharing a handful of Archer/Mogg writing credits and Ain’t Life Sweet – one of the best tracks on the album with a blazing shredder of a solo – being a four way co-write.
High Stakes… offers a strong opening flurry. Borderline finds them one step closer to the Devil while there’s a good old fashioned AC/DC-esque rock and roll swagger to Primed For Time and Archer has proved he’s a capable guitar slinger particularly with a searing break on the latter. The Mogg fascination with Springsteen – evidence through the UFO catalogue sees the influence rear up several times – extends to using the same title as a Boss song for She’s The One that passes for the intense rock and soul test.
Don’t Want To Lose You finds the MOR/AOR boxes ticked with a friendlier arrangement complete with a backing vocal that’s set to appeal to mass marketing. Not primetime UFO and certainly one that would hold a candle to the classics, but you know, it’s a nice track. An experiment that goes into the harder rock territory on Burnin’ Fire and the smooth brooder that they deliver on Back Door Man.
While there are occasions where the old fire is evident – Running Up Te Highway (the concert opening number) and One Of Those Nights and the chugging Revolution (great single material in the old vein of some of their 7″ beauties) – there’s perhaps the feeling of running out of steam marked by Love Deadly Love repeats the Lonely Heart formula to the extent of straight copy of the latter. The galloping rhythm and the “never say no” refrain the giveaway if you don;t twig from the melody.
Hindsight is a valuable commodity such that High Stakes… sits as a album that kept the kettle boiling until the classic lineup reunited for a short period in 1995 before the inevitable infighting and kerfullfes that dogged UFO. As such, a key record in the UFO story.
Lights Out In Tokyo is a live set from, yes, Tokyo in June 1992 that finds the quartet enhanced by keyboard player Jem Davis. It’s basically a handful of tracks from High Stakes added to a selection from Strangers to give a flavour of how UFO had moved on from the high water mark of their seventies period. That set of Seventies classics would remain the core of the UFO set right up to 2019’s Last Orders tour.
Five of the first seven songs come from the then new album and having done their bit for highlighting and promoting the new songs, it’s down to business. Inevitably, the UFO audience want the hits so the Lights Out (including the adapted “Lights out, lights out in Tokyo” line thatplays it’s part in getting the audience revved up), Doctor Doctor, Rock Bottom, Shoot Shoot sequence provide the final flourish as they hang onto the might of the Strangers acclaim. No denying that UFO were armed, some might say saddled, with the strength of their seventies work to the extent that they’d never live up to reaching those heights again. A shame as there’s still some life in the old dog as they entered the nineties.
Here’s Running Up The Highway from the studio album: