UFO are still, and always will be, strangers in the night.
Release Date: 17th February 2023
Label: Cleopatra Records
Format: Digital / CD / Vinyl
An album set to go up against the legend that is Strangers In The Night, which for all its flaws, remains a definitive double live album from an era when the competition amongst the hard and heavy rock bands in their prime was raging.
The context comes from the tour following the 1998 ‘reunion’ album Walk On Water. A title that goes well with the Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over, as the likelihood of the classic UFO lineup agreeing to anything, let alone the chance to record and tour again, seemed highly unlikely. Werewolves… also goes so far as reproducing, of sorts, the style of that iconic album sleeve.
It’s a souvenir that’s inevitable going to be compared with Strangers… And inevitably any comparison is highly likely to be unfavourable as the reunited classic line-up of the group with guitar extraordinaire Michael Schenker along with founding members Phil Mogg and bassist Pete Way as well as longtime rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Paul Raymond revmap the and tweak the ’78 setlist. Although drummer Andy Parker played on the studio reunion, it’s Simon Wright (AC/DC, Dio) who completed the lineup that trotted around the globe for an extended world tour.
The intro puts a more down-to-earth spin on the hyperbolic “Hello Chicagoooooo...” spiel with a “Hello Wolverhampton….” and a reminder to the Midlands followers that UFO are indeed “from England….” Of course, the opening number is the most exciting part of any gig as the band arrives on stage and Natural Thing gets pumped out, albeit with a more ‘live’ (ie, as it must have sounded in the room) mix as opposed to the clarity that comes with Strangers.
LP 1 mixes classic cuts with a selection from the admirable return Walk On Water and a couple from the annals of the classic period from two classic albums. We hear the group rip through Pushed To The Limit, Self Made Man and Venus. Of the three, Venus has the swing, the church organ and a classic mid song keyboard part while Pushed To The Limit is pure unadulterated insistent riffing with Raymond giving it more of the classic keyboard textures in the background. We also get welcome dips into the past with One More For The Rodeo from Obsession and Electric Phase from Lights Out that add a modern spin to the classic double live.
The second disc is pure nostalgia. Giving way to the inevitable, the tsunami of hits comes in waves with no room to include the Let It Roll/Shoot Shoot finale a la Strangers… “We’re gonna play some stuff off of Strangers… now,” is Mogg’s intro rather than referring to the original LP source. While the initial reaction is to replay the original live versions in your head, twenty years down the line and with the (almost) classic lineup, there’s enough to give a sense of how they can still cut it. The tempos aren’t compromised and only Rock Bottom gets a lengthy solo part as the numbers are kept tight and trim.
Not essential live UFO; you know where to go if you want the definitive, but as an alternative, well worth adding to the collection.
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