Lights Out

UFO

Chrysalis Records, 1977

http://www.ufo-music.info

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/01/1997

UFO is the type of band who you may hear on the radio and not recognize until the DJ tells you. Once you are let in on the "secret," you're ready to slap yourself upside the head, wondering why you didn't recognize them in the first place.

You want to know why? I'll let you in on the secret - UFO was a heavy metal band that didn't know they were heavy metal.

Boy, you are now thinking, Chris had better open the garage door before working on the exhaust system again. Nope, my mind is totally clear - as a result of several listenings to UFO's 1977 release Lights Out.

Phil Mogg and Pete Way were the undeniable leaders of this British group - though, if memory serves me correctly, there was constant fighting as to which one was the leader. When German guitar extraordinaire Michael Schenker joined the band in 1974, the core of their classic line-up was established. They added keyboardist Paul Raymond in 1977, replacing Danny Peyronel after just one album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This is important to note because Lights Out is more often Raymond's show than Mogg, Way or Schenker's. The keyboard work dominates the bulk of this album, whether it is the central riff of "Just Another Suicide" or the harmonies in the background of "Love To Love," Raymond makes his mark felt really quick.

And this, kids, is where the difficulty comes in. UFO has often been classified as a "hard rock" band - at times on Lights Out this is apparent, as on "Too Hot To Handle" or the title track. But these moments are few and far between - more often than not, UFO comes off sounding like light pop in the vein of Supertramp. And for the listener ready to smash their head into the drywall, this may come as a real downer.

Oh, sure, there are some good moments in this vein - "Love To Love" has become a song synonomous with the band. (Ever been in a used record store where some guy behind you is trying to buy this album without knowing which one it is? They end up trying the line "Misty green and blue" - and off-key, at that. Yeeech.) But at times, when Schenker does decide to whip out some hot riffs in the softer songs, it sounds very out of place. This is not a criticism of Schenker's guitar playing - he does show his mettle on the harder songs. (Easy trivia question: What band did Schenker play in before joining UFO? Answer: The Scorpions.) Schenker's time with UFO was limited; he would record two more albums with the band before bolting in 1978 to start his own group.

Way's bass lines often stand out in the mix as strongly as Mogg's vocals, and I can't decide if this is a good thing or not. In one sense, this seems to me like a sign of a power struggle within the band. The production on this one seems a bit muddy at times - it just seems to lack any real treble range. (Never mind the fact the copy I have in the Pierce Memorial Archives is an ancient tape copy - Alliance has since re-released this one on CD.)

There are moments on Lights Out that you will enjoy, but for the most part, UFO sounds like a band trying to deny their hard rock roots in favor of ballads. Two words: big mistake.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.