My work buddy Paul was convinced I should listen to UFO. We used to sit opposite each other in the office where we worked together. That meant if he was listening to UFO, I was listening to UFO and anyone who came close to our end of the building was listening to UFO too. They’re an absolute classic rock band who I never really got into until I worked with Paul. Now he’s not around anymore (he’s not dead, he’s moved to Leeds) I have to put UFO on myself if I want to hear the majesty of tracks like Love To Love. The first three minutes of this track are a masterclass in what a heavy rock band can do to not get pigeon holed as anything less than virtuoso musicians.
Originally on their album Lights Out the version on the studio record is a crystal clear spacious and dexterous recording. One that takes in the lilting piano refrain, the epic singing strings of the many guitar noodles and the big Bwang! notes that 70’s rock used to push the listener back in their seat like they’re listening on Memorex. The mix of full rock guitar and semi acoustics required to make room, make room for Phil Mogg to effortlessly sing about “misty greens and blues” is such a master class. There are period synths and classical strings in there too. On the classic live album (and I do mean absolutely essential live album) Strangers In The Night it’s a little more metallic and robust but none the worse for it.
There’s almost prog complexity here. Rush would have been quite proud of Love To Love. There’s enough soaring solos and clattering drums to have rivaled Purple in their pomp or Rainbow or Whitesnake or any band Coverdale preened about in. The template UFO defined would light the way for bands like Def Leppard, Saxon and latterly Thunder to have their tender moments along side their headbangers. They were as Paul would preach, a hugely under respected and under appreciated band. Judas Priest early on touched on some of the territory UFO made theirs. Before the bullet belts and screeching meant death to all BUT metal UFO bridged Fleetwood Mac (Lights Out featured Paul Raymond on rhythm and keyboards, he took Christine McVee’s place in Chicken Shack when she joined Mick and Stevie and Co) and The Eagles to the heavy crowd as well as taking on Motörhead for the hedonism and Anvil and all those guys in the pyrotechnic player stakes.
Iron Maiden always come on stage to a UFO song at every show they play and that’s a hell of a barometer of what one of the hugest live acts in history think of these guys. This classic era featured Michael Schenker of Scorpions on guitar and Paul Raymond rhythm and keyboards, Mogg on vocals, Pete Way on bass (as always) and Andy Parker on drums. Andy founded the band with Phil and Pete. Six stringers can come and go. It’s these guys that clinch what UFO is about.
That piano refrain has a Tubular Bells air about it that swills around the cavernous guitar architecture in a deliciously 70’s way. With the line up on these records (Strangers in the Night was two years after Lights Out in the discography) they had an alchemy that is perfectly captured on tracks like this one. The band had seven albums of material to choose from by that point. Love To Love is still a career highlight after 23 studio albums and over 40 years.
I think it’s safe to say that after the recent loss of Pete Way it would appear their days are done when it comes to touring. Paul was always going to see them in places too small for a band this big. He’d come back and update me on the suitability of the latest guitarist or the length of the set. How many songs, which albums, yada yada yada. I don’t know too much of their stuff but Light Out, Obsession, The Wild The Willing And The Innocent. They have some serious heavy rock on them.
Love To Love though? Timeless.