Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
The 1980’s were mercurial times for legendary London rockers UFO, the band trying to regain momentum after the split with Michael Schenker in 1978.
From the highs of ‘No Place to Run’ and ‘Mechanix’ to the poorly received ‘Making Contact’ and the seemingly constant revolving door of band members, it was a tough period.
True to form though, the street fighting instincts of the band battled it through to the 90’s, albeit with a short two-year break during the decade and 1991 saw a newly minted UFO as stalwart singer
Phil Mogg was joined by returning bass player Pete Way and new boys Laurence Archer on guitar and Clive Edwards on drums.
Whilst this line-up was, again, short lived, ‘High Stakes and Dangerous Men’ was a real return to form and one of their best albums for quite some while.
Whilst not scaling the unbelievably lofty heights of their 70’s peak, the release was jammed full of some great hard rockers, all sprinkled with the class that set UFO heads and shoulders above their peers.
The core writing team of Mogg, Way and Archer assembled a dozen fine tracks that, whilst occasionally showing outside influences, had the hallmarks of all that brought them to stadiums all over the world.
Bangers like bluesy opener ‘Borderline’ and fiery ‘Running Up the Highway’ displayed fine crafting that mixed melody and muscle, ‘Ain’t Life Sweet’ adding a snarling drive but swinging groove, Archer throwing in a Southern Rock flavour to his fretwork.
There’s also the spirit of Bad Company style heavy blues in ‘Primed for Time’ and ‘Back Door Man’ and ‘Don’t Want to Lose Your Love’ mixes The Stones and Bob Seger, turning the volume up a considerable number of notches and adds some very fine backing vocals.
The production by Kit Woolven brings the sound of the band very much to life, the additions of Don Airey’s keys and additional vocals by Terry Reid and Stevie Lange bringing some real colour.
It must be said that occasionally the album reflects little quirks of the time, a little Def Leppard in the guitar sound on ‘She’s the One’ and a suggestion of Meat Loaf in ‘Burnin’ Fire’ but neither detract from the overall effect, Mogg’s fine voice too distinctive and the playing of Way, Archer and Edwards consistently impressive.
By the time UFO reach the conclusion of the riotous ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ there’s the real feeling that here’s a band reborn, their mojo well and truly restored.
Whilst the album is a missed gem in itself, the inclusion of a second disc containing the live ‘Lights Out in Tokyo’ makes it utterly irresistible.
Having produced one of rock’s greatest in-concert recordings with ‘Strangers in the Night’, the band had a very high bar to aim at and this fourteen-strong set is an excellent addition to their canon. With five, full blooded renditions of tracks from ‘High Stakes and Dangerous Men’, the bulk is made up of UFO classics and ‘Too Hot to Handle’, ‘Love to Love’, ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’ all sound fresh and full of a bristling, powerful life.
It’s here that Archer and Edwards truly come into their own, making their own seismic impression on these classics and showing exactly why they earnt their places in the ranks of the band’s history.
Closing with a bruising pairing of ‘Shoot Shoot’ and Eddie Cochran’s ‘C’mon Everybody’, the disc crackles with an electricity that practically fires sparks from the speakers, the leaning heavily on the new album really working, whilst taking nothing from the flow.
UFO continue to be a world-class act and this rereleased pairing of recordings should find a home in many a discerning music lover’s household. Given just how good these albums are, it makes you wonder just what the band would have achieved next, their future assured as the phoenix rose powerfully from the ashes. Buy it now.
High Stakes & Dangerous Men (1992)
2 Primed For Time
3 She’s The One
4 Ain’t Life Sweet
5 Don’t Want To Lose You
6 Burnin’ Fire
7 Running Up The Highway
8 Back Door Man
9 One Of Those Nights
11 Love Deadly Love
12 Let The Good Times Roll
Lights Out In Tokyo (1992)
1 Running Up The Highway
3 Too Hot To Handle
4 She’s The One
6 Back Door Man
7 One Of Those Nights
8 Love To Love
9 Only You Can Rock Me
10 Lights Out
11 Doctor Doctor
12 Rock Bottom
13 Shoot Shoot
14 C’mon Everybody