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Music preview: UFO

Legendary British rockers come back for more


Posted: April 25, 2012

By Tony Ozuna - For the Post | Comments (2) | Post comment

Music preview: UFO

Courtesy Photo

After a string of worldwide hits, the band called it quits, but is now back on tour.

The 1970s was the heyday for hard rock, and one of the premier groups of that era, UFO, is coming to Prague's Rock Café with founding members vocalist Phil Mogg and drummer Andy Parker.

Formed in 1969, the British hard-rock group became known internationally soon after the already-acclaimed 18-year-old German guitarist Michael Schenker (formerly of The Scorpions, and the younger brother of The Scorpions' guitarist, Rudolf Schenker) joined the group in 1973.

With that change in the personnel, the group was signed to Chrysalis Records and became a major hard-edged rock act soon after. With Schenker, UFO became a seminal rock group that contributed to the transition from hard rock to heavy metal - already on early tracks like "Doctor, Doctor" and "Rock Bottom," from their 1974 release, Phenomenon, they anticipated the melodic speed and ferocity as well as the galloping rhythm section and abrupt tempo shifts of later speed-metal groups, while Phil Mogg's vocals are as haunted and recognizable as heavy metal's godfather, Ozzy Osborne.

UFO's best-known tracks were recorded between 1974 and 1979, with vocalist and main songwriter Mogg, bassist Pete Way and drummer Andy Parker, along with guitarist and co-songwriter Schenker. Keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond joined the group in 1976. Schenker's relationship with the others in the band, however, had apparently already become problematic in these days, yet UFO recorded its best known albums in this period.

UFO
When: Thursday, April 26, at 8
Where: Rock Café
Tickets: 650 Kč, available through Ticketpro

The group's sixth studio album, Lights Out (1977), is UFO at its peak. The album is considered a hard-rock and heavy-metal classic; indeed, it's on the list of the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time" according to Kerrang! This album includes the group's hits "Too Hot to Handle" and "Lights Out." The lyrics of the incendiary "Lights Out" reflect both the musical challenge of London's rising punk scene and the bombing campaigns over London by Nazis during World War II.  

UFO's 1978 studio album Obsession had their last hit of such a magnitude, "Only You Can Rock Me." By the time their hugely successful live album Strangers in the Night was released in 1979, Schenker had left the group due to tensions with the other members, and while he was replaced with a solid guitarist, the Englishman Paul Chapman, the group's high-energy assault would never be the same.

After recording another four albums to lackluster sales, the group broke up in 1983. But Mogg was persistent in keeping the legacy going, recording occasionally with Way. Even Schenker returned for reunion recordings and short tours in 1991 and 2003. But after leaving the group in 1983, Parker did not return until 2007, after almost 25 years out of the music business altogether.

"For me, the break just made me a lot more appreciative of being back in the band," Parker tells The Prague Post. "The gap was purely for personal reasons and not for musical reasons."

And so, while Van Halen and Motley Crue have recently reunited to much fanfare, and they're currently playing stadiums the size of their egos, Parker does not seem to mind playing smaller venues after playing in arenas and stadiums in major cities around the world, such as headlining the Forum (with a capacity of 16,000) in Los Angeles during their peak.

"No, it doesn't bother me to play smaller places … not at all. It is a lot more intimate, I think. And you've got better communication with the audience," he says.

Parker says the group was always supportive of their contemporaries back in those days.

"Van Halen are a nice bunch of guys, and they opened for us at least once, as far as I can remember," he says. "And we toured extensively with Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, AC/DC, Foghat - all good guys."

These days, with original singer Phil Mogg and drummer Andy Parker, as well as former keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond, and lead guitarist Vinnie Moore, UFO is vintage 1970s hard rock - best when played at an extremely loud volume. This is stadium rock of the highest order, and we can only hope Rock Café's sound system can handle it.


Tony Ozuna can be reached at
features@praguepost.com

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