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Strangers in the Night

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  • On tour with Blue Oyster Cult at the time, UFO is captured brilliantly in $”Strangers in the Night” arguably one of the best hard rock live albums ever put to disk (compact or otherwise). The band is captured as they lock and jell their way through their set, alternately stomping on the accelerator and slowing thoughfully as the band works their superlative material for everything it is worth. Now the album has been re-issued and remastered, with two new songs not present on the album’s original release. These songs, “Hot ‘n Ready” and “Cherry” now open the album, with some changes in the song order that, it is stated in the liner notes, more accurately depicts the set list of that era.The frightening thing about this album is it’s a snapshot of UFO at the height of their powers. Scary because despite the authority with which the band played live, and their apparently effortless ability to write catchy melodic rock tunes, the band lost Schenker just a few months after this was recorded. Neither Schenker, Mogg/Way, or Paul Raymond ever recaptured individually the power they held collectively for this all too short period in time. Which brings up the next point. It has been said the Michael Schenker, who had fled UFO’s camp before the master tapes were even parked in the studio, refused to cooperate with any re dubs for the live album. If this is true, then this album is truly the Rosetta Stone of live hard rock lead guitar. Schenker’s playing, at once melodic, fierce, soaring, and explosive in it’s intensity, is the best representation of everything artistically correct with hard rock of this period. His soloing during “Rock Bottom” seems at times to be spinning out of control, yet retains an articuable forward momentum that propels the listener to higher ground. Arguably the best lead guitarist of this rock genre, Schenker doesn’t miss out when the tempo slows either. Listen to his lead break during “let It Roll” when he applies the brakes and displays great reverence for the slower material as well. Or listen to him stomp the accelerator with Pete Way and Andy Parker on “Lights Out”. Fast or slow, there are only a handful of guitarists in Rock and Roll that bear comparison.Phil Mogg (one of the most underappreciated vocalists in rock) does the band and himself proud. His vocals come across as understated yet heroic, and he definetly possess one of the better sets of pipes in rock. This album also includes more of Phil’s banter between songs, and it’s a kick trying to figure out what level of drunkeness he’s at (or is he just being playful?). Pete Way and Andy Parker form a solid rhythm section and play ably, with the always steady Paul Raymond filling in on rhythm guitar and key boards. All in all, a smart buy, wether you own the original “Strangers” or just want to check out a great rock band at their peak.

    Posted on February 7, 2010