Monday, January 12, 2015
UFO - The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent
Legendary English heavy rockers UFO is a band I have followed for a long, long time. Once I got hooked on them, they have been one of my Top 5's and that's a position they've held on to strongly despite going through a lean spell from the mid-eighties to the early stages of the nineties. 'Strangers In The Night' is the album that introduced me to this crazy outfit, and maybe I should have written about it instead. But I didn't and with such an amazing catalog of albums, many waveriders will probably object at my choice, and they are perfectly entitled to. However, I wanted to focus on the first studio release of theirs that I listened to. Not too much talked about in a wider sense, why I don't know, because to me 'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent' is a masterpiece. It did sell pretty well but some quarters of the fan base thought the band started to wimp out. Yours truly is of a different opinion.
After playing 'Strangers In The Night' to bits and pieces, I had finally saved up enough money to buy my first UFO studio wax. As it happened, 'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent' was the only thing with UFO the record store had, and since I was hell bent on procuring something, I bought it outright and have never looked back since. On the bus ride home I had my first sexual epiphany staring endlessly at the back of the cover. Depicting a close-up of a woman's bare stomach and belly button in a hazy kind of shade, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what went through this 12 year old's head.
When I finally got home and put the needle on the vinyl, my world got turned upside down. A slide guitar caught my attention right away before THAT riff kicks in! In less than 40 seconds the rest of the band has joined in and 'Chains, Chains' crushed me any which way to Sunday. The original trio of Phil Mogg, Pete Way and Andy Parker was still present while lead guitarist Paul'Tonka'Chapman was starting to make his own having been with the band for a while by now. However, new to the band was Neil Carter who had replaced Paul Raymond. He had previously played with Gilbert O'Sullivan and Wild Horses, where the latter's craziness must have helped the newcomer dealing with the hothead, Phil Mogg. Kind of eerie and forlorn 'Long Gone' starts off slowly before erupting into stomping rocker, it moves back and forth in tempo creating a great albeit candid song about life on skid row. Aided mainly by a thumping keyboard that increases in sound the title track eventually takes off in traditional UFO fashion. Laden with hooks, melody and pizzazz only the way these Londoners can do it, 'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent' is a great slice of rock, the way it should be played. Side A ends with 'It's Killing Me'. Immediately a favourite of mine, it took a few years off bettering my knowledge and know-how of the English language, to understand the lyrics. And this obviously put the song in a whole new light and made it even better. But up to that point, the music alone captivated me beyond words.
Side B hits the groove right away with 'Makin' Moves'. Making no bones about it, this one is about trying to get laid. Enuff said! Musically, it's a traditional UFO-stomper with Tonka pulling off a couple of great solos. The only single of the two culled from the album that actually hit the English singles chart, 'Lonely Hearts' has a the trademark backbone of a UFO song. A thumping bass, solid heavy drumming with great rhythm and lead guitars floating on top. Neil Carter gets to shine here playing keyboards as well as pulling off a sax solo...yes a sax solo on a UFO album, you heard right! As strange as it sounds, this combination works excellently. The second single follows, 'Couldn't Get It Right', and being pretty good what brings it down slightly is that synth snare drum. To me it's only minor hiccup when regarded in the big picture since most UFO fans probably were more abhorred with sax in the previous track. Ending boldly to say the least with 'Profession Of Violence', or 'Profession Of' as it was called on the first US pressing. Choosing a ballad to close a rock album is risky business, however the seasoned veterans UFO had become by now nothing could phase them. And they pull it off as a great solo from Tonka allows the song to fade out. Still, what if a ball busting rocker would have been placed last? Oh well, there's no need to dwell on things because all in all 'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent' is a fantastic release the way it is.
At the point in time when I bought the album, I knew very little of the band's history. Of course, I already had 'Strangers In The Night' in my possession but I had yet to learn about the impact Michael Schenker's guitar sound had put on the band's music in the past. Perhaps that's a good thing which allowed me to approach 'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent' with an open mind and subsequently loving the wax for what it is. As time went on and I eventually had purchased all their albums, I got to love the Schenker era immensely to the point where this one got pushed to the side. Eventually, time will always let me know I've ignored this master piece for too long and as soon as I hear the opening riff of 'Chains, Chains' that 12-year old me is back in my childhood room headbanging and playing air guitar.....