‘Lights Out’ might be considered the crown-jewel of the UFO studio catalogue, but it would be a brave man to put it ahead of ‘Strangers In The Night’, their defining moment for mine.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: Lights Out
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Phil Mogg – vocals * Michael Schenker – guitars * Pete Way – bass * Andy Parker – drums * Paul Raymond – keyboards, rhythm guitar
Additional Musicians: Alan McMillan – horn arrangements, string arrangements
TRACK LISTING: 01 Too Hot To Handle * 02 Just Another Suicide * 03 Try Me * 04 Lights Out * 05 Gettin’ Ready * 06 Alone Again Or * 07 Electric Phase * 08 Love To Love
WEBLINKS: Site Link
1977 could be the year widely considered to be when UFO finally hit pay-dirt. Well sort of. Renowned for relentless touring, the band may have been kings out on the road, but their fortune wasn’t matched on the album charts. Not having any hit singles probably didn’t help their cause, but UFO weren’t really about making the singles charts.
Respect and loyalty from fans wherever they toured was their measure of success, and on that front, they were indeed successful. Good on their label Chrysalis for backing them all the way through to 1985. So we have one of the seminal hard rock albums of the 70’s.
‘Lights Out’ was recorded in London during February and March 1977, the improvement in the band’s studio performance could be laid at the feet of producer Ron Nevison, making his debut appearance behind the desk for UFO. You can hear immediately the difference between this album and its predecessor ‘No Heavy Petting’ like night and day.
The production has room to breathe, and with a hint of overall reverb, this doesn’t sound as flat as previous records. Nevision would go and stamp his mark all over the top hard rock records during the 80’s as we all know.
Just quite what the inspiration was for all dressing up in work overalls on the back cover has me stumped. Perhaps due to the cover being an image of a Power Plant with a worker suitably dressed up in work attire? Another Hipgnosis puzzler for sure!
Replacing previous keyboardist Danny Peyronel, new boy Paul Raymond (previously with Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown) hooked on with the band to handle rhythm guitars and keyboards, adding extra depth to the UFO sound.
UFO kick it off with an organic version of ‘Too Hot To Handle’, a familiar track to all longtime fans. I love the closing solo sequence by Michael, a lot flashier than the version we’ve all heard on the 1979 live album. Mogg’s downtrodden lyrical rambling returns for ‘Just Another Suicide’. Despite the negative songtitle, the song itself is quite bright in a happy-go-lucky sort of way, complete with strings and an acoustic/electric guitar mix.
‘Try Me’ is the first sweeping ballad, orchestral mostly, though Schenker’s guitar solos adds the twist. The first part is a sweet solo devoid of distortion/fuzz, the second part right at the end sees him turn on the after-burners, if only briefly. The chestnut title track ‘Lights Out’ needs no mention really, it’s simply a timeless hard rock song for the ages.
‘Gettin’ Ready’ strikes the middle ground, neither full-on hard rock nor a ballad, while the cover of Love‘s ‘Alone Again Or’ is an unusual selection, which holds true to the 60’s era from which this sourced. It swings with orchestration, and not a hint of UFO’s trademark sound, despite Schenker pushing a solo through. Without doubt, the odd-man-out track on the album. ‘Electric Phase’ gets back to the rock, with a hint of blues, notably the slide guitar effect. Schenker finally gets a chance to let loose with a solo for maximum impact.
The album finishes with the UFO staple and classic track ‘Love To Love’. Within it’s 7 and a half minutes of glory, the song sways between a heavily double (or triple) tracked guitar part with accompanying gong, then into Paul Raymond’s keyboard sequence. Soon after we head into the misty green and blue territory of Phil Mogg’s lyrics. The closing section is a crescendo of wailing lead guitar and a heavily augmented string arrangement. The perfect way to sign-off and turn the lights out!
Released in May 1977, the album made it as far as #23 on the U.S Billboard album charts. The band toured Europe from April 1977 onwards, and didn’t hit the USA until September 1977. However, Michael Schenker was (through this era) becoming more erratic in behaviour, and on the eve of the U.S tour, he went walkabout (good Aussie phrase).
So the band recalled Lone Star guitarist Paul Chapman as a replacement (Chapman had actually played with the band as the second guitarist in a live capacity during 1975). Schenker reappeared toward the end of the tour, and got himself back in the good books for at least another year during the ‘Obsession’ era, but left permanently at the end of 1978.
The 2008 Chrysalis reissue contains four bonus tracks, all live versions of tracks found on this album: ‘Lights Out’, ‘Try Me’, ‘Gettin’ Ready’ and ‘Love To Love’. Still, ‘Lights Out’ might be considered the crown-jewel of their studio catalogue, but it would be a brave man to put it ahead of ‘Strangers In The Night’, their defining moment for mine.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)