UFO – The Wild, The Willing and The Innocent

   1981 Chrysalis

Many argue that UFO’s best days were over once guitarist Michael Schenker left the band in 1979 after their cult-classic live LP ‘Strangers In The Night,’ just about as fine of a live document as any band has ever produced.  While the Schenker era included some good music such as 1975’s ‘Lights Out’ and 1978’s ‘Obsession,’ I would argue that their best music came after the temperamental guitarist left the fold, most notably this amazing unsung classic.

I’ve always felt that Michael Schenker was quite overrated.  Sure he can rip up the fretboard with the best of them, but he lacks the songwriting prowess of his brother, Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions.   This album serves as proof positive that the heart of UFO’s best moments was the songwriting duo of bassist Pete Way and lead vocalist Phil Mogg.  While Mogg’s lyrics can be a bit cringeworthy at times, ‘The Wild, The Willing and The Innocent’ shows the planets in alignment for what is UFO’s finest hour as far as I’m concerned.

Of the 8 solid songs that comprise this disc, highlights have to be my personal UFO fave “Long Gone,” the dramatic and atmospheric title track, and moody rocker “It’s Killing Me.”  The latter track should have been a huge FM radio hit for them, as it buries most rock hits of the time that got better promotion and, therefore, more attention and popularity.  Kudos have to go to guitarist Paul Chapman, who co-wrote 6 of the 8 tracks here…most notably the aforementioned “Long Gone.”

While UFO gets lumped into the “heavy metal” category almost by default (and is highly regarded by metal bands from Metallica to Anthrax), they are much more of a melodic hard-rock entity with probably the best use of keyboards by any true rock band ever.  I’m usually not a fan of keyboards in hard rock, as they tend to wimpify the songs, but UFO creates mood and atmosphere with them.   My only complaint with the album is the blocky production job by the band themselves, which at times hurts the groove of the songs (as on the lumbering – but still very cool – opener “Chains Chains”).  But this is really a minor complaint, with the overall sound being very crisp and at times pleasantly raw.

If you love melody with just the right amount of power, you really can’t go wrong here.

Rating: 4 out of 5