Strangers In The Night (Chrysalis ’79) Rating: A
Fans of memorable, melodic hard rock should run, not walk, to the nearest record store and splurge for this lavish 68-minute compendium of all that was great about hard rock in the late ‘70s. We get treated to a singer, Phil Mogg, who can really sing, his soulful vocals shining on slower paced songs such as “Out On The Street” and “Love To Love.” One listen to these keyboard laced power ballads should make you want to burn all your hair band records immediately, if you haven’t already done so. The able rhythm section of Andy Parker and Pete Way can cook up an admirable groove, and Paul Raymond's keyboards add shade and color, but best of all is the work of guitarist Michael Schenker, who plays with speed to spare, a theatrical sense of drama, and a keen grasp of melody. Still, though Schenker is the star, UFO was a band; a clutch of great group-written songs such as “Natural Thing,” “Only You Can Rock Me,” “Doctor Doctor,” “Lights Out,” and the 11-minute “Rock Bottom” attest to that, though some lackluster choruses and cheesy lyrics occasionally mar this otherwise excellent record, which nevertheless works as a terrific “best of” the band’s best years (though all of their studio albums from 1974's Phenomenon through 1978's Obsession are easily recommended as well). This scorching live album, one of the best hard rock live albums ever, features song versions that typically surpass their studio counterparts, sometimes dramatically so, and given its quality and success it’s easy to consider Strangers In The Night as the career peak of this extremely underrated band, who should’ve been much bigger.