UFO: Flying LP (1971)
Last week I bought a big collection from a lifelong rock fan. The collection contained multiple versions of records, import EPs, interview picture discs, and all the other things you acquire when rock and roll means everything to you. One of the person’s favorite bands was UFO, and there was a huge stack of their records in the collection. I’d been looking for a copy of their second album, Flying, for a while now, and I was stoked to find one in the collection, even if I prefer the original cover illustration to this hokey early 80s repress.
I’m not sure how familiar Sorry State’s readership is with UFO. I’m no scholar, but I can tell you they have at least two distinct eras. The early version of UFO documented on their first two albums played long, tripped-out jams that the LP jackets described unapologetically (and accurately!) as “space rock.” However, UFO’s second era started when they recruited the young German lead guitarist Michael Schenker from the Scorpions in 1973. The first album they recorded with Schenker, 1974’s Phenomenon, is as great a slice of proto-metal as you’ll find. In addition to containing anthems like “Rock Bottom” and “Doctor Doctor,” Schenker’s innovative lead playing pointed the way toward the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and beyond. If you’re a fan of 70s Scorpions, early Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, and other amped-up 70s hard rock, Phenomenon is a record you need. Many people also consider UFO’s double live album Strangers In the Night (1979) one of the best live rock albums of all time, and it’s well worth a close listen too. I haven’t explored UFO’s discography beyond these records, but it’s on the to do list.
Back to Flying. Honestly, UFO’s first album kind of sucks… I’m a sucker for tripped-out space rock, but the songs just don’t seem to go anywhere. However, Flying delivers everything the first record didn’t. The production is big, clear, and powerful, the riffs are classic (see the wild, almost avant-garde main theme to “Star Storm”), and the jams are longer and more psychedelic, with the closing title track stretching to 27 minutes. While the heavy blues infection of UFO’s riffing gives it a different vibe, Flying reminds me of Neu!’s first two records in that propels me forward. It’s great for playing while I’m working, making time seem to speed up. Even when I give flying a close listen, it puts a spring in my step and makes its hour-long runtime fly by. If a band that combines the psychedelic jams of early Pink Floyd with the high energy level of hard rock bands like Sir Lord Baltimore and High Tide sounds like it would be your kind of thing, I highly recommend Flying.