I've always been a big fan of early UFO. The first two records as well as the live album are among the best stuff that came from England in the very early 1970's. UFO has blurred the lines between heavy blues, space rock and thunderous rock 'n' roll with the result that they had a very unique and raw sound in the early years. It is all the more regrettable, then, that UFO have left this path when Michael Schenker joined the band in 1973. Because of 'Rock Bottom', 'Phenomenon' is still a good album, but after that UFO turned into a boring stadium rock band and they recorded a couple of awful albums. Fortunately this compilation (released by Repertoire Records in 2012) focuses on the first three years and gives impressive proof of UFO's untamed power.
Basically, this 2 CD set is an expanded re-issue of 'The Decca Years' that has been released by Repertoire Records in 1993. Due to the second disc, this compilation now comprises 'UFO 1' and 'UFO 2 - Flying', but a few tracks were replaced by the live versions. That is complemented by two singles, a slip case, extensive liner notes written by Michael Heatley in April 2012, and ready is this great compilation. All of the included 22 tracks are timeless and lost none of their vigor and energy. I am sometimes slightly surprised that UFO is never associated with what people call proto-punk. There are moments where guitarist Michael Bolton has some things in common with Ron Asheton (R.I.P.), particularly when he take long rides on his wah-wah pedal.
Bassist Pete Way plays a not insignificant role in the early line-up. Similar to Mel Schacher from Grand Funk Railroad, Way's booming, heavy bass is nearly a lead instrument. Together with drummer Andy Parker, they formed a tight, virtuosic rhythm section that provided the songs with additional energy. The band is completed by singer Phil Mogg who always finds a way to set his own accents with a clear, expressive vocal style. It is therefore not surprising, that UFO were a killer live band in the early 1970's and it still surprises me that only the fans in Japan appreciated this at that time. Repertoire Records has done a great job on the remastered sound. Everything sounds so fresh and loud as if the songs have been recorded last year. While I stand near my speakers I could feel the thunder of the bass and the crunch of the electric guitar. So it is not only an aural experience but a physical one too.
I think it was a great idea to include the live versions of 'Prince Kajuku/The Coming Of Prince Kajuku', 'Who Do You Love' and 'Boogie For George' as well, because UFO's live album, simply titled 'Live', is one of the best live records that were released in the history of rock. It stands in line with MC5's 'Kick Out The Jams', Ted Nugent's 'Double Live Gonzo', Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'One More For The Road', and Grand Funk Railroad's 'Live Album'. Overall, this compilation is a must have for anyone who wants to have the early and essential UFO material and it is particularly recommendable for newcomer. Hard, heavy, moody, raw and pounding - this is UFO at the best of their days. Or, to quote Michael Heatley: "The early Seventies were the glorious pre-punk days, where instrumental ability had yet to become a dirty word and virtuosity was not considered self-indulgence".