UFO box set celebrates the hard-rock guitar genius of Michael Schenker



By Steve Newton

When I wrote the first Ear of Newt blog I mentioned that one of my goals was to shine a light on the more underrated rock acts of the ’70s, and UFO was one that I pointed to. It always bugs me that I never get to hear UFO on my local classic-rock station. Would it kill them to hold off on the done-to-death Floyd and Zeppelin long enough to squeeze in “Rock Bottom” once in a while?

Now, with the release of the five-disc boxed set The Chrysalis Years (1973-1979) set for Sept. 13, one week from today, it’s the perfect time to bring that group to the attention of anyone who might have missed out back then.

The Chrysalis Years focuses on the five albums that UFO released after recruiting 18-year-old guitarist Michael Schenker from Scorpions in 1973. His fierce yet melodic fretwork was the magical ingredient on Phenomenon (1974), Force It (’75), No Heavy Petting(’76), Lights Out (’77), and Obsession (’78).

Those discs are included in their entirety on the upcoming boxed set, as is the band’s monster live album of ’79, Strangers In the Night. There’s also various single edits, three tracks from a 1977 John Peel session, and a previously unreleased concert recorded in 1974 at the Electric Ballroom in Atlanta, Georgia.

Here’s three samples from The Chrysalis Years in case you need more encouragement. The first is “Too Hot to Handle”, the opening track off the Ron Nevison-produced Lights Out. Now, you can’t tell me that this tune isn’t a bonerfied riff-rock classic. It’s right up there with AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” in my books.

Now here’s the ear-busting title track from Lights Out. I’m betting that its galloping vibe inspired Steve Harris to pen at least a couple Iron Maiden tunes.

Are those eardrums still intact? Okay, let’s end with “One More For the Rodeo”, off Obsession, another Nevison production (man, that dude had great ears). It’s not one of UFO’s better-known tracks, but it should be. And not just because of the cowbell, either.

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