UFO - Strangers in the Night
Is this one of the best live albums of all time?
If you ask us, without a shadow of a doubt !!!
But it's not just us. Ask Slash who said it was his favorite live album. Ask Steve Harris who wrote a few paragraphs about it in the extended version booklet of the 2008 album reissue, ask Tom Morello who rated it among his ten favorite metal albums, and even ask critics of "Kerrang!" magazine, Which ranked it as one of the 100 greatest metal albums of all times, even though it is live album!
"Strangers in the Night" which was released on January 2, 1979 is also probably the best "UFO" album. It captures the band at its peak, both in terms of composition and in terms of performance. Each member of the band gives 100% of himself here. But there is one young and talented bandmember who gives even 110%. His name is Michael Schenker and his guitar spits flames of fire !! Yes, yes, it's real. Listen to his amazing solo in the song "Rock Bottom" for example and understand what we are talking about.
We have written about it more than once, but we will repeat it again. One of the criteria by which we consider a great live album, is the ability to make the listener prefer the live version of a particular song over it's studio version. "Strangers in the Night" is definitely one of the live albums that just do that, at least in our opinion. It make us choose the live version of the songs over the band's studio versions and include them in our playlists.
The album was recorded in the fall of 1978 during a performances held at "Louisville" in Kentucky and in Chicago Illinois. This is the band's last recording with guitarist Michael Schenker, who left "UFO" on October 29, 1978, immediately after the band performed in California, as part of the same tour.
It's amazing to think that this album was originally meant to be a standalone album. The record company "Chrysalis" gave the band the "green light" to expand it into two albums, after seeing the success of "Thin Lizzy"'s double live album "Live and Dangerous", which was released several months earlier. Since the approval was given after the album was already recorded and since the band did not have enough material to fill two albums, the album included two songs in their studio version, "Mother Mary" and "This Kid's" , when a recording of the audience from the Chicago show was added to them.
Even more amazing is that except these two songs, everything we hear on the recording is almost identical to what the audience was hearing during the show. Guitarist Michael Schenker opposed any kind of editing and/or "overdubbing" designed to correct his glitches and small mistakes, and it's just inconceivable that the tremendous performance on this album captured exactly what happened on stage, without any correction or improvement. What's more, it further strengthens the aura that hovers over the album and proves that it definitely deserves to be included in the list of the greatest live albums of all time. By the way, After his departure Schenker claimed that he is amazed at the choices the band made choosing the songs in the album, since he had a much better recorded performance from this tour. Really ??? As if the versions included in the album are not just perfect !!
In 1999, an expanded version of the album was released and it included two more songs: "Hot 'n' Ready" and "Cherry", which opens the album in its extended version. Although the announcer who invites the band to the stage at the beginning of the show indicates that it was allegedly performed in Chicago, the two songs were recorded in Youngstone and Cleveland, Ohio on October 15-16, 1978. This is the same recording of the announcer that opens the original version of the album with "Natural Thing".
This performance is an atomic bomb of metallic energy, from beginning to end. From the moment Michael Schenker's guitar sounds play the opening riff to the song "Natural Thing" to the final solo sounds of "Shoot Shoot", there is not even one unnecessary moment here. "Doctor Doctor", "Only You Can Rock Me", "Lights Out", "Too Hot to Handle" and "Let It Roll" had a heavier and rougher performance than the album versions, and even the quieter tracks like "Love to Love" and "I'm a Loser", sounds much tighter and more convincing with amazing singing by Phil Mogg.
But there is one performance on this album which undoubtedly transcends all the rest. We are of course talking about the phenomenal 11-minute version of the song "Rock Bottom", with the insane solo of Michael Schenker, which disserves a place in the Pantheon.
In conclusion, this album gives us "UFO" in a more sweeping and improved version than we knew in their studio albums. The band that opened the 70's with heavy and progressive space rock, ends them with a heavy, full and updated sound, which will significantly affect the metal bands of the early 80's.
It is interesting to note that in 2020 a deluxe version of the mythological show was released. It includes 8 CD's. In the box you can find the show in it's original version and another 6 full shows from the tour, held in Chicago, Wisconsin, Youngstone, Cleveland, Columbus and Louisville on October 13-18, 1978.
For Listening to the album in it's Extended Version: Spotify
For Listening to the album in it's Deluxe Edition: Spotify