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UFO – Birmingham Tapes (Bondage BON278/279/280)

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Birmingham Tapes (Bondage Music BON278/279/280)

This Bondage title collects three different concerts by UFO all performed in the town of Birmingham England and covers a transitional period of the band that saw them playing small clubs to the larger halls as their popularity grew.

While the initial line up of the band had some success it was not until the band added guitar wunderkind Michael Schenker to the group did they start making true headway, this release also showcases three different line ups of the band and gives us an inside view of each strengths and weaknesses. The packaging is typical Bondage, full color pictures and graphics all packaged in a fatboy jewel case. A very nice set from Bondage and an easy recommendations for fans of UFO.

Town Hall Birmingham, England - June 5, 1977

Disc 1 (72:04) Introduction, Lights Out, Getting’ Ready, Love To Love, On With The Action, Doctor Doctor, I’m A loser, Too Hot To Handle, Out In The Street, This Kids, Shoot Shoot, Rock Bottom, Let It Roll, C’mon Everybody

By 1977 UFO were on the verge of worldwide success, the string of records recorded with Schenker and relentless touring had made UFO a force to be reckoned with. Captured in support of the Lights Out record the band is in fine shape musically, personally is another matter. On The eve of the US tour Michael went AWOL and the band were able to get Paul Chapman to fill in.

Schenker was onboard for the UK tour and we have a very nice sounding document to enjoy of the classic, Schenker, Mogg, Way, Parker, Raymond line up. The audience recording is good to very good clear and well balanced with just a hint of distortion in louder passages. It does sound good loud which is how I listen, all instruments can be heard. The set list is cream of the crop and gets you from the start. After the guitar wine intro the band launches into Lights Out, a killer opening song with its galloping riff and the addition of keyboard / guitarist Paul Raymond was the missing link and gave the band a rich full sound.

A highlight of the tape is Getting’ Ready, a track from the Lights Out record, only performed on this tour I was excited to hear a live version (this is pre Official Bootleg set that has a quality version) and it did not fail to disappoint. The set simply flows from there, a beautiful Love To Love with an incredible guitar solo to the No Heavy Petting classic On With The Action and a furious Doctor Doctor. The band slows it down for I’m A Loser, starts as almost folksy kind of song that turns into full scale rocker with a smoking Schenker guitar solo.

Too Hot To Handle sound heavier than the one found on the Strangers record, a little faster and more aggressive version not the sing along anthem it would become. The band slows it down for the last time for a beautiful Out In The Street, you can hear a punter shout for the song and after Phil introduced is you can hear him cheer wildly. Again Paul Raymond shines, his keyboards and rhythm playing fit perfectly. From here on out it is a landslide, This Kids into Shoot Shoot into another great Rock Bottom into Let It Roll and finally C’mon Everybody finishes the CD in fine fashion but not the concert.

Tracks 1-2 Town Hall Birmingham, England – June 5, 1977
Tracks 3-14 Barbarella’s Night Club Birmingham, England – April 20, 1976

Disc 2 (74:45) Can You Roll Her, Boogie For George, Introduction, Can You Roll Her, Doctor Doctor, Oh My, Out In The Street, Highway Lady, I’m A Loser, Let It Roll Shoot Shoot, Rock Bottom, C’Mon Everybody

The band has another couple songs left for the audience at Town Hall, Can You Roll Her and the oldie Boogie For George finishes off a well played am enjoyable show. There are quite a few tapes from 1977 in trading circulation and it is nice to have a silver pressed concert in good quality to enjoy.

The tape from 1976 finds the band touring in support of the No Heavy Petting record, after the success of Phenomenon and Force It the bands more polished record did not perform sales wise but was a definite step forward. The Audience recording is very good well balanced with little audience interference and has a very live feel to it and sounds good played loud.

The tape starts with the crowd chanting UFO ! UFO ! and the band hits the stage Can You Roll Her from the new record, the addition of former Heavy Metal Kids keyboard player Danny Peyronel was another step in fleshing out the bands live sound, his keyboards are spot on for this track and it works well as an opener. 

Two tracks from Phenomenon follow, Doctor Doctor and Oh My were stage favorites at the time, the former would remain while the latter and more dated sounding would be dropped after this tour. Again the crowd is shouting for Let It Roll but we are Phenomenon treated to a great Out In The Street. Schenker plays a great solo but careful listening to Peyronel’s keyboard just sounds like they don;t quite fit, almost to honky tonk.

Two new tracks are next, Highway Lady hits like a storm and Phil giving a great vocal on this one that also has the boogie style keyboards and Michael plays a soaring solo, good stuff indeed. Another great I’m A Loser follows, lyrically and musically the the song is almost the continuation of Out In The Street, while Michael flies during his solo the rest of the band drive the song to a lofty height.

Finally the audience gets what they want, to be steam rolled into dust. that is how Let It Roll hits you, the band is firing on all cylinders but this point and deliver a crushing blow, Schenker and Peyronel play the harmony section beautifully. The band drives through Shoot shoot but the weight of the set fall upon Rock Bottom and the band delivers. 

Schenker tears the song apart and lays waste to the stage leaving the crowd in a frenzy ! His solo on the song is the stuff of legend and does not fail to deliver.  A rather subdued C’Mon Everybody ends the set in fine fashion, again Michaels fingers are loose and he solos effortlessly, a very satisfying concert.

Bogarts Birmingham, England – August 5, 1974

Disc 3 (73:10) Introduction, Oh My, Doctor Doctor, Built For Comfort, Give Her The Gun, Space Child, Cold Turkey, Rock Bottom, Goin Down, Prince Kajuku, Boogie For George

The final show in the set takes us back to 1974 and finds the band touring in support of Phenomenon with another short lived line up this time consisting of Schenker, Mogg, Way, Parker and guitarist Paul Chapman who was brought in to the flesh out the sound.

Chapman would play an important role in UFO history, he would again briefly re join the band in 1977 to fill in for a missing Michael Schenker and ultimately replace him when he abruptly quit in 1978 and go on to record four very good records with UFO before they broke up. 

The source featured here is a good audience recording, there is minimal crowd interference but there is slight hiss and distortion present due to the limitations of the recording device but is clear and enjoyable listening experience. For me the slight distortion adds to the heavy atmosphere and playing by the band. The beginning of the concert is standard for the time, We are treated to a great version of Give Her The Gun. A song recorded prior to the band getting their Chrysalis record deal and was released as a German single backed with Sweet Little Thing.

The next play their take on the John Lennon classic Cold Turkey, the UFO version sounding slow and raw with both guitarists supplying some tasty leads. Rock Bottom is introduced with little fan fair but already the apex of the live set. It is interesting to hear the early versions of the song with two lead guitarist, Schenker knows what he wants to play while Chapman, an accomplished guitarist before he joined UFO, tends to noodle around without much direction. One should also note the rhythm section of Pete Way and Andy Parker, their playing is so tight and spot on it lays the perfect foundation for a guitarist like Michael Schenker to just go off.

The band tackles Going Down ala Jeff Beck, Chapman takes the first string of leads to great effect, Michael is slightly higher in the mix so it gives you chance to hear his rhythm playing. The bands first big hit is next, Prince Kajuku is the bands psychedelic master piece, as much as I like Schenker I much prefer the original version with Mick Bolton on guitar. The newer version has a much faster tempo for my taste but does feature a nice solo by Mr. Schenker. Boogie For George finishes the set and recording, one of the bands singles from the UFO1 record. The song a classic and would be played sporadically through out the bands entire career, Phil does a great rap about boogying with a girl in her room complete with torrid details !

The band is starting to cement their position of a must see live act not to be missed.

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UFO - Birmingham Tapes (Bondage BON278/279/280), 3.3 out of 5 based on 3 ratings

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