UFO: ‘The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent’
THE WILD, THE WILLING AND THE INNOCENT
Released on January 6, 1981 (Chrysalis Records)
Review by John Lewis:
The year 1981 (was it really 40 years ago?) saw UFO at the peak of their powers – coming off a long headlining tour in supporting of No Place To Run (recorded in the Caribbean) so the band was moving from strength to strength. Guitarist Michael Schenker was now firmly in the rear-view mirror, his place being ably filled by Paul “Tonka” Chapman (R.I.P.). The band’s writing was also shifting, in large part to the skills which Chapman brought to the table. The group seamlessly managed another line-up change as keyboardist / rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond (R.I.P.) left the group to join Schenker, and his place was filled by multi-instrumentalist Neil Carter. The stage was set for another magnum opus from this incendiary but most classy English outfit.
This time out, the band’s label Chrysalis had the group record in its hometown of London at AIR Studios and Utopia Studios. Interestingly, the album under construction was to be self-produced, a first for the band on what would be its ninth studio album. The downside of not having a producer to crack the whip was that the band took a loooong and expensive time to complete work on the album. As singer Phil Mogg has joked, the band is still paying for this one! Regardless, kudos to the boys for doing a very good job at the boards. Speaking of mastersinger Mogg (one of my favourite vocalists), he was in a heavy Bruce Springsteen listening phase, which much influenced the lyrics and dynamics of this work. Not to mention the eventual title — The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent — very reminiscent of the Boss’ The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle of 1973.
Into the grooves, and there is not a single dud among the album’s eight tracks. Many critics (and Mogg) have claimed this one as their favourite of UFO’s long and storied career. It is certainly one of their most musically consistent offerings. Kicking off with a classic Brit rocker, “Chains Chains”, UFO are at the height of their powers, seamlessly blending metal muscle with a unique melodic sense which would influence countless bands in their wake. Next up is one of my favourite UFO songs, the incredible “Long Gone.” Talk about brilliant atmospherics — Mogg’s gritty tale of street life, with Chapman’s heroics on the guitar and a masterful performance from the rest of the band including bassist Pete Way (R.I.P.) and drummer Andy Parker. The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent is full of highlights — the title track “Lonely Heart” (a moderately successful single, featuring a tasteful saxophone solo from Carter), and the brilliant “Couldn’t Get It Right.” The album saw some success, but nowhere near what it deserved in my humble opinion.
The standard lengthy European and American tour, the latter with Cheap Trick, followed to support the album. Interestingly, the band caught the eye of the censors as the somewhat risqué album cover was blurred for the North American release, and the closing track “Profession of Violence” was strangely altered to simply “Profession Of” on this side of the Atlantic. If you are at all curious about the genesis of much of the melodic hard rock/metal which became so predominant in the mid to late ’80s, The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent will be a great reference, an incredibly influential record.
Review by John Stoney Cannon:
With all the craziness of 2020, perhaps the biggest disappoint I suffered personally was finally getting a chance to see UFO live after 40 years of being a fan only to have the band cancel at the last second. One minute I’m all excited in line just outside of an Atlanta, Georgia venue and the next, I’m overhearing the news that due to sickness, headliners Blue Oyster Cult would be playing an extended set on a concert bill now sans UFO. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about the double bill even though I had seen Blue Oyster Cult many times since the ’70s. It was super cool that they’d rock out extra long to kind of pinch hit for UFO but when you have been waiting 40 years to see one of your favorite bands since childhood, not even a backup killer band can mend the broken heart of such a cancellation. All it took was mere mention of a refund to make us get out of line and take the two hour drive back home immediately but the biggest shame was that, not only were we kept from seeing the band live (understandably), we were also totally screwed out of the refund but that’s another story for another day. Let’s just say that we will never be attending another concert at that venue ever again.
Yeah, I know some folks think I’m being a bit over dramatic about feeling such heartache but let me explain. I’m a huge KISS fan too and at an Atlanta’s KISS convention during the Q&A with Eddie Trunk, I asked him a UFO question. Honestly, what question could I ask Eddie about KISS that I don’t more than likely already know the answer to? My question for Eddie? Which UFO out of the two the band kicked off the ’80s with did he think rocked the best? 1980’s No Place To Run or 1981’s The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent? In 2020, I licked my wounds by expressing my love for the former here on Sleaze Roxx and have since been counting the days until I could give the same respect to the latter. By the way, did I mention that I freakin’ love UFO?
As my second all-time fave UFO record after its predecessor No Place To Run, rock and roll masterpiece The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent remains in my memory as an incredible rock record in a year of great rock releases. But no matter the reasons history has relegated it to a spot below classic 1981 albums by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, AC/DC, and more, The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent possesses a rock and roll quality on par to not just the great records of 1981, but in all of rock and roll period.
Growling in with the crunchy slide guitar of opener “Chains Chains,” UFO‘s ninth studio album finds the combined rock and roll writing efforts of singer Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, and guitarist Paul Chapman in fine form. Along with drummer Andy Parker, The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent is not only UFO‘s first full self-produced record but also the band’s first with keyboardist/guitarist Neil Carter taking over for Paul Raymond, who had moved on to join the Michael Shenker Group. The result is a tightly well produced eight tunes of workingman’s hard rock complete with plenty of great hands in the air sing-a-long catchiness and headbanging anthem goodness.
It’s no wonder that throughout their history, UFO always caught high praise for their live performances. There have been plenty great live bands but few with the songs to unite a live audience like the tunes of UFO. Even a good bit of the band’s deep cuts can hold their own against some of the best known anthems of the period and “Chains Chains” is as choice an album opener as ever was. Listening all these years later makes the teenager in me just want to jump into a pile of fans singing along with the chorus and that’s just for starters. Often bands cram the best at the jump of a record to grab listeners and things go slowly down from there but on The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent, the rock and roll just gets better and better and well, better. Hard to believe though as the record is all killer and absolutely zero filler.
One of the attractions of UFO has been an ability to color blues-infused hard rock with peaks, valleys, and a roller coaster mix of moods and “Long Gone” is one of their best examples. Starting off slow and moody, this great track builds anticipation to the point that just when you don’t think you can stand it any longer, the guys kick in hot and heavy with a bit of speed occasionally tapping the breaks for some great change ups. As with most UFO tunes there’s plenty of mid-range energy topped with great sounding guitar. It’s a similar build to the in your face rock and roll also found on “Makin’ Moves” showing off the classic heavy rock side reminiscent of fellow English bands like Deep Purple but what makes UFO so special is that on the flip side, they have also always possessed the perfect ability to toss in plenty of melody.
“It’s Killing Me” is a great middle of the road mid-tempo groover with yet another infectious chorus, and of course, the perfect melodic power ballad solo. Slightly more rocker than softy, it is filled with so many of the traits that inspired and inhabited the more melodic side of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal era bands. No fear though as “Profession of Violence” is in musical attendance to represent the beautiful ballad talents that over the years have also inspired groups like The Quireboys and more. Not only do UFO once again knock it out of the park, Chapman‘s solo closing out the track (and the album) is as intense as any in rock and roll. While UFO unfairly may not boast a mainstream presence as similar bands like the Scorpions and Def Leppard, they have always carried an ability to pen amazing hard rock songs loaded with melody and tailor made solos that are second to none. Few hard rock bands have the nads to end a record with a ballad but even in doing so UFO leave the listener with a stroke of tension and the hairs on the arms stiffly raised. No news for UFO fans as the hard and the heart sides have always represented them well musically but once again on The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent, they also kick in great catchy anthems that not only were ahead of their time in the ’70s, turns out they were downright perfect for the ’80s.
As the hair metal era came in to view, radio ready rock was on the rise bringing the guitar music of everyone from the catchy pop rock of Bryan Adams to the melodic hard rock of Def Leppard to the airwaves in a big way. This is a big reason why some rock fans remain puzzled as to why UFO didn’t break into the mainstream in larger fashion. “Lonely Heart” nearly veers into Foreigner territory with hints of storytelling American rock and roll and as the second single released from The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent, should have been more a radio hit for the band. Album kickoff single “Couldn’t Get It Right” follows that same direction in a slightly more poppy way with era themes of sinking into the radio and taking on the world that a few years later, Bon Jovi would ride into international stardom. Even the title track is loaded with early ’80s rock radio playability and yet another head scratch over why UFO never reached the heights of some of their less talented contemporaries. After all, that tour I missed last year had UFO as openers for Blue Oyster Cult and yeah, the latter has certainly done well creating its own status in rock and roll history but got to be honest, song for song, album for album, UFO easily has a far more consistent history of great rock and roll records. Sure, Blue Oyster Cult may have “Godzilla” but well… OK, so you get the point.
In the ’70s, there were many great bands whose influence paved the way for the explosion of hard rock that took over radio, television, and concert stages in the ’80s. There’s no telling how the period would have turned out without the likes of bands that influenced the NWOBHM that in turn ushered in a whole new slew of bands across the world. It’s hard to imagine how the music we all love would have came to be had it not been for bands like Thin Lizzy and UFO, who despite never receiving the level of stardom they so richly deserved, directly influenced bands from Metallica to Mötley Crüe. Impossible to think of Nikki Sixx pounding on his low sitting bass without there ever being the presence of Pete Way wide-legged and rocking out on that familiar Thunderbird. I’m not sure English hard rock would have ever been the same without the legendary albums in the seventies like Lights Out that turned on so so many musicians to take up guitars and form many of the bands that lifted hard rock to to top of the music world in the ’80s.
In 1981, UFO weren’t just hanging around as the grandfathers of hard rock. They were still working hard to lead the way with great live shows and records like their ninth The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent and it would be far from their last. While most notable for their releases between 1977’s Lights Out and Misdemeanor in 1985, UFO consistently have put out nearly a couple dozen studio records to date over the course of their 50 year history. Toss in 14 strong official live albums and scores of compilations and more, and we’re talking not only one of rock’s largest musical catalogs but one of the most consistent as far as quality and power that includes everything rock and roll has to offer. The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent is right up there with the best that UFO have ever unleashed on the world of rock and roll.
01. Chains Chains
02. Long Gone
03. The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent
04. It’s Killing Me
05. Makin’ Moves
06. Lonely Heart
07. Couldn’t Get It Right
08. Profession of Violence
Phil Mogg -vocals
Paul Chapman – guitar
Neil Carter – keyboards, guitar, backing vocals, saxophone (6)
Pete Way – bass guitar
Andy Parker – drums
John Sloman – keyboards (uncredited)
Paul Buckmaster – orchestral arrangements, ochestra conductor
Produced by UFO
Engineered by Steve Churchyard, Gary Edwards and Jeremy Green
Reviewed by John Lewis and John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, January 2021
UFO‘s “Lonely Heart” video:
UFO‘s “Makin’ Moves” video: