UFO – Obsession (1978) – Review

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Obsession is the last album of what is commonly called the Schenker years in the UFO discography. Michael Schenker enjoyed a relatively short, but intense career for his first stint with UFO, starting with Phenomenon in 1974 and ending it – from a standpoint of studio album releases – with Obsession in 1978.

He for sure put his stamp on UFO and all that stuff they were able to produce in this relatively short time frame. Schenker actually returned to the fold in 1993 for a short time – many years later.

And you know what? They did it again. Obsession is again different from Lights Out with some more variation. Mogg put a bit less focus on Paul Raymond‘s keyboard interludes that became famous in tracks like Love to Love in the aforementioned album. I am still having shivers down my spine listening to that one. Mind you, he is still there on the keyboard and at stellar levels. 

How to describe Obsession better?

The album for sure gained in maturity. Some of that scratchiness went down the drain, and that is a good thing. Yet again, Obsession also lost a pound or two on character and spice, and that’s a pity. This feels like a burner went out of action on this BBQ grill of theirs. But a very small burner at that – I admit.

Phil Mogg presents himself with a swagger not known before, kind of throwing a stone or two into this mighty fish stew with spicy curry sauce. Very well done – I love the change. This was the kind of thing we wanted to see at that time. It appears that Mogg/Schenker functioned well on Obsession.

The courage to move out of their comfort zone – almost going progressive on me – is probably the main achievement of the band in Obsession. However, the loss of crunch and the lack of crusty tunes found in its predecessor I still deplore to this day. For some reason, the record comes across as just a little too smooth, even if there is a helluva lot of good stuff in this short 36-minute piece of vinyl.

Does this turn Obsession into a bad record?

Indeed not. However, the record starts off with a somewhat palsy Only You can Rock Me. And yes, you purists, I really mean it. This could have been so much better. Only Mr. Schenker and his guitar prowess saved the track and brought it back up again. I am missing the juice, the oomph, the power.

Fortunately, the following Pack it Up (and Go) packs a different kind of punch. And THIS is what I call scratchy with character. Just listen to the cool lead guitar that pulls this roadshow along that long dusty highway. The track truly is an example of fledging Heavy Metal that was to grow into a major movement not much later.

And then, when you think that they got it made, this – thing appears on yer mighty tracklist. What were they thinking with Arbory Hill? This is a track in the same vein as Lipstick Traces on Phenomenon. Totally disconnected from the reality of the record with no apparent rhyme or reason. But I guess nothing is ever useless. It can still serve as a bad example, right?

But fear naught. Ain’t no Baby, a mid-tempo concoction with its bluesy smooth swagger brought things quickly back up to speed, together with the soft rock ballad called Looking Out for No 1. Again, here we have proof that Hard Rock and Heavy Metal bands produce the best rock ballads. Born to Lose is another pretty good ballad with a pretty stellar solo towards the end. 

The remaining spots are taken by traditional, standard Hard Rock tunes, again delivered in this new, energetic style that seems to permeate the whole tracklist. If a choice needed to be made, I would vote for Hot’N’Ready as the best track of this pack. And you know what? Some of that series sounds like something Whitesnake might have produced.  

Cherry – in the middle of the B Side – is the second real disappointment, not something UFO should have added to Obsession. This is the only really bad track, even if a guitar solo tried to save it somehow. This song, along with the botched Arbory Hill, are the only real negatives in an otherwise very successful production. 

So, what have we got?

Obsession is for sure not UFO‘s best album, but one of the most mature with a swagger to boot – at least at this point back in time. I really like the oomph Mogg puts into his tunes, and that’s a real step forward. At the end of the day, all stands and falls with band performance which on this record is just stellar. This – combined with great guitar work – makes Obsession one of the better records UFO ever created. But for sure not THE best. But this type of evaluation is – as always – a tricky one and remains in the eyes of the beholder.

Ed’s note: Oh, and don’t forget to check out the UFO Top 10 Songs list and the 2nd edition of the most popular posts as well.


Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Chrysalis Records | Web: Official Site
Release date: 21 June 1978

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