UFO's last effort, 'High Stakes And Dangerous Men' although being a good attempt, was never going to live up to the expectations of the die-hard fans. The guitarist, Laurence Archer, although very competant, lacked Schenkers originality and many of the tracks left you thinking 'that sounds familiar ..'.
Not so with 'Walk on Water' ! The Schenker/Mogg writing partnership has never been so strong, and the years of separate projects has added a new dimension. Moggy's voice is superb throughout, and Schenker, well he's Schenker ! Lot's of over indulgent solos and fills... but then that's what everybody wants ! You get the feeling that after joining up with Robin McAuley his guitar playing seemed to become more 'adjusted', you would forever be hearing this wonderful guitar sound that drifted around not particularly taking any notice of the song, and then WALLOP a perfectly timed attack, a mind blowing solo complementing the music to perfection. This sound, now very much a characteristic of his, is carried over to the 'new' UFO. The last time he was a member of UFO it was his youthful arrogance that provided the spark, now you feel it's so much more, and it makes a difference.
It would be wrong to stop with Mogg and Schenker though. UFO wouldn't be UFO without the backup of Way on bass (what more can be said about the guy ! I saw him on the 'High Stakes .. ' tour and even then he was staggering about the stage as if it was nineteen seventy something !), and the keyboard skills of Paul Raymond are very much evident adding that extra UFO sparkle (incidently, Raymond is also credited with some of the rythm guitar parts). And an honourable mention for Andy 'no neck' Parker ... I must admit I never really listen to the drums, but if he was doing something wrong, I'm sure you'd notice. And of course, you can't forget the sixth member of the group, Ron Nevison who produced the whole thing, it's nice to see that the publicised parting of the ways in the early eighties has been patched up.
The album itself is a typical UFO sort of thing, your heavy ones, your lighter ones, and a well thought out running order. The album starts with a full in-your-face, almost, dare I say it, 'grungy' riff which pretty much runs throughout the song, except for the quieter chorus. The heavier sound of this track, 'A Self Made Man', to give you an idea, would fit in very well on the last Kiss studio effort, 'Revenge', though Mogg would have to growl the lyrics a bit more to get a better effect ! Thank God he doesn't !
The next track, 'Venus' starts off with keyboards, and then to accoustic guitar, another very prominent feature of the album. Unlike the 70's albums however the accoustic guitar in question is the same one used for Michaels recent 'Thank You' album, and MSG unplugged efforts, so has electric overtones but is still used to good effect. No more so than a later track, 'Running On Empty'. Here it is an accoustic riff used to hold the song together, with electric playing over it ... midway through the song though, you get a short break, you know it's time for a Schenker solo .... and in comes an accoustic guitar solo, almost taking you totally by surprise. I must admit the first time I heard it it was almost unnerving, but on the second time through you realise that it actually works very well, would UFO have been prepared to break the rules like this 15 years ago ? There is still some electric extravagance as an outro solo though, just so you don't forget it's there !
'Pushed To The limit', a song about getting old (!) (my woman says it ain't right/for a man my age to fight) again is carried off with perfection, the distinctive riff still going round your head hours after you hear it, and 'Stopped By A Bullet (of love)' is your token love song .... this may be pure speculation, but perhaps written by Schenker for his girlfriend, and now band manager, Bella ? If anyone can confirm this I'd be interested to know !
'Darker Days' is where the title track for the album comes from, and highlights several religious themes occasionally cropping up in the other tracks, which again I assume can be put down to Michaels 'recent' religious awakening. Whatever the motivation though it's another catchy number, with Moggy's voice on particularly good form.
The next two tracks, 'Running On Empty' (mentioned earlier) and 'Knock, Knock' bear a similar theme of love gone wrong, the latter with the very catchy phrases along the lines of 'knock,knock,knock/she got the house and the car/the only thing left is my old guitar'. This has a very "Fool For Love' type feel to it, not just lyrically (stating off with everything nice and rosy .... then enter the real world !) but musically too.
The last original song of the album is then a quiter affair about being down on your luck (in fact the last three original songs don't paint a rosy picture really !), and just finishes off the album nicely .. no sudden heavy riffs crashing in unexpectantly.
Finally we get two reworkings of UFO classics. The first up is 'Doctor, Doctor'. Oh no ! I Hear you cry, they're going to ruin it ! But no ! It's actually very good, and I now prefer it to the original. The basic song is very faithful to the original, the difference is Schenkers majestic guitar 'frills' throughout, adding just that little bit more. The new 'Lights Out' however, just adds a little 90's production, without really altering much else (unless I've missed something !) ... but apparantly this song is only to appear on the Japanese release anyway.
So, in summary .... if you haven't got a copy yet .... GET ONE ... it's BRILLIANT !
By the way, I make absolutely no apologies for being totally biased in Micahel Schenkers favour ... the man can do no wrong !