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Daniels, Neil
High Stakes & Dangerous Men-The UFO Story (Book review)
April 2014
Released: 2013, Soundcheck books
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

My gut instinct when I heard Neil Daniels was doing a book on UFO was one of curiosity, considering that Martin Popoff had just written one. However, when I looked back, Popoff’s UFO book came out almost nine years ago now (the band has released 2 albums since) and if Metallica can have dozens of books, why not a great band like UFO? They deserve it!

Daniels is respected and prolific UK author and a fan of the band as well, so he is a good person to tell the tale of this criminally under-rated band. HIGH STAKES AND DANGEROUS MEN is a standard 234 page, paperback with about 230 full colour photos on glossy paper plates in the middle of the book. The rest is conventional, easy to read with a nice bibliography, foreword, Afterword, Notes and so on. It’s nice to see our very own writer Marko get credit in the research of this book. A Foreword is written by American DJ and TV personality Eddie Trunk. Eddie’s legendary ego is fully intact as he tells us that he single-handedly teaches the world about UFO one fan at a time. However, he is a long-time champion of UFO so I can’t think of a better person to write the foreword.

Daniels follows the band history from the early days and weaves the often-confusing personal changes into a comprehensive whole. He is detailed and thorough, discussing off-shoot projects of Michael Schenker and the pair of Mogg/Way albums, which we learn are basically UFO albums with a different name as the name was tied up in legality. Fortunately the name reverted to the band, Vinnie Moore joined and they have had an extended renaissance and released six superb albums in a row, perhaps even eclipsing the glory years with Schenker in the 70’s. As a side note, there must be a sense of tenacity the English possess, I call it the British Bulldog Factor’ where UK bands like Saxon, Motorhead, Magnum, UFO, and even Sabbath, Priest and Maiden to a degree, have all made a ‘comeback’ of sorts and benefitted in the new millennium from long periods of line-up stability and, shall we say, maturity. I realize there is a massive nostalgia filter in place for the output of the 70’s and 80’s, but I would argue these bands have done some of, if not their best work since 2000.

Back to the book, drawing on multiple sources, including his own interviews with various members of the band, Daniels covers lots of information about the creative process, the business side, the management side, the industry side, and he covers all facets of the band with equal enthusiasm. He also still goes into some depth about the newer albums but not much, but for good reason. In the past, the 70’s, bands (not just UFO) would gather in some remote castle in England with an expensive Mobile studio, a mountain of cocaine, an entourage, an overpaid journalist, and a huge budget and hilarity ensues in the form of overdoses, pranks, multiple trips to the local pub to avoid actually working, and of course brand new Jaguars getting crashed into the duck pond of the local farmer late at night (after the aforementioned visits to the pub) all to the annoyance of the local constabulary. These become the legendary tales of recording classic albums. Today, spread across the various nations of the world, the members lay down parts in modest, home-based studios, e-mail digital files to each other, compile them and make an album. Not nearly as exciting.

Daniels has a sort of quiet respect and admiration for the band as he chooses not to dwell on any number of publicized drug and alcohol related issues, health problems, family issues and the legendary in-fighting between various members of the band. There is not too much dirt here, it is as if he wants to protect the band and perhaps put them in the most positive light as this UFO after 45 years of activity, (as of time of writing) will soon be scanning for a final landing zone. Let’s just hope it is not a Roswell crash-landing where the bodies are never recovered…

I’m not the world’s most die-hard UFO fan, but I do own about 16 of their 20 albums and have followed them for ages, so there was not an enormous amount of new information for me, other than loads of neat trivia. HIGH STAKES AND DANGEROUS MEN pays tribute to this veteran band and is a very pleasurable reading experience.
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