℗ 1971 Beacon Records BEAS 19
The first two albums by UFO featured an odd mix of crisp, focussed songs alternating with meandering electric guitar-led soundscapes. Flying starts off with perhaps their best of the former category, "Silver Bird." This story of a primitive islander seeing an airplane for the first time begins with a pleasant little acoustic guitar melody and builds into a soaring full-band musical expression of the wonder of flight. The next cut, all 19 minutes of it, conjures up the vaster expanses of space. To complain that "Star Storm" rambles is to miss the point; sometimes Michael Bolton's guitar is used as a pure sound effect rather than to convey any kind of rhythm or melody, and if you're patient, then listening can be an enjoyable, even absorbing, experience. The relatively tight instrumental "Prince Kajuku" and the harder rocking "Coming of Prince Kajuku" follow, and are interesting as almost the only songs of this period to remain in the band's live repertoire for years afterward. The album is capped with the title track, 26 and a half minutes of strange guitar wizardry. "Flying" was the soundtrack to many an acid trip when it first appeared, and to some people it is UFO's crowning achievement. It's fairly obvious that if Bolton had stayed at the helm then UFO would have never had the pop fame that they later achieved, but it can be interesting to try to imagine what kind of music they might have made as they grew even more accomplished. — Richard Foss.