UFO - SHOWTIME (2DVD) - SPV
UFO, with Vinnie Moore and Jason Bonham being the newer members, are still around and that shouldn’t be any surprise considering every band either makes a comeback or refuses to go away. A DVD has become a cheap, popular method of showcasing bands and in this case, like many others like it, making it easy to re-visit and benefit from songs that are decades old. Showtime’s first DVD, a live concert naturally, includes some of UFO’s more recent songs from 2004’s You Are Here mixed in with the older, more recognizable material like Lights Out, Doctor Doctor and Too Hot To Handle. The sound and stage show are nothing spectacular but the band do come off surprisingly lively throughout and do a good job keeping a decent level of excitement. The impression one is left with though is that most of the energy is courtesy of the two aforementioned newer members, Moore’s proficient guitar and Bonham’s dynamic drumming, but then again that’s not necessarily a negative. The second DVD features six songs recorded in a studio, some accompanied by a string quartet and surprisingly modern sounding. A funny, revealing history told through interview clips is also included and it is worth watching because it exposes a lot about UFO’s past and future plans. - Anna Tergel
UFO - THE MONKEY PUZZLE - SPV
Can’t tell you what The Monkey Puzzle is, but solve it and you’ll know how a band that has (hard) rocked since the late '60s can still be this pulsating. Amazingly, the newest album of singer Phil Mogg and crew is an stirring and refreshing slab of vibrant hard rock the likes of which bands literally half UFO’s age would have difficulty duplicating.
Hard Being Me, the opening cut, might inadvertently be the perfect metaphor for the opening paragraph’s hypothesis. Heavenly Body is a bruising grinder with a mean heavy riff and on it goes. The band is rejoined by its original drummer Andy Parker and impresses through an amalgamation of good songs, good vocals and an energy resembling, not a fresh breeze but rather, a fresh gale. While many have noted the longevity and power of Ronnie James Dio, fewer have similarly remarked on the way Phil Mogg has kept up his vocal chops through four decades of recording and performance. Paul Raymond is true to form as is the aforementioned drummer who (re)fits like a glove. Moreover, a special nod must be accorded lead guitarist Vinnie Moore who executes the best solos in the style of Michael Schenker since the early '80s. The guitars on Some Other Guy blows the roof, yet his work reproduces the best of the younger Schenker brother to perfection on songs like Rolling Man and even more impressively on Black And Blue. The latter must have the ghost of Michael on it. Slower songs like the grammatically mistaken Who’s Fooling Who and Drink Too Much, with its Slashy sound, end up rocking anyway so there is little left here to nag about.
It is as if UFO benefits from some kind of an alien power source. The Monkey Puzzle is the band’s vociferous proclamation that it is vital, alive and full of ideas. “I just go started,” screams Mogg and one would be a fool to doubt him. - Ali “The Metallian”
UFO - THE VISITOR - SPV
There can hardly be a more apt album name for UFO than The Visitor. Flying came close, but is not quite The Visitor. The album’s cover potentially negates my theorem, but the point is still valid.
The Visitor’s music is quite a surprise and rather different than its predecessor, The Monkey Puzzle. Whereas the band has recently been rather hard-edged, 2009 gives an emphatic nod to blues and Southern Rock. It might be the American residence of certain band members that is rubbing off on the entire sound for these songs see the band transition from a British hard rock act to a Southern US band with rhythm and blues to spare.
The whole thing is performed with gusto and confidence either way. Phil Mogg has barely ever sung the narrative lyrics with more grit and feeling. The voice is all right as are the guitars. Vinnie More has found a love for sliding chords and the South’s Honky Tonk and lets loose in his own melodic style on many songs. Perhaps Moore is in a Dixie mood without taking anything away from his wailing and riffing. Saving Me and On The Waterfront are similar stylistically and it is only on the third track, Hell Driver, that the hard rock proper sets in. That is no surprise perhaps, given the title! The groovier track on the album is Living Proof with its prevalence of R&B, while Stop Breaking Down (an ode to Mogg’s Chevy Impala perhaps?) is an easygoing soft rock tune. Forsaken is a regular slow song, but contrasted against Villains & Thieves’ revved up engine, which follows it. The high-octane riffs on this one come with some weird piano chords.
The Visitor is a cool album with every single member - not forgetting that drummer Andy parker is back - playing along comfortably and with poise, but is a departure for a band that has been at it, what, forty years? - Ali “The Metallian”