UFO

"Live Sightings" (Cleopatra; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

When I first heard about this box set of live UFO recordings, I was a little bit trepidatious. We've been hit before with disappointing live releases from legendary bands that turn out to be little more than thin-sounding bootlegs. And although some of the recordings in this four CD set are a little rough (they were recorded in 1980, 1981 and 1982, after all) they capture the sound and, more importantly, the charisma of this amazing line-up featuring founding band members Phil Mogg, Pete Way, and Andy Parker.

You know whether or not you're a UFO fan, so I won't go into too much detail regarding the music here other than to say that UFO are a legendary classic rock band for a reason. They wrote some great tunes, they featured some incredible musicianship and to this day they are highly respected rock'n'rollers. If you're new to UFO, I wouldn't start here but if you're a fan, you'll definitely want to pick this up.

There are four CDs in this box set, one recorded in 1980, one recorded in 1981 and two recorded in 1982. They each come in a mini-LP jacket and inner sleeve. The set also contains a full color, 16-page booklet with duplications of some of the original tour programs. There is also an LP included, apparently, they we were unfortunate not to receive, featuring live recordings from 1972.

For more information, check out http://www.ufo-music.info.

"A Conspiracy of Stars" (SPV/Steamhammer; 2015)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I've always name-dropped Vinnie Moore. He's one of my favorite guitar players. UFO has been around a long time, since before I was born, and they always have excellent music. Since they were from across the pond I got to know about their sound the way most people did: vinyl.

This is their twenty-first album. Now that's some staying power! And, with a recognizable line-up of veterans, you can be assured that this stuff rocks and it's the party music you'll want to be hearing at your next get together.

Vinnie Moore has plenty of soulful sounds on "A Conspiracy of Stars" and he's always doing something with the guitar. No idle hands here! His soloing is what I remember from his solo disc: fire and dry ice in his playing and plenty of ending runs that keep me coming back for more.

Since these guys have been playing for so long there isn't much I can say that hasn't been said before so I'm going to end this word play and recommend you grab the disc and absorb it yourself.

UFO: Phil Mogg - vocals; Vinnie Moore - lead guitar; Paul Raymond - keyboards, rhythm guitar; backing vocals; Rob De Luca - bass; Andy Parker - drums.

For more information, check out http://www.ufo-music.info.

"The Visitor" (SPV/Steamhammer; 2009)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"The Visitor" is another chunk of the bluesy rock you've come to expect from the veteran band, UFO.

Classic rock in the truest sense, "The Visitor" delivers instantly addictive hooks, raw power riffs and a band of veterans all performing at the top of their game. Phil Mogg continues to astound with his solid vocals and Vinnie Moore's always amazing guitar work is near perfect here. Showing a impressive amount of restraint, Moore fits the fretwork to the song, never showboating and never taking you out of the moment. When it's time for him to shred, however, he does so with stunning style.

"Can't Buy a Thrill" is probably the best track on the album; even though it's a slower track, it's got a great throbbing vibe throughout. That being said, there's not a bad song on the CD.

Considering the fact that this is their 20th studio album, UFO shows no signs of fatigue. "The Visitor" is an exciting listen from start to finish.

UFO: Phil Mogg - vocals; Vinnie Moore - guitar; Andy Parker - drums; Paul Raymond - guitar, keyboards.

For more information, check out http://www.ufo-music.info

"The Monkey Puzzle" (SPV/Steamhammer; 2006)

Reviewed by Edwin Van Hoof

UFO is one of melodic rock’s most driving institutions. Phil Mogg, Pete Way, Andy Parker and Paul Raymond have gone through many highs and lows in the three decades of their career and, upon Michael Schenker’s thirteenth departure, they hired super shredder Vinnie Moore for guitar duties. “You Are Here” was the first fruit of their labor, and its additional tour proved the band to be back at the top ranks of rock, injected with inspired playing from that same Moore.

Now comes its follow up and, having seen the band shooting through the roof performing, my expectations were high ... extremely high. Moore’s input was extraordinary and the band gripped the vibe laid down by the charismatic and friendly shred head.

So I put “The Monkey Puzzle” into my CD player, over and over again. Was I mistaken? Or did UFO pull the steering wheel hard in another direction? Somehow, the band has always managed to perfectly blend bluesy song structures into their melodic rock anthems. On "The Monkey Puzzle," however, they have overdone it.

Was it Vinnie who managed to shoot the band into Louisiana? Or was it the chemistry and long lingering undertone that now managed to thrive as in their younger years? “Hard Being Me,” with its slide intro and honky-tonk piano; the harmonicas in “Some Other Guy” and “World Cruise,"; the Bad Company revival in “Down by the River” and “Rolling Man.” All are simply too bluesy for my taste and, as I listened, more and more bands like Bad Company and Aerosmith kept popping into my mind. 

Sure, the inspired playing is there as is the remarkable warm voice of Mogg who surprises occasionally with Coverdale and Rodgers-like soulful singing. And yeah! Vinnie’s amazingly skilled and fluent guitar style shoots us into oblivion again. Moore is always extremely fluent and melodic with amazing solos that keep you focused, fresh and even edgy occasionally, as are his strong hooks. 

It is the contrast here that strikes me most because some of the best material is undoubtedly bearing the UFO signature more than ever before. The hard rocking “Heavenly Body” or the great (semi) ballad “Who’s Fooling Who” (with some extravagant solo playing from Moore, backed by Raymond’s Moog); “Black and Blue” with its Damn Yankees ripped tapping intro but that slowly grows into a typical UFO track, leaning towards the “Misdemeanor” era.

Overall, however, it becomes obvious that UFO is crystallizing a different sound for themselves, magnifying the bluesy influences more than ever before, much to my ... and probably other UFO fans' ... dismay.

What’s there to say? I hope it is just my taste (or the lack of it) that this CD doesn't do anything for me. I slowly see my favorite band drifting off toward the blues, with one of my guitar heroes taking part. Perhaps I hear it all wrong, but it is up to them to show me onstage.

UFO: Phil Mogg - Vocals; Pete Way - Bass; Vinnie Moore - Guitars; Andy Parker - Drums; Paul Raymond - Keyboards.

For more information, check out http://www.ufo-music.info

"Showtime" (SPV/Steamhammer; 2005)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn Jr.

It seems surreal, more so when you watch the DVD version of UFO's live recording "Showtime," that it is being performed in a midsized club in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. For all intents and purposes, UFO is one of metal's often unheralded arena heroes. Given the fact UFO has been thumping it loud and hard since the seventies and given the fact that they are renowned as a thunderous live band (as exemplified on 1979's seminal "Strangers in the Night," universally regarded as one of hard rock's best live albums ever), it seems a bit disheartening in 2005 to see UFO delegated to the club scene. After all, I'm sure for UFO and their longtime fans, the immense wall of sound projected by this band doesn't seem that long ago. Time waits for no one, as they say ...

That being said, the UFO existing in a post-Schenker, post-Parker state of flux suddenly finds itself a winner again. With legendary eighties guitar slinger Vinnie Moore and epochal progeny Jason Bonham filling in the gaps for Phil Mogg, Pete Way and Paul Raymond, UFO in 2005 is something of a spectacle once again, if even on a smaller stage. 

"Showtime," no matter which format you choose to peruse it, is a spiffy performance executed by masters of the game in a comfy forum that allows UFO to relax and savor the moment of being together onstage. Vinnie Moore is up to the challenge in his new post; more often than not he steals the show from the neo-hippie airs of Pete Way, while Paul Raymond accents with keyboards as needed, but is hardly overpowering. Jason Bonham is damn near his father incarnate; the style of drumming forging the legacy is that striking. He's the perfect fit for UFO as Phil Mogg, who is in rather good shape physically and vocally skulks around the stage delivering UFO standards like "Love to Love," "Too Hot to Handle," "Shoot Shoot," "Only You Can Rock Me" and "Doctor Doctor." 

Perhaps the biggest highlight on "Showtime" is the jam session during "Rock Bottom." As Pete Way lounges on his back onstage, casually plucking his bass, and Vinnie Moore submerges himself in his licks, you can spot Way, Raymond and Bonham staring in awe at their new comrade-in-arms. The apparent thought on their minds is, "Yeah, we can do this without Michael Schenker!" 

Yes, they can. While the majority of UFO fans have been drumming their fingernails in frustration over the in-out-in-out status of the illustrious Schenker, it's evident that this inception has stout energy within itself to do the UFO legacy justice. The fact they uplift their current "You Are Here" material in a live environment says plenty. "When Daylight Goes to Town," "Baby Blue" and "The Wild One" all shine within the archetype playlist comprising Showtime.

Showtime is for the old birds of heavy metal, but it also serves a blueprint for younger fans seeking out the history. If the latter case is you, have a go with "Showtime" and enter the halls of advanced metal knowledge. Once you hit "Lights Out," if it's your first exposure, you'll suddenly know what heavy metal is truly all about. I envy you.

For more information, check out http://www.ufo-music.info

"You Are Here" (SPV/Steamhammer; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"You Are Here" is a great big slab of classic hard rock that will thrill fans of UFO's earlier material but might not be fresh enough to garner the band any new fans. To those who love the classic sound, that's nothing but good news.

The fact that "You Are Here" is so strong might be surprising considering that, once again, the band's line-up has undergone a pretty big change since their last release. Gone are the legendary Michael Schenker on guitar and Anysley Dunbar on drums. Fear not, however. They have not been replaced by mere schlubs. Instead, the equally legendary Vinnie Moore has stepped into the guitar spot while the nearly as legendary Jason Bonham has taken the drum kit.

The result is a CD packed with solid rock'n'roll songs that fans of modern metal bands like Slipknot and Dimmu Borgir might find too slow and too simple, but whose classic sound and incredible musicianship will be just as irresistible to fans of the classic hard rock sound like The Scorpions, Whitesnake and, of course, MSG.

My only complaint about "You Are Here" is that there isn't a lot of variety in the songs herein. Then again, that might have more to do with the very unique voice of Phil Mogg than a lack of songwriting.

UFO: Phil Mogg - vocals; Vinnie Moore - guitar; Paul Raymond - keyboards; Pete Way - bass; Jason Bonham - drums.

For more information, check out http://www.ufo-music.info

"Sharks" (Shrapnel; 2002)

Reviewed by Shelly Harris

When the mighty '70s hard rock trailblazers, UFO, finally reunited with the magic creative core of Schenker/Mogg/Way in the mid-'90s (after a 15 year absence), they named that brilliant brainchild "Walk On Water."

Well, the title could not have been more apt, not only because of the quality of that particular recording (which exceeded even the loftiest expectations), but also because longtime UFO fans, fueled by unforgettable memories of that consummate "live" British rock band at its best, still literally worship UFO above and beyond all others. Indeed, after the ecstasy of being imprinted by the band's breathtaking performances and recordings throughout the '70s (which culminated with the utterly influential masterwork, "Strangers In The Night"), for UFO fans the many years of drought brought on by the early '80s exit of Michael Schenker and Pete Way, might have been likened to a 40 year sentence of wandering in the desert. Consequently, "Walk On Water" was also quite literally as satisfying as long-craved Manna from the Master(s), as was its 2000 follow-up, "Covenant."

And now, for their long-suffering but eternally loyal fans who have learned to resign themselves to the roller coaster ride of unconditionally loving a band that has been as mercurial and unpredictable as they are gifted, there's finally some much needed solace for UFO's lack of sustained touring: the band's newly released "Sharks," also featuring the Schenker/Mogg/Way lineup of yore. Thankfully, this Steve Fontano- (Grammy winner with Santana's "Supernatural") and Mike Varney-produced CD is indeed a hearty meal for the hungry and nearly starving. 

While it may not serve up the definitive, dynamic guitar god orgasms that characterized the band in its heyday incarnation (thanks in no small part to the exquisite and yet tortured musical genius of Michael Schenker), "Sharks" (yes, that's a metaphor for the predatory state of the music business) is a grand marriage of UFO's signature classic-rock melodicism and the contemporary emotion and minimalism of the post-grunge era. 

Indeed, while the incomparable Herr Schenker delivers up his usual strong and classically melodic songwriting sensibilities (albeit in compact doses) the fact that his fretwork on all of the songs is consciously restrained (even when the lead guitar breaks provide ample opportunity for his legendary and transcendental improvisations) actually brings many of UFO's other strengths into a clearer and more flattering focus. Amongst those latent strengths are Phil Mogg's clever lyricism and vocals, the latter surprisingly stronger than ever (see the standout "Serenity"), as he exhibits on "Sharks" the kind of full, deep, and throaty tone that, though patented in the '70s, went out of style in the '80s and then came back full force in the '90s a la Eddie Vedder, et. al. 

However, the most surprising and infectious assets of this album are the many blues and rhythm heavy numbers which are, ironically, more reminiscent of their contemporaries, AC/DC, than they are of vintage UFO. With no small thanks to the distinctive and prominent grooves of "wildman" bassist Pete Way, songs like "Fighting Man," "Someone's Gonna Have To Pay," "Perfect View," and "Outlaw Man" prove that the band remains a contending heavyweight with still-evolving modern sensibilities and an ever-present penchant for fearless, well-executed artistic experimentation. 

While this particular album may not be the best vehicle to illustrate to the new generation of retro rockers precisely just why UFO were (and still are) so beloved as hard rock royalty (it might take one of their legendary - but all too rare - live performances to really convince most of the next wave of up and coming guitar-rock connoisseurs of the heaven-on-earth charm, substance, and historical impact of UFO on the genre), "Sharks" is definitely a tasty and satisfying morsel for the already converted. 

UFO: Phil Mogg, vocals; Michael Schenker, lead and rhythm guitars; Pete Way, bass; Anysley Dunbar, drums.  

For more information, check out http://www.ufo-music.info

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2016 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 13 Mar 2016 12:33:34 -0500.