Friday, May 13, 2011

UFO - The Visitor

Anyone who has ever loved the sound of a crushing electric riff, a perfect melody, a rousing chorus, rough-hewn, soulful vocals, or a guitar solo so freaking fast and dynamic that it makes your eyeballs water, needs no introduction to UFO. After 40 years in the business, these crazy brits have earned their place in the honored halls of rock and roll, both for their music and their mad antics. So let's cut to the chase shall we.

The Visitor is, without a doubt, the best UFO album since the band reformed with Vinnie Moore for You Are Here, which was the best UFO album since the short-lived Schenker reunion Walk On Water, which in turn was the best UFO album since the vastly under-rated Paul "Tonka" Chapman days. You want it shorter than that? The Visitor is one great rock and roll record, and it deserves to climb right up there near the top of UFO's vast cannon of great albums. No matter how you cut it, this is the comeback, classic rock album of year.

Yep, that's saying something.

I've read in a few sites about the staggering return of "Black Sabbath," with the new Heaven and Hell album, sounding old and tired, berefit of ideas or enough muscle to power the chops they did muster. There's none of that here. Reinvigorated since the joining of Moore, UFO sound positively re-energized here, like they've somehow unlocked the code and opened the fricking rock-and-roll fountain of youth. Bustling with energy, punch, and verve. Ready to rock the shit outta you or kick your face in. You choose which.

The jump in adrenaline is evident from the very first track. "Saving Me," kicks off with some beautifully played, loose-strung swampy blues acoustic guitar, mining the same bluesy rock vibe that UFO have explored so successfully in the past on songs like "Train Train," or more recently on both of the Mogg/Way albums. Think of this song following in the same vein, and from there I promise you, I will make no more references to UFO songs of the past. It's the easiest thing to do, refer back to some song on Lights Out or Obsession for reference, but the truth is, this album is so strong it should be the point of reference for future albums. Mogg's voice layers on top of the guitar at around the 30 second mark, sounding more textured, more soulful, more plaintive than in recent memory, and when the band kicks in about one minute in. . . there's hell to pay. This is full-on charging UFO, crushing riffs held together tightly by an instantly catchy melody, all leading up to that chorus that will just lift you right outta your chair and in this case, thank God for salvation.

Moore's guitar work is dead on, instantly making you forget old "what's-his-name" who used to supply the guitar chops. Moore is a shredder in the best sense of the word, and most importantly, fully adept at melody. When he wants to bust out, he can wail into a jaw dropping solo, notes flying faster than spit flying from an auction barker's mouth. Then he can drop into a perfect acoustic passage, shoot off some harmonics or crush your cerebellum with the strength of his riffs. Moore's tone isn't so much reminiscent of Schenker as it is more indicative of the classic UFO sound, and yes, the band has been around long enough to declare that they have a sound all their own. God bless em.

UFO without Schenker was always a dicey affair (except for the previously mentioned Chapman years) because Mogg needs that guitar energy to set his songs ablaze. At the same time, Schenker showed us with his solo career that he needed Mogg's sense of craft and melody to create a memorable tune. It was that combative chemistry that always fueled the band's best work, and with Moore in place, Mogg seems once and for all to have found that perfect foil. Power and melody. Sizzling chops and structure. Perfect. Absolutely fucking perfect.

"On the Waterfront," cruises out with a mid-tempo modified blues riff with a mid-section and chorus of shear perfection. Easily on par with the best of their melodic material. Then, lest you think the boys are getting soft in their later years, "Hell Driver," tears out as fierce and mean as they've been in years. Play this one live and it woulda fit comfortably on their classic Strangers in the Night. Mogg sounds great, reminding us once and for all that he's always been one of rock's most unheralded vocalists. Moore's tone is dead-on, and I'll tell you, the return of "no neck" Andy Parker on the drums seems to be the final ingredient necessary to drive these chaps over the top. The only ingredient missing was the presence of legendary bass player, Pete Way, who had to miss the recording as he's battling liver disease. Pete, our prayers are with you, brother!

"Stop Breaking Down," follows next, absolutely classic UFO. Big chords start it off amongst the pounding of Parker's drums, slight technical flourishes embellishing the end, then the whole thing explodes into a melodic guitar solo intro that could make a grown man cry. Paul Raymond's work, always the glue that held the band together, fills in here, leading the track into perfect hard rock territory. Melodic rock for the ages, by one of the bands to first create the genre. Power and beauty all wrapped up into one track. A future classic UFO song, one that our children will one day ask us if we remember it when it first came out. "Rock Ready," jumps right back into the Mississippi swamp, while "Living Proof," nails a down-and-dirty mutated, menacing blues number. Another standout track, Mogg sounds positively charged here.

And the album continues from there all the way to "Stranger in Town," a terrorizer of a closer, sounding mean and pissed and ready to knock your teeth in. Moore comes up with a closed-fist attack of a riff, the band is tight as the glue holding Donald Trumps toupee in place, and Mogg proves once and for all that he's lost none of his fight or passion. Another brand new, fresh burst of classic UFO. Building upon their past, not revisiting it.

For all those naysayers out there who claim that UFO haven't unleashed a great album since Walk On Water, open your ears. There's some serious rock and roll happening on the UFO mothership, and fortunately for us, the boys are bringing it right on down to this planet.

Misty green and blue forever.

--Racer

Buy here: The Visitor


More good new. UFO are going to tour supporting the new album, and I'll be there. Just check out the dates below. If you want to find me, I'll be the one pressed up against the stage at the Independent in San Francisco, begging for a chance to go back and interview the band for a Ripple feature. If you are a fan of the classic UFO, or just a fan of dynamite hard rock, you won't want to miss this one either. I'll see you there.

UFO Tour Dates:

10/02/2009 Jaxx - Springfield, VA
10/03/2009 Tangiers - Akron, OH
10/07/2009 The Rex - Pittsburgh, PA
10/08/2009 The Chance - Poughkeepsie, NY
10/09/2009 Starland Ballroom - Sayreville, NJ
10/10/2009 BB Kings - New York, NY
10/15/2009 Ameristar Casino - St. Charles, MO
10/16/2009 House Of Blues - Chicago, IL
10/17/2009 Medina Ballroom - Hamel, MN
10/21/2009 The Catalyst - Santa Cruz, CA
10/22/2009 The Brixton - Redondo Beach, CA
10/23/2009 The Coach House - San Juan Capistrano, CA
10/24/2009 Boulder Station Casino - Las Vegas, NV

10/25/2009 Majestic Ventura Theater - Ventura, CA
10/27/2009 Key Club - West Hollywood, CA
10/28/2009 The Fat Cat - Modesto, CA
10/29/2009 Aladdin Theatre - Portland, OR
10/30/2009 Neumos - Seattle, WA

11/01/2009 The Independent - San Francisco, CA

19 comments:

Woody said...

I have to check this out. I saw UFO a few years ago and they were great, but the new songs weren't so hot.

Andy Parker is a terribly underrated drummer. Obsession has one of the best drum sounds on record.

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Get out! I am so excited. Always loved those crazy Brits and they will be here in my area in Oct. Why don't you guys go with me????? (or at least send your wives, they are probably more fun to hang with...no offense and just kidding)

I missed the show again! I am just not with it. I feel terrible

Anonymous said...

I hope this one is better than the last two albums. The last real good classic UFO record was with Michael Schenker: Walk on water.
The real classics are from Schenker/ Mogg.
Strangers in the night will always be the best live album ever.

Metal Mark said...

I have made it througha few songs so far and like what I have heard so far.

Nightwatcher said...

Great review. I'd have to agree. Although different, this is the best album the band has put out since 'Walk On Water' in my opinion. Great songs, classy musicianship and a consistency which hasn't been in evidence in some time. Don't go in expecting another 'Obsession', 'Phenomenon' or 'Lights Out' because this is not that band.

However, if you love bluesy hard rock with tons of class to spare, I strongly recommend this one. I've been listening to this one for a couple of weeks start to finish and I've yet to tire of it, which is the trademark of a fine album in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

If you did not like U R here and Monkey albums, you will not like this one either. There are few moments you may like - Andy's drumming, guitar solos as close as possible to MS style, rich sound of the record.... Bluesy? Yes. Anything else? No.

The RIpple Effect said...

See there, anonymous, is where I have to disagree with you (as do most of the reviewers). Fans who refuse to accept UFO without Schenker may agree, but MS isn't with the band anymore, and quite honestly, his last effort with them, Sharks, was not good.

Vinnie Moore doesn't need his solos to be like MS. He needs to sound like Vinnie Moore. As Nightwatcher said, they are a different band now. Fans who only want the old UFO sound may be disappointed. This album can't be compared to Strangers or Light Out. It's a different band. Fans of good, melodic, blues-tinged rock with a foundation in the classic UFO vibe, will find lots to love here.

Anonymous said...

My favorite is and always been Phil not Michael. I have all albums Moggy made alone with other guys. I LOVE his bluesy MELODIC songs (Death in the family, Sparkling wine, Dancing with St.Peter etc.) Such songs are bluesy too and WITH BALLS. Last UFO album seems to me to be done with lack of composing invention, such important for Moggy's brilliant voice. I am 100% sure The Visitor will find its idolaters but true UFO fans will have to wait till next album with hope in their ageing hearts.

The RIpple Effect said...

Anonymous,

Again, I hear where you're coming from, and won't deny that the original classic UFO albums are all-time greats. But as far as "true UFO" fans having to wait . . . well, I have every album UFO have ever done, pre- and post- Schenker, plus about 30 classic UFO bootlegs, live VHS and DVD's, both Moog/Way albums, Chapman's solo stuff and even Way's solo stuff, so as far as being a "true" UFO fan, well, you'll have to go a long way to beat me. But my point is, if you're expecting the band to sound the same as they did in 1977, then you will be disappointed. They aren't the same band. But that doesn't mean that there isn't terrific music being made. So true UFO fans don't have to wait at all to find great music. It's here.

By the way, have you heard The Visitor? I agree that Monkey Box was rather flat, but The Visitor is a definitely listenable album.

Anonymous said...

This band have a 40 year history. The constants have been great toe-tapping and emotive rock, and GREAT guitar players to be the perfect foil to Moggy.

Why are people still harping on about who was best on the guitar. Schenker is gone. Chapman ditto.. In the case of MS..yeah, they mad ea great record in WOW. But post that, he was hell-bent on destroying the legacy. He's gone and UFO are better for that.

Sharks and Covenant were ATROCIOUS records. YAH and TMP much better. This new record is arguably the best thing since WOW. It just needs a few spins and it hits home in some style.

Lose the bias, forget the "what if MS was still in the band" and open the ears and enjoy. You may just miss this band in their twilight years kicking some serious butt UFO 09 style.

Fabulous record.

The RIpple Effect said...

Beautifully said, anon. Music to my ears.

Dozo said...

Been following this heroic band since 1978... Just got the album today and sounds pretty good on 1st listen, far superior to Monkey Puzzle. I will be making an 8000 mile round trip to see the guys at Glasgow and Newcastle... well worth it!!

Rhodeislandrock said...

This is probably one of the best albums of the year and I'm not just saying that because UFO is one of my favorite bands! UFO has really put out some great material since WALK ON WATER in '95 and the albums with Vinnie Moore have been outstanding. I like the bluesier sound with that southern rock thing going through as well. Phil Mogg is one of the most underrated vocalists in Rock and Vinnie Moore sounds really good on this album.

Steve
Heavy Metal Addiction

Anonymous said...

Just simply said - one of the most kick ass CD's I have listened to in a long time - I hope UFO gets a lot of kudos in the form of air time and continued deserved recognition. Looking forward to seeing them when they come to So Cal. I saw them last in '76 and would have never thought this band is as vibrant and rocking as they are today!

Mark Reep said...

Great review, great blog. Longtime Vinnie fan, been meaning for awhile to check out his work with UFO- After an initial listen, TV seems a great place to start. Not the UFO I remember from the Doctor Doctor days, but as Nightwatcher said, classy bluesy hard rock. I'd forgotten how great a singer and lyricist
Mogg is. Favorite track so far: Can't Buy A Thrill.

Vinnie Moore interviewed on Classic Rock Revisited: http://www.classicrockrevisited.com/interviewvinniemore.htm

Welshman said...

Been a fan since late 70's.In recent times loved YAH but not TMP.This one seems really good,perhaps a little too bluesy in parts but there are some great tracks on here.Can't buy a thrill brings a tear to my eye..bless Pete I think Phils singing about him.
Going to see them in Bristol this weekend.Just a great,if criminally under-rated band...GAWD BLESS UFO!!

Rob said...

You left out Milwaukee/Shank Hall on 10/4. I'll be there. Do you have the song lineup for the show?

Anonymous said...

I saw UFO last year on the last show of the tour. AWESOME SHOW! See em if you can. The band just rocked!

Ryan Gavalier said...

I love this album. Vinnie helped the band so much, because he put the perfect melodies into the band that they really needed at the time. He is brilliant, and s is this album.

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