Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mogg/Way – Chocolate Box

In 1999, with a decade, a century, and a millenium drawing to an end, veteran rockers Phil Mogg and Pete Way released this album, their second under the Mogg/Way moniker. If you follow along with classic rock, these names might be familiar to you as members and founders of the mighty UFO. With turmoil swirling around their main gig, including the possibility of not being able to use the band name that they created, they pulled together a lineup including long time UFO mate Paul Raymond, along with Jeff Kollman on lead guitar and Simon Wright on drums, and created this lost jewel of an album.

I have been a fan of Phil Mogg as a vocalist and lyricist for as long as I can remember hearing UFO's songs. He has a distinctive voice that is instantly recognizable, and he has a way with lyrics and phrasing that really set him apart. His songs are not always about fast cars, faster women, and wild parties, and the way he uses words is very unique. The lyrics he writes are not always straightforward stories, and he will use a word or a phrase that, on the surface, may not seem to fit or even make sense if you simply look at them as words on a page, yet his lyrics have a feel to them that evokes something within the listener and draws one into the mood he is setting. He is definitely a lyricist that I really appreciate.

Then there's Pete Way, a man who certainly lived his rock n roll life to the fullest. He freely admits, in his memoirs, that he indulged in every bit of the rock star lifestyle, including imbibing and ingesting whatever was put in front of him. He is a great “feel” bass player. He's not a technical player, but he's always right there with a solid bass line, and as with many musicians like him, you realize that he's a lot better than you think when you try to play as he does. He's also a very good songwriter.

It should come as no surprise, then, that there are some fantastic songs on this album and some very good songs, but no duds at all. If you are looking for UFO by another name, you probably won't find that, but this is a fine specimen of straight ahead rock. The first three songs on the album, “Muddy's Gold”, “Jerusalem”, and “Too Close To The Sun”, stand up to anything these guys did with their main band. “Too Close To The Sun”, especially, is a great example of Phil Mogg's way with words. I love the lyrics to this one. “Muddy's Gold” leaps out of the starting blocks with a driving beat and some really nice guitar playing.

The band is very tight throughout the album and it is definitely the work of professionals who take pride in their craft. Although it may seem like a contradiction to that last sentence, there is also just the right amount of looseness in their playing as well. They leave enough space for the songs to breathe and be what they want to be. My only small quibble with the album is the guitar leads tend to spiral off into directions that don't always fit the songs in the best way, but Mr. Kollman is certainly an impressive player and I'm sure in the intervening years he has learned to make things fit.

If you are a fan of UFO, this one should most certainly be in your collection, but even if you were never really impressed by that band, you should give these guys, and this release a shot. There is always room in my collection for another good rock album and this one fills the bill in a big way.


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