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July 2009 - 'The Visitor' album review

UFO - The Visitor (SPV Records)

By: Justin Donnelly

[9.5/10] As hard as it is to believe, legendary British hard rock outfit UFO celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, and tying in nicely with the celebration is the release of their 20th studio effort The Visitor.

Despite bassist Pete Way being sidelined with a liver condition (ex-Running Wild/Herman Frank bassist Peter Pichl helped out on recording in his place), UFO (who also consist of vocalist Phil Mogg, guitarist Vinnie Moore, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Paul Raymond and drummer Andy Parker) show absolutely no signs of slowing down or fading away in a hurry on their latest release.

Although having already contributed to UFO’s last couple of releases (2004’s You Are Here and 2006’s The Monkey Puzzle), Moore’s presence throughout The Visitor is undeniably evident. But while the classic hard rock sound of UFO remains intact, it’s clear that UFO have reconnected with their early blues influences a little more than they have done in the recent past, and it’s more than helped keep the band alive and kicking.

Opening with some deep south-like slide guitar work and banjo, “Saving Me” eventually morphs into an outright rocker with Moore providing plenty of heavy guitars to match Mogg’s weathered snarling voice. Moore’s shredding solo helps add a classy touch to the tune, and sounds more in line with UFO’s sound than anything recorded by the guitarist in the past.

Not to be outdone, both “Hell Driver” and “Can’t Buy A Thrill” are ballsy rockers that have just the right amount of guitar from Moore without going over the top, while the organ enhanced “Villains & Thieves,” the full-on rocker “Stranger In Town,” the darker tones of the sleek mid-paced “Living Proof” and emotional “Stop Breaking Down” have an elder statesman feel to them, not to mention also having a classic vibe about them.

As mentioned earlier, there’s also a bit of a blues influence heard dotted throughout the album as well, with “On The Waterfront”, the retro “Rock Ready,” which features some fantastic slide work from Moore, and the ballad “Forsaken” featuring a variety of Moore’s talents behind the six strings.

Some diehard fans may still be somewhat sceptical of UFO albums without Michael Schenker behind the guitar, but it has to be said that Moore has well and truly proved himself on this new release.

Even though UFO’s last couple of studio efforts have been strong releases, it’s The Visitor that proves to be best album that the current line-up of the band have produced to date, and an album that easily slots in beside some of the classics the band have produced throughout their lengthy career.

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