UFO “The Visitor”
You wonder if an old warhorse like UFO has one more great album in them when a new record is announced. After nearly 40 years and this their 20th release they have answered that question with an emphatic nod of the head. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess to being a long time fan of the band, who had about given up on the last reunion with Michael Schenker after several mediocre/uninspired albums. The union in 2002, with another favorite of mine Vinnie Moore, had me excited again as I knew of Vinnie’s prowess on guitar, but most of all his gift for writing great music. Thankfully, he didn’t let me down or prove me wrong! This, the second studio and third album with Moore, is by far the best of the collaboration. In fact, this is the best album the band has recorded since the iconic release “Walk On Water” in 1995, which might have been the best album Michael Schenker and Phil Mogg wrote and performed together. Sadly it all went down hill after that, until Mr. Moore showed up at their door with a shot of enthusiasm and a whole lot to mojo to offer.
This album adds a twist, in that the band have decided to take a turn in direction that sees their classic sound fused with a blues drenched swampy feel on much of the album. From the dobro intro on the opening song “Saving Me” you know you are in for a treat with blues drench guitars, growling guitars and Phil Mogg singing some of the best songs he has written in quite sometime. The standouts to me are “Saving Me”, Hell Driver”, “Stop Breaking Down” and “Villains & Thieves”. The latter an “anthem” that UFO fans will demand and sing along with when the band is playing live. Truth be known, there is not really a bad song on this album and the flow of the record is just about perfect. The only thing missing is the attitude and persona of founding member/bassist Pete Way the heart and the soul of the band due to a serious illness. The band makes up for his absence in a big way and I think he is smiling somewhere with approval. Bands of the caliber of UFO, often get in a rut after so many years and find it easy to stick to a formula instead of trying something new and fresh. Thus, it is indeed a pleasure to a hear a band with so much behind them, step up to the plate and make an album with this much passion and soul. Not everyone in the fan base will like the blues drenched overtones of this record, but as can be seen by scouring the internet, for other reviews of this record, for the most part it has been very. favorably received. That in itself, shows that people are willing to listen to and take to heart a work of art that is that the level this one is.
Finally, hopefully, we can put to rest the diehards who believe this band died with the departure of the iconic Schenker. Vinnie Moore is a gifted guitarist of the highest caliber, whose instrumental prowess/song writing has helped transform, add life and move this band ahead with a vigor seldom seen in such an old warhorse. Bottom line, is if you don’t buy too many albums this year, this is one you need to own. You’ll find your self listening to on your CD player, in your car and on your IPod and songs like “Villains & Thieves” will be firmly stuck in your head as you sing them while taking a shower in the morning or driving to work. That is what a great piece of art should be about and in that sense UFO has succeeded in a big way.
"Bo Pelini is a Nebraska Man" Collins Okafor