Wednesday, May 6, 2009
UFO - The Visitor
One of my anticipated releases so far for 2009 has been the arrival of UFO's new release THE VISITOR. The reason why I always look forward to a new UFO release is the fact that, with each new release, you get a different "flavor"or style of rock and roll....music that may tilt a little lighter or a little heavier...while still rotating around that trademark UFO sound. Sometimes the songs go down well and sometimes they don't. When you look back at a bands career, you find some releases that may have sucked bad as a whole, but you may have gotten one or two good songs out of the release. That style represented, as a whole, on THE VISITOR is a mid-tempo, bluesy (on the heavy side) style of rock.....no really fast, hard rocking songs stand out such as "Lights Out" or more recently "Fighting Man" off of SHARKS. But, on the other side....it's not heavy on the slow songs either. There's no slow emotionless songs that have been placed on here just for the sake of "Let's put a ballad on THE VISITOR and let's see if it sticks." Mid tempo blues based songs are the overall flavor of THE VISITOR. A more in depth track by track review is in order here. Let's take a look....
1. Saving Me - A twangy guitar intro (which reminds me a lot of the tv show My Name Is Earl theme) gives way to a mid tempo rhythm that sways in and out of head bobbing mode. The punch of the guitar chords is the backbone of the verses. Singer Phil Mogg comes in and immediately lays his stamp on the song - drawling out the lyrics showing he's still at the top of his game.
2. On The Waterfront - A swaying blue based based mid tempo song oozing with smokey lyrics that stand out. Guitarist Vinnie Moore noodles out some tasteful melodies and not overplaying it. Paul Raymond's keyboard playing (almost sounds like he's playing a Hammond organ) compliments and rounds out the sound of the rest of the instruments.
3. Hell Driver - Here's an up tempo rawker. Nice heavy guitar driven rhythm and blues barn burner cooked up just right. By barn burner I mean heavy on the power side of things - somewhat in the style of "When Daylight Goes To Town" off of YOU ARE HERE. The hard hitting drum beat serves as the backbone of the song.
4. Stop Breaking Down - Nice melodic song with Vinnie Moore and Phil Mogg leaving their mark all over this mid tempo shuffle.
5. Rock Ready - The twangy guitar intro returns again...this time more up tempo (and the intro still sounds like the My Name Is Earl theme - just like the intro to "Saving Me"...just a little bit faster). Real heavy blues sound on the guitar work...maybe some slide work going on? Not sure...but it sounds like it. After the intro, the song kicks into what I would call a foot stompin' blues based boogie shuffle of a song. Good stuff.
6. Living Proof - A moody swampy bluesy middle of the road song. Absolutely awesome guitar solo. I don't know how I like Phil's vocal delivery on parts of the song....it's almost if he's speaking as if he's telling you a secret...especially on the parts where he is singing/speaking the "Shake..Shake..Shake" lines. However his trademark lyrical style is stamped all over the song - envision his smirking smile wiped all over his face while delivering thought invoking lyrics to please your ears. I think I need to let this song sink in a little deeper.
7. Can't Buy A Thrill - A little slower paced melodic song. Not ballad slow though. Kind of a song to listen to while chilling out. It won't raise the blood pressure, but might get you tapping a finger or two.
8. Forsaken - Don't care for this song. A slow song. Being a guitar fan and a fan of the almighty guitar solo...I like the guitar solo and that's about it unfortunately. Nothing else about the song seems to work for me...a lot of loose ends that don't seem to fit anywhere for my ears.
9. Villians & Thieves - Here we go. A heavy chugging guitar accompanied by classic Phil lyrics and vocals drives the song home. Paul Raymond stamps his keyboard playing on the song as well - however not getting carried away with it. Just enough to throw in a little piano boogie here and there to keep things interesting.
10. Stranger in Town - Nice heavy punching guitar riff work from Vinnie Moore. Mid tempo song packed with power. Nice way to close out the disc.
One thing that really stands out as missing on THE VISITOR is Pete Way's bass playing. He wasn't available for the recording and his simple style of playing is somewhat missed. He's got that "Added X" ingredient and he tends to bring the heavier/punchy/punkier/faster type songs to the UFO table. So his absence is definately felt here and his usual 2 or 3 heavier songs are missing from the UFO formula. That doesn't mean the songs are bad here...just missing that rocking Pete Way imprint.
On the positve side of things...Vinnie Moore's playing is incredible. Vinnie sounds like he was the driving force and the fuel that brought the THE VISITOR to life. His presence is really felt across the board on all the songs. I like the blues and songs rooted in the blues, so I like what he brought to the table on this release. Good stuff! You may have noticed I used the words blues and boogie a number of times. That's because that's the dominant overall feel here. He really nails down some great guitar work all over the release.
I haven't really mentioned Andy Parker's drumming. He pretty much keeps it simple, doesn't do anything flashy or over the top and keeps his playing "in the pocket." His drums sound a little low in the mix to me in some places, but that's the only negative thing that can be said about the drums. I think if they brought the levels up in some places it could have really changed the overall dynamic or feeling of some parts of the songs.
What can be said about Phil Mogg? He's one of my favorite lyricists and vocalists of all time. I love how he throws some lyrics together that sometimes don't make sense, but when taken within the context of the song, they just sound like the words belong there. He doesn't disappoint here. Sometimes leaving you going "Huh?" but at the same time your head keeps bobbing and your foot keeps tapping so who cares what he's talking about? Right? It works and it sounds good. So that's fine with me.
Of the 3 releases since Vinnie Moore boarded the UFO mothership, I would sandwich this one between YOU ARE HERE and THE MONKEY PUZZLE, with THE VISITOR giving YOU ARE HERE a run for it's money. Not one of their best efforts, but on the flip side nowhere near one of their worst either. If you like mid tempo songs...heavy on the blues, you will like this. If you're looking for heavy Michael Schenker speeding guitar rhythms that are going to peel the paint off the walls, then dig into the UFO back catalog.
Fans of melodic, blues based, mid tempo melodic rock will like this. UFO fans will definatley want to add it to your collection. It may take a few listen throughs for it to grow on you. But, I think you will like most of these tracks. Overall, I think THE VISITOR is a pretty solid release. I would rate it somewhere in the neighboorhood of a 7 or 8 on a scale of 10. For a letter grade I would give it a B.
For more information check out www.spv.de You can check out some clips of all the tracks on the UFO page there. Also check out UFO's website at www.ufo-music.info