Strange but shockingly true. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the original sighting of British rock legends UFO. To mark the occasion they have released a new studio album, their twentieth, The Visitor.
They might be without bass player Pete Way, currently recovering from liver problems, but the rest of the line-up is more than familiar. Founder members singer Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker, and Paul Raymond on keys and guitar are joined again by American guitar ace Vinnie Moore. Vinnie joined UFO late in 2003 appearing on the albums You Are Here in 2004, and the 2006 The Monkey Puzzle.
Together they worked up thirty-five songs for the album. Eventually these were trimmed down to thirteen, ten of which finally appear on the album. One of the parameters the band set for the final selection was that the tracks had to work live. Anyone who has seen UFO over the years will know that they are like oxygen to a flame when it comes to that environment.
If anything this is an album that, despite the passage of time, actually moves the band forward. Pete Way’s absence on the album is sad, and we wish him well and hope to see him back soon, but perhaps, in the studio at least, it is only really noticeable to the die hard fans. This potentially huge gap is more than compensated for by the rest of the band who put in trademark quality, passion, and instinctive understanding.
Phil Mogg delivers a performance that is very nearly right up there with the Strangers In The Night era, and that’s saying something. Time seems to have also stood still for the rest of the band. From the opening of, “Saving Me” it is clear that riding this particular UFO is an experience worth getting worked up over. Vinnie Moore provides an injection of passion and serves up some superb solos along the way.
“Saving Me” is so good it actually leaves you wondering in the rest of the album just might fade away under its rather large shadow. Hell, no way (excuse the pun). They manage to serve up many more smouldering rock classics that deserve to radiate out from your hungry speakers.
“Stop Breaking Down”, “Stranger In Town”, and “Villains & Thieves” kill stone dead any fears you may have of a dip anywhere on this album. Despite understandably drawing at times on past glories The Visitor is an experience that is totally devoid of even a hint of tiredness anywhere within it. This is fresh, and alive, and adds another wedge of quality to the bands already huge legacy.
The footstomping “Hell Driver” will have you driving way too fast with your boot to the floor. Vinnie delivers time and again with just the right amount of firepower. His superb solo on this one being a great example. You really don’t want this track to fade out, and are left grateful that UFO have done anything but themselves.
When “Stop Breaking Down” powers in, with its faint shades of Lizzy, and Phil Mogg takes hold of the vocals it is clear that the collective enthusiasm, trademark energy, and legendary drive are all still very much alive. The excellent “Rock Ready” revisits the vibe of “Saving Me” with a smouldering southern feel that UFO carry more than convincingly.
A funky blues-rocking “Living Proof” and “Can’t Buy A Thrill” ensure a rock solid mid-section to the set. “Foresaken” slows it all down whilst showcasing Phil Mogg’s timeless vocals.
“Stranger In Town” is definitely one of those tracks that ‘just had to work live’. Well this one does, so much so, that I am left in eager anticipation of seeing them add it into their already bursting repertoire soon.
The Visitor (Steamhammer/SPV) is an album that keeps the name of UFO flying high. Okay, at times it leans back on the eighties but this is no mere nostalgia trip. It still moves the whole UFO juggernaught forward with an album that is all the richer for the maturity that it shows. It’s gritty, classy, classic rock and it just doesn’t miss a trick.
Catch up on the band, the album, and forthcoming live dates by calling on their official website.