Review by Rick Ossian
Save for sorting out the personnel, I’m sure this will be a labour of love. I say this having been a UFO fan since I was just a fraction of the man I am now, ever since I was in high school! My first taste was, as it was for most folks my age, the halcyon days of Michael Schenker-era fodder such as Lights Out, Obsession, and the monster double-live Strangers In the Night. This, the band’s twentieth release, finds the errant Pete Way nowhere in sight. But then, to be fair, he was diagnosed with a medical condition last year. Phil Mogg, vocalist, remains the lynchpin in this outfit, having been the only original member to be on board since the beginning. Granted, Andy Parker (drummer) and Paul Raymond (rhythm guitar, keys) have been key members since the early days. In fact, Parker was there in the beginning with Mogg. Raymond came on board later, featuring on the Schenker slabs and beyond. And, while he is no Michael Schenker (and to be fair, who is except Mike?), Vinnie Moore does himself right proud again here. Barry Sparks was the last bass player listed, and has been on board in one way or another since 2004. There may be some confusion here, as Peter Pichl was listed as bassist on 2009’s The Visitor, and Way was not credited on the album, nor was any bass player. Sparks worked with them on their 2011 tour.
There are some really stand-out, punchy numbers here, and a couple of longer, more ballad-like pieces. Angel Station, for example, is an epic six-and-a-half minute tune featuring strings and a phase-shifted guitar-strumming introduction. This track is considerably mellower than the rest of the fare on offer here. I hate to say it, but the majority of the tracks are pretty much standard UFO stuff. Not that that is in any way a bad thing, especially if you’re a UFO fan! Wonderland, which, as near as I can figure, is about Mogg ‘wanting to be a monkey’, and/or ‘coming from a monkey’. Dodgy lyrics notwithstanding, there is a very slinky riff and a tasty solo from Vinnie! Mojo Town, on the other hand, is a bluesy stomper. Fans of the ‘old’ UFO will grow to love this one. Ditto The Last Stone Rider, which features a classic ‘hero mode’ UFO narrative and a rumbling rock riff underneath.
Year of the Gun and Fight Night are more traditional UFO fare as well, both tight tunes, the former almost set to a Maiden-esque gallop. Year… also features another tasty solo from Vinnie about 3 minutes in. Steal Yourself also includes some stand-out guitar work. Vinnie’s leads just keep getting better and better. His tone even emulates Schenker’s here – long time fans, again, will most likely take notice. I’ve spoken of being transported back to the 70’s before. You, dear reader, will feel it as well. Trust me on this. Burn Your House Down is another clear example of Mogg’s vocals being intact throughout. He has a power that belies his age and undoubted misadventures! Check out the lines in the chorus (I will burn your house down/Sit right here and watch you drown) I would question the doo-woppy background vocals here, though. Maybe it’s just me, but they seem a bit out of place amongst an otherwise powerful number. Again, at the three-minute mark, Vinnie tears into another melodic, precise, searing solo – probably one of the better ones on the whole collection.
The Fear is a thumping, harmonica-infused bluesy stomper. This is, in my opinion, probably one of the better numbers, but then I may be just another nostalgic old geezer who yearns for when this band harkens back to their old influences. This one takes me back to the Phenomenon LP, when producer Leo Lyons (of Ten Years After fame) suggested the old Howlin’ Wolf tune, Built For Comfort. Yes, it’s that bluesy! ‘A crooked house/a crooked bed/Mystical people/In my head’ indicates that Mogg is indeed feeling the fear. But ‘gimme a beer now’? Sometimes I wonder if Phil just ran out of lyrics…
Waving Goodbye is a good closer, with another of Vinnie’s searing leads providing the intro. I’m not sure whether or not another mellow number to end the collection is a really good way to go, but then to be fair it does have a little bite to it. For some reason the female singing with Mogg here seems out of place. She is on another track earlier in the fray also. It just seems that a more powerful closer would have sealed the deal, so to speak. Vinnie’s intro solo is repeated, with a little added zeal, about half way in. I’m really starting to enjoy this man’s work, and as I mentioned before, his licks just keep getting tastier!