Review by Rick Ossian
There are still those of us who believe that UFO have been robbed of their musical significance. Commercially, obviously, and financially for the most part (I’d be one of them – Ed). Ignored by the obvious, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and largely by the popular media (Rolling Stone) — if only these poor folks knew what they were missing. TRUE rock and roll fans will know something of the Schenker-era (Rock Bottom, Lights Out, etc.), and most will have heard all or part of the infamous live collection, Strangers In the Night. Those in the know will also have heard much, much more, from the sordid, spacey years (featuring pre-Schenker-era guitarist Mick Bolton) to the more recent years with guitar whiz Vinnie Moore (Don’t forget Paul “Tonka” Chapman and Laurence Archer! – Ed).
New member Rob de Luca (Sebastian Bach Band, Spread Eagle) on the bass seems to have added a good bit of bottom end. Though we miss Pete Way (of course), we wish him well and, hopefully, continued health. We may also miss Michael Schenker, obviously, because what would UFO’s history be without him? Probably the man who could best serve an answer to this question would be their current guitarist extraordinaire, Vinnie Moore (Vicious Rumours, Alice Cooper, Jordan Rudess). While listening to the constant fills (more like jabs/stabs/slashes) and wailing leads served up by Moore, one can’t help but wondering if Moore is a Schenker fan. You need wonder no longer. Moore is an obvious disciple of Schenker, and emulates him time after time. That being said, he also has his own riffs, his own licks, his own Iommi-sized bag, if you will. He has an amazing repertoire, and is able to conjure the most bluesy, brilliant swipes in every tune on this collection.
On first listen to this latest selection, it is fair to say that UFO operate as if they have never missed a beat. On their last outing, 2012’s Seven Deadly, there was a certain urgency, as if they had something to prove to their legions of fans around the world. This time out, there is a swagger — something they’ve no doubt had all along — which comes to the fore in, again, practically every song here. The only problem here is yours truly is biased. I have always loved UFO. I’ve been a HUGE fan ever since I was a child in junior high school. The ‘proof in the pudding’, as they say, is when an outsider – a nube, as it were – considers the music listenable, at the very least. The mere fact that my wife did NOT request a reduction in volume whilst listening in the background tells me that I may be on to something. Let’s take a look at the tunes, then, shall we?
From the beautifully able rhythm pocket and killer riffing of Run Boy Run to the travelling country rock blues of Ballad of the Left Hand Gun to the Heavy Metal positively possessed blues of Devils in the Detail, there are so many pieces to be petitioned. Opener The Killing Kind is a perfect example, featuring an excellent guitar solo to close out what could clearly have been a throwaway had Mr. Moore not had his say. Vinnie appears to be the hero of the day here, doing the lion’s share of the writing as well as the guitar heroics.
Run Boy Run has the edge, the guitars, the ‘jingle jangle’. Ballad has the balls, the swagger of the UFO halcyon days of yore. Sugar Cane, a monster six-minute-plus Blues, has the instrumental interplay. Devils in the Detail has Phil Mogg at his positively powerful vocal best. Precious Cargo features some really cool keys in the background, provided by none other than stalwart UFO vet Paul Raymond (Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack) – who also plays a wicked rhythm guitar, by the way. The Real Deal features a solid drum intro by none other than the other remaining vet, Mr. Andy Parker. Messiah of Love finds Parker pretty busy, as does Rollin’ Rollin’, particularly during the instrumental breakdown.
An additional track at the end would feature normally into a UFO recording, but just when you think it would be a throwaway, check it out – King of the Hill has its own rolling boogie, a mix of heavy metal and blues, as its contenders show. There are growling guitars and one hell of a beat. There is even a bit of shred towards the end. Anyone who might think UFO are beaten, whooped, down and out – think again. They are as alive and breathing and as healthy as any band I’ve heard in years!