Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rock Faithful Sure To Give UFO's 'The Visitor' A Warm Welcome

The Visitor

Review by Nightwatcher

On their 20th studio album 'The Visitor' - the third with American world class guitarist Vinnie Moore, English hard rock legends UFO have gone deeper into their blues rock roots while still managing to sound classic and vital. Proving that after 40 years as a band these rock veterans still have what it takes in terms of musicianship, song craft and melodies to please the hard rock faithful.

From the lead off track, the swampy blues inflected "Saving Me", which opens with gritty slide guitar, to the anthemic "Stop Breaking Down" on which crushing power chords give way to a commercial leaning yet infectious chorus, suddenly exploding with an amazing, vintage sounding Moore solo, the guitarist passes with flying colors and then some. Reminiscent in tone and phrasing of Uli Jon Roth, reminding that they haven't forgotten from whence they came, this is one of many memorable moments, guitar -wise throughout. From blues to heavy rock to funk (more about that later), if you've ever had doubts about him fitting into the band, it's time to lay those to rest.

While there's plenty of potent blues rock contained here, there's still room to stretch those boundaries, such as on the swinging, funk (Yes, funk on a UFO album!) informed "Living Proof" with Moore once again shining, throwing out hard edged Albert King styled licks, showing they're not afraid of thinking outside the box even after all these years. Phil Mogg (Tabbed recently as # 28 on Classic Rock Magazine's '50 Greatest Singers In Rock' list) seemingly has found the fountain of youth, vocally speaking - even at age 60 the man can sing rings around the vast portion of the competition effortlessly. Founding drummer Andy Parker and long serving keyboardist Paul Raymond underpin the surroundings with style and power, and are both integral cogs in the wheels of the success of this album. Other highlights to be found include the moody drugs and booze fable "Can't Buy A Thrill", the hard rocking "Rock Ready" and the riff rocker which ends the album "Stranger In Town".

While in spirit the band may be missing founding bassist Pete Way, currently battling liver disease and unable to record or tour, the remaining foursome have battened down the hatches in the storm and come up with an offering arguably their best since 1995's 'Strangers In The Night' lineup reunion disc with Michael Schenker, 'Walk On Water'.

Although not quite to that level, more bluesy and organic, with less of the Euro hard rock stylings which were a hallmark of that era and earlier, ultimately by forging a different sound which still strikes familiar they sound revitalized and self assured. By paring down in a selective process from a reported 35 compositions to a streamlined 11 which appear on the final issue, separating the wheat from the chaff, these time worn rockers have beaten the odds, coming up with a minor classic. One which Mogg, Parker, Raymond and Moore have every reason to be proud of.

Compared to the majority of their contemporaries, one would be hard pressed to find any, with the exception of Heaven & Hell or perhaps AC/DC who are capable of producing contemporary original material in the classic heavy rock genre which isn't a pale imitation of years past. While the aforementioned Ronnie James Dio led Sabbath reunion is getting all the attention as of now, this is equally as good, albeit in a different vein.

Unless one is a die hard Michael Schenker fan who still can't fathom the idea of UFO without the mercurial guitarist, give this one a few spins and you'll find a wealth of strong material to be had here. The combination of Moore and the rest of the musicians have gelled in a way they haven't before, and it makes one look forward to hearing these songs in a live setting. Don't go into this expecting another ''Obsession', 'Force It' or 'Lights Out' as this isn't that band. However, based on the evidence here, this is a solid welcome return to form which bears up extremely well across repeated listening. The bottom line is, if classy hard rock with a bluesy bent is your forte, this one's a winner, and if you haven't had a listen to the band in some time, this would be a mighty fine place to start again. 8.5/10


The Ripple Effect said...

Right on, Watcher. Right on!

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