UFO – The Visitor (2009, SPV)
- Saving Me
- On The Waterfront
- Hell Driver
- Stop Breaking Down
- Rock Ready
- Living Proof
- Can’t Buy A Thrill
- Villains & Thieves
- Stranger In Town
(NOTE — The Japanese and European pressings have a re-recorded bonus track ‘Dancing With St. Peter’, a song that was originally released on Phil Mogg’s side project $ign Of 4 in 2002.)
Phil Mogg – Vocals
Paul Raymond – Keyboards & Guitars
Vinnie Moore – Guitars
Andy Parker – Drums
(NOTE — Bassist and founding member Pete Way is currently suffering from a liver disease and was unfortunately not available for the studio production.)
Peter Pichl – Bass
(NOTE — Pichl is the bass player in Nektar and is not credited in the liner notes of the advance copy.)
Total Time = 42:27
UFO has been around for a long time…..40 years and going strong! THE VISITOR marks the band’s 20th studio album, the third with current lead guitarist Vinnie Moore, but without founding bassist Pete Way who is currently battling a liver disease and could not work in the studio. It’s hard to believe that three years have passed since 2006’s THE MONKEY PUZZLE but the band hasn’t missed a step with their classic brand of Hard Rock & Blues.
The sound of THE VISITOR isn’t that different from THE MONKEY PUZZLE or the first album with Moore, YOU ARE HERE (2004), and it’s that type of stability and quality that I like in a band. UFO knows one way to do things and they continue to deliver. Honestly, the band has been on a roll since they reunited with longtime guitarist Michael Schenker back in 1995 for the WALK ON WATER album despite the personnel changes. Vinnie Moore has stepped in for the long departed Schenker and put his bluesy stamp on the UFO sound, a perfect compliment to Phil Mogg’s vocals. One of the continuous high points over the entire record is the axe work of Moore: he solos effortlessly and his riffs have that thick 70s Classic Rock sound. I’m not going to get into the Moore vs. Schenker debate because they are two different style guitarists but it’s easy to hear that Moore has become and integral part of the sound and the writing…..and with Pete Way sidelined, it’s good to have “the new guy” step up and help take the reins with Mogg. Of course, Phil Mogg IS the sound of UFO and his voice has gotten stronger with the years…..it’s hard to believe that he just turned 61!
Opening track ‘Saving Me’ has a cool Southern Rock styled guitar intro and moves right into a bluesy Hard Rock number with Mogg turning out trademark phrases. It’s heavy and bluesy but it’s also a melodic song…..that’s a key ingredient to the overall UFO sound: melody. More melodic Blues Rock with the mid-tempo ‘On The Waterfront’ that features some really cool lyrics and an effortless solo while the band kicks into high gear again with the pure Hard Rock of ‘Hell Driver’, a song that could have easily fit on anything from WALK ON WATER forward. I’ll bet this is a song the band plays live on this tour because it fits so perfectly alongside the classic newer material, I had the iPod on a “UFO shuffle” recently and ‘Hell Driver’ got sandwiched between ‘Pushed To The Limit’ (from WALK ON WATER) and ‘Hard Being Me’ (from THE MONKEY PUZZLE) and it just blended perfectly. The band goes back in time with ‘Stop Breaking Down’ and returns to the classic ’70s UFO sound. It’s a melodic mid-tempo rocker with plenty of guitar flourishes to satisfy the Schenker disciples and Mogg puts in an inspired vocal but the highlight here is original drummer Andy Parker, the unsung backbone of UFO. Whereas the departed Jason Bonham provided UFO with an excellent heavy drumming style, Parker’s style sounds so effortless and retains the heaviness but in a more subtle way.
‘Rock Ready’ is another uptempo Blues Rock standard that I would pair with ‘Saving Me’ because of that Southern guitar style. The band slows down again from another blues number, ‘Living Proof’, that has this real groove. Mogg’s vocals impress and Moore adds some cool flourishes throughout the song but the overall sound has a certain rhythm that gets the head bobbing and toe tapping. The guitar solo is one of the best on the album. Another guitar intro opens the mid-tempo ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’, another song that has that classic ’70s melodic UFO sound, while ‘Forsaken’ turns out to be one of the best ballads the band has ever done! I think it’s just the way Mogg delivers the ballads with such passion and sincerity, I find myself repeating this song everytime I play the album.
‘Villains & Thieves’ is more bluesy Hard Rock but with some cool piano from longtime guitarist & keyboardist Paul Raymond. I’d put this song with ‘Saving Me’ and ‘Rock Ready’ as far as style goes but the added piano gives the song another distinct detail to it. The usual UFO sound is to have that big Hammond organ playing along with the guitar but it sounds like the organ isn’t as prominent on THE VISITOR so it’s good to hear a little more of the ivories up front. More big sounding Hard Rock on ‘Stranger In Town’ that features more of the Moore/Raymond trade-off between guitar and organ and some heavy handed pocket drumming from Parker. This is the UFO sound! It goes without saying that not having Pete Way on the album is a disappointment, he is battling some sort of liver disease and he was unable to contribute. The band brought in Peter Pichl from the Progressive Rock band Nektar to handle the bass duties for the record and he does a great job keeping the rhythm section intact.
Another triumph for UFO! THE VISITOR is one of my favorite albums of 2009 so far and that’s no surprise because the band is all about solid songwriting and brilliant playing…..that’s what makes a great album! I’ve had the advance for a few weeks now and it has not left my current rotation in the car, on the iPod or on the stereo. Everytime I listen to the album I can’t really find a weak song and I find myself instantly singing along and whistling the solos…..the album captures my full attention and that defines a great album to me. THE VISITOR is classic UFO from the ’70s with an updated sound that leans more toward a Southern Rock and melodic Blues groove that sounds so effortless. That’s the key right there! The performance by the band doesn’t sound forced or pressured, there is no inner turmoil interrupting the creative process, everything sounds relaxed and natural. It’s obvious that Vinnie Moore has fit in perfectly with Phil Mogg, Andy Parker and Paul Raymond and a true bond has formed.
My favorite song on the album is ‘Forsaken’ but the entire album is a solid collection of songs. I really like them all but, if I had to pick a few more to go alongside ‘Forsaken’, I’d pick: ‘On The Waterfront’, ‘Hell Driver’, ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ and ‘Living Proof’.