UFO ~ The Visitor (Steamhammer)
Released June 2, 2009
A few weeks ago the British rock icons released their newest studio CD, The Visitor. This 12th studio effort marks the band’s 40th anniversary. There was no fanfare outside of diehard fans. Let’s face it, other than one of the coolest logos in rock history, what does U.F.O. have to offer since Michael Schenker made leave to front his own bands? While U.F.O. certainly thrived and peaked during the short-lived Schenker years, the band offered great music prior to his discovery, and has made some incredible music long after his departure. So to label a Schenker-less U.F.O. as somehow less of a band is disingenuous. Longtime members, vocalist Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker, and keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond are still on board. Even iconic bassist Pete Way would have been here as well if not for health issues. Ah but the guitar. It always comes back to the guitar. How can one dismiss the sonic-shred and blues-tinted fretwork of Vinnie Moore as some lesser talent? Vinnie is every inch an electrifying guitarist as the ego-driven Schenker, and his wares are on display throughout The Visitor. Perhaps that is because Moore is spreading out and writing more on this album than any since his arrival on 2004’s You Are Here.
While there is no “Doctor, Doctor” or “Rock Bottom”, the album is certainly not a let down. It is full of catchy melodic tunes, and steeped in their signature blues style. From the opening bluesy-riff of “Saving Me”, to the smoky slide action on “Rock Ready” to the rolling jam, “Can’t By a Thrill,” this CD is packed with 70?s oriented U.F.O. reminiscent of their Obsession, Lights Out and No Heavy Petting albums. There are songs with a more modern feel as well, such as riff-rich “Hell Driver”. Mogg’s vocals are and as charismatic and ingratiating as always, welcoming listeners into each song like an old friend with a story to tell. “Villians and Thieves” is almost an homage to hillybilly rock and a dose of southern flair. The CD’s final cut, “Stranger in Town,” is perhaps my favorite (at this moment anyway) and should make even casual fans forget about Schenker. Moore is no longer the visitor, he is the man.
The only downside to this album is its relative lack of length, with only 10 songs (remember when that was the norm?). The CD is only about 45 minutes long, but it’s 45 minutes of modern yet still classic U.F.O. It belongs in your collection next to other U.F.O. essentials. Take it for a spin around the block. In fact, take it on a road trip. This is one of those albums that sneaks up on you and settles in like a comfy spot on the couch.