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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

UFO – Best of a Decade Album review

UFO – Best of a Decade Album review
Released on: SPV Steamhammer. Release date: Available now.

So, what do we have here then, another UFO compilation album?
Well, yes it is for all intents and purposes, but it’s not your standard UFO compilation fare as such.
Most will be another rehash of old Schenker stuff, usually containing nothing you don’t already have, this one on the other hand is quite different.
How so, I hear you saying …

Well, Michael Schenker has not been a part of UFO for some years now for one thing and following his departure, in stepped one Vinnie Moore, who had released a bunch of solo albums and helped out here and there on a few artist albums including Alice Cooper and Vicious Rumors.

To be honest, when this was announced at first, I was very skeptical, as Vinnie’s background was of the 'shredding nature' and not like Schenker at all. Suffice to say, with the three UFO studio albums he’s played on since 2004 and the live ‘Showtime’ release, I’ve been very impressed.

No disrespect to shredders, who sure …, can play at like 200 mph, but it’s like he’s matured, come of age and has really developed his style in a not too dissimilar style to say ... Michael Schenker. It’s a good thing!

For me, it's great to see Paul Raymond and Andy Parker back in the band for the past eight and six years respectively, although very sad about where Pete Way is at right now, who really knows ….?
He went through some real health issues and although he’s jammed with Schenker, Herman Rarebell and Michael Voss with the ‘Strangers in the Night’ project, there’s no word on who will be in the bass player slot for the next UFO album and tour?

Anyway, enough of that, let’s get on with this and what it offers, which you’ve probably guessed already, right?
Well, it captures four tracks from ‘You Are Here,’ three from ‘Monkey Puzzle,’ three from ‘The Visitor’ and six live cuts from …, well, I don’t know where to be honest? They’re not the tracks from ‘Showtime’ though and the sleeve notes don’t tell you?

The opening salvo of both ‘The Wild One’ and ‘Hard Being Me’ are great modern day UFO rockers, swiftly followed by a version of ‘Light’s Out’ that makes Phil Mogg look bad on his timing …, as he starts singing the chorus too early and then realizes it, stops, then comes back in at the right time. What a character, but he did have his moments now and then live, where he did improvise lyrics or miss a line or repeat a verse on occasion, that said, I never heard him sing bad once and I’ve been catching their shows since 1979.

‘Saving Me’ from ‘The Visitor’ is pretty steady, then ‘When Daylight Goes To Town’ picks it up well and rocks out.

Two live cuts next in ‘Let it Roll,’ very good and then ‘This Kids,’ with Phil’s funny introduction and then his ‘strange’ vocal part in the middle, is completely out there! You have to hear it.

OK, next track ‘Heavenly Body’ from ‘The Monkey Puzzle,’ kind of shows why I felt it was the weakest of the last three studio albums. It’s a very dark and grungy indeed. Don’t like Mogg’s vocal on this …
This kind of makes me wonder who determined the tracklisting for this. There are easily better tracks off both ‘You Are Here’ and ‘The Visitor,’ so surprised by the choice of this one?
‘Hell Driver’ recovers well though and is a great track off ‘The Visitor.’ Great groove!

A rip roaring version of ‘Too Hot To Handle’ is next and clearly indicates how great these guys still sound live.

From ‘You Are Here’ another very classy track in ‘Mr Freeze.’ I really loved this when I first heard and it’s great to hear it here again now.

Live time again with ‘Shoot, Shoot’ and it really lacks, nay, misses’ cowbell here?! Why no cowbell? Still a great live favourite though, clearly, just listen to the crowd!

‘Black and Blue’ is one of the better tracks from ‘Monkey Puzzle’ and it starts kind of not so dissimilar to The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again,’ it’s an up and down tempo track. Nice harmony guitar part too!

To emphasize the consistency of ‘The Visitor,’ ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ is another winner that reminds me a little of ‘Making Contact’ era UFO, which I actually enjoyed.

‘Baby Blue’ is another good one from ‘You Are Here’ and it’s a pretty catchy and commercial track, that was probably intended to be a single, if it had been given a chance. Good one.

OK, last track and it’s a live one, which often is the bands encore number, yes, it’s ‘Doctor, Doctor.’ Enough said?!

It’s a good compilation generally with the odd exception, but without doubt if you’re a fan of old and haven’t yet given the band with Vinnie Moore a chance, shame on you! You could do a lot worse than going and getting this or else go and buy ‘You Are Here’ and ‘The Visitor.’ 'Showtime' is pretty good too!

Rating: 4 out of 5
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