UFO: Metal just won’t quit

Jesse Christen

Jesse Christen

Some people don’t know when to quit.

Imagine being a 50-plus-year-old hard rocker still playing loud music and wearing leather pants in a group that’s missing its most famous member. Sounds like something out of a Spinal Tap movie, huh.

UFO is still at it. Started in London in 1969, UFO was named after a legendary London club. Founding members Phil Mogg (vocals) and Pete Way (bass) found little success in their native England and the rest of the world other that Germany and Japan, where they were loved. When the original guitarist Mick Bolton went missing on tour in Germany, UFO had a 17 year old guitarist from the opening band, the Scorpions, fill in for the missing member.

That teenager, Michael Schenker, was so impressive that Mogg and Way immediately snapped him away from the Scorpions. With Schenker, UFO went on to record six of the finest hard rock albums of the ’70s including Strangers in the Night, possibly the finest live album ever. Then Schenker left the group.

UFO continued on without its prodigy. The albums released after Schenker’s departure lacked the melody and punch the German guitar-whiz provided.

During the mid ’90s, UFO reunited with Schenker and produced three fine hard rock records. Needless to say, I was surprised to see UFO release a new album without Schenker.

UFO’s newest, You Are Here, is far better than I thought it would be. It surprised me. Replacing Schenker is guitar shred-master Vinnie Moore. The biggest surprise is the new drummer, Jason Bonham – son of Led Zepplin drum god John Bonham.

These two combined with the founding two members Mogg and Way, and longtime UFO keyboard veteran Paul Raymond, make a great band. Mogg, Way and Chapman sound as good as ever and Bonham can pound those drums well enough to wonder why Zepplin hasn’t reformed with Jason filling his father’s shoes. The biggest surprise is Vinnie Moore’s playing. No longer the young “I can play faster than you” guitar star he was in the ’80s, Moore now has some very tasteful chops to match his impressive technique. Tracks like “When Daylight Comes to Town,” “Black Cold Coffee” and the Hendrix inspired “Jello Man” will be right at home with UFO’s classic numbers when played live.

Unfortunately, the entire 12 tracks from the album aren’t perfect. But seven of songs are pretty darn good. If this was still the days of vinyl lps, the clunkers would have been scrapped for other use. Damn CD technology allowing for really long albums.

Will you like UFO and You Are Here? I don’t know. It’s not what kids listen to these days. But if you’re tired of bands who can’t play and write good melodic songs that still rock, then You are Here is a fine album indeed. .

5 stars (out of 5)