UFO is a band that really needs no introduction, but I’ll give a brief one anyway. Formed in 1969 by vocalist Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker, guitarist Mick Bolton, and bassist Pete Way, they immediately garnered a respectable following. The band really broke out in 1973 with the arrival of guitarist Michael Schenker, fresh out of the Scorpions. This lineup underwent a number of changes over the years, but continued to impress old fans and gain new ones. Now 35 years after their formation, UFO brings us You Are Here. Schenker is out, and guitar hero Vinnie Moore is in. Also new to the lineup is drummer (and famous son) Jason Bonham. While these prolific additions may well have rejuvenated the band, in listening to this album, you can’t help but feel that these guys are all caught in a time warp.
The truth is, I took most of the above information from the band’s bio and merely inferred the rest. Despite a personal passion for classic rock, UFO has always been one of those bands that I’ve never consciously heard, so I couldn’t tell you damn much else about them or their music over the years; I can only speak for this new album, which sounds alternately like Montrose and Whitesnake: blues-based hard rock that could hardly be confused for metal in almost any circle. So why waste the review space on a metal site? Well, why not? Many classical and power metal bands cite them as an influence, and during the Blaze Bayley days, Iron Maiden even went so far as to record a cover of the UFO classic “Doctor Doctor” as a b-side. Besides, it’s our site and we can do whatever we want with it.
First off, the album sounds great, with a really crisp production. The drums, guitars, and vocals are mixed to damn near perfection. I can’t hear much of the bass, but I know the low-end is there. Second, these guys are all accomplished musicians. The style they’re playing here is not exactly as innovative as it once was, but there is more to good musicianship than whirlwind solos and blast-beat-laden drum fills. It’s all extremely tight, almost to a fault. Head-bobbing and toe-tapping will come subconsciously to anyone who can tolerate the genre in the first place. Which brings me to Mogg’s vocals. A smooth bluesy croon a la David Coverdale and numerous other iconic 70s rock vocalists. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much of a range. He can go from high to low, but not to any extreme. Still, it’s a respectable performance, delivered with passion.
OK, time to discuss the songs. Pure classic rock, plain and simple. Nothing mindblowing, but some good stuff nonetheless. There is the light swagger of opening track “Daylight Comes to Town”, the rocking “Black Cold Coffee”, the arena-ready “The Spark That is Us”, the slightly-brooding “Mr. Freeze”, and the total blues/rock hybrid of “Jelloman” (not a tribute to Bill Cosby). Then there are less-impressive tracks like “The Wild One” and “Slipping Away” (despite the cool use of acoustics on the latter). Of course, that sort of balance is standard for any album.
Overall, as with most new albums by old-time bands, this will most likely appeal only to their existing fans. I can’t imagine You Are Here impressing anybody new, especially with the guaranteed lack of radio support – unless of course, the fans take their kids to see them live. Still, I get the feeling that with a different vocalist, and a little more bombast, all these tracks would comprise a great traditional metal album. But alas, this album is mostly just a throwback to 70s hard rock with 21st century sound quality.