UFO, Saxon and more
- Date: March 26, 2017
Venue: Arcada TheatreAddress:105 E. Main StreetSaint Charles, IL 60174
- Jared James Nichols
True rock legends distinguish themselves not only by contributing several classics to musical history, they also keep their artistic output at a permanently high level and – despite all routine – always have a fresh wind blowing through their band structure. UFO fulfils all these criteria: next to classics such as Phenomenon, Force It and No Heavy Pettin, which saw the band clock up one success after the other during the Seventies, and the beginning of the new millennium finds Phil Mogg, Pete Way and Paul Raymond as inspired and creative as ever. Thanks to their American guitarist, Vinnie Moore, who joined the fold three years ago and proved his class and significance for the group on You Are Here, his debut recording with UFO, and the live cut, Showtime, the band has grown even stronger.
Their latest release, The Monkey Puzzle, out in September 2006 (Europe: September 25; US: September 26), marks the return of drummer Andy Parker, who had been part of the original line-up that recorded the legendary debut at the end of the sixties and has already played live on stage again with his old pals.
The Monkey Puzzle is the kind of album that UFO fans all over the world had hoped for: dynamic, melodic, rocking unstoppably from the very first note and with a lot of details that make listening to UFO’s latest recording a genuine pleasure. Vinnie Moore got out his slide guitar (‘Hard Being Me’) and sparkles with virtuoso guitar solos, some of them garnished with two-part sections. Then there are intricate e-piano and organ sounds (‘Rolling Man’) and passionate harmonica passages (‘Some Other Guy’), as well as Phil Mogg’s unmistakable vocals and an energy that is typical of UFO. “You can feel on The Monkey Puzzle that this band rocks as a unified whole and that we get on without words when it comes to our music,” Phil Mogg explains. “Without running down previous UFO line-ups - it’s been a long time since we had a team as strong as this one. Vinnie contributes his youthful energy and amazing guitar technique, and in Andy’s return we’ve seen the reappearance of a musician who has always been very important to the band’s original sound.”
The Monkey Puzzle was recorded at the Area 51 studios in Celle, Germany, by Tommy Newton, who also directed the recordings of You Are Here and Showtime. “Tommy has become a friend and did a great job with the two previous albums,” Mogg praises the experienced sound technician. “He understands UFO and knows exactly which sound suits us. Why change a winning team?” On the new offering, Newton has brought the band’s classic strengths to the fore, dressing them in a contemporary, topical sonic outfit. The guitars sound razor-sharp, the drums are driving, the bass is pumping, Mogg’s voice hovering over everything in its usual nonchalant style. “Fans who have been into UFO for a long time will find all our characteristic trademarks on The Monkey Puzzle, and anybody new to the band will be impressed by our enthusiasm and dynamism,” Mogg voices his pride in his latest recording. As early as early November, only a few weeks after the release, UFO are scheduled to tour Europe, proving that the new material fits in perfectly with the band’s classics.
There are even more stories about UFO than they’ve composed songs. Any band who have been in the music business for over 35 years are bound to have experienced difficult times, but also dazzling successes and spectacular events. UFO’s success story began in London way back in 1969, when vocalist Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker, guitarist Mick Bolton and bassist Pete Way formed the group, borrowing the band name from a legendary London music club. Even in the seventies, the band distinguished themselves with their very own, unmistakable style, touching a nerve among their growing following with rock numbers like ‘Prince Kajuku’, ‘Follow You Home’ and ‘C’mon Everybody’ from their albums UFO 1, Flying and UFO Live.
The global breakthrough arrived when German guitarist, Michael Schenker, joined the fold in 1973, having left his band Scorpions to follow an offer by Phil Mogg and Pete Way. UFO released three consecutive rock classics with Schenker (Phenomenon (1974), Force It (1975) and No Heavy Pettin’ (1976)), featuring classics like ‘Doctor Doctor’, ‘Shoot, Shoot’, and ‘Rock Bottom’. Following the arrival of keyboarder/rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond, UFO released their two studio albums Lights Out (1977) and Obsession (1978), including the hit singles ‘Too Hot To Handle’, ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Only You Can Rock Me’. Their live cut Strangers In The Night came out in 1979 and is referred to by the press to this day as one of the best live releases of all time, while also signalling the 'end' of the Mogg, Way, Schenker, Parker & Raymond line-up.
The reorganised band underwent fifteen years marked by various eras and numerous line-up changes. To everyone’s surprise, autumn 1993 saw the return of the former UFO line-up. This new edition of the classic team brought out Walk On Water, their first joint effort after one and a half decades, and embarked on a world tour. However, Schenker left UFO during the Walk On Water tour again to continue working with his own group, MSG, while Mogg & Way went on to release their second album, Chocolate Box. The UFO albums Covenant and Sharks, recorded by Mogg, Way and Schenker, arrived at the stores in 2000 and 2002. With Schenker returning to MSG yet again, Vinnie Moore joined the UFO family, and the album You Are Here was recorded with Jason Bonham on drums. During the subsequent world tour, UFO cut a show in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, which was later released as a double live album, Showtime, along with a DVD of the same name which featured additional bonus material. Later, Bonham made his farewells to join Foreigner and was replaced by UFO’s original drummer, Andy Parker.
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