Sound: It's always fascinating to see how classic rock bands which often create the soundtrack to many a music lover's life evolve through the years. There's been an abundance of reunion concerts to satisfy the public's need for a return to arena rock, and UFO is one of the bands that actually have never taken too long of a break since forming in 1969. The British rockers are back in 2009 with a new CD The Visitor, which once again takes a small step away from their 1970's catalogue primarily because of Vinnie Moore's guitar work. Since replacing Michael Schenker a few years back, Moore has actually brought a fresh, intriguing quality to UFO, even when the base songwriting isn't anything out of the ordinary.
The Visitor marks UFO's 20th studio album, and in many ways it gives a nod to the bluesmen who inspired the legendary rock bands of the 1970's. The opening track Saving Me starts things out beautifully with its delta-blues intro, fueled by Moore's acoustic slide work. It quickly morphs into an outright rock number, but there's a grittiness that pulls you in. Original vocalist Phil Mog still has chops, although his delivery might not be quite as vibrant as his early work. The blues sound rears its head in the vast majority of the 10-track CD, with Saving Me and the later track Rock Ready are the most faithful to the genre.
Moore's hand is heavy in a good deal of The Visitor, and thankfully so. His mastery at combining beautiful lead lines and grooving rhythms is what elevates The Visitor to a different level. Living Proof shows the band at its collective best, not to mention that it combines all the best elements of Moore's playing. Of course, it's hard to ignore the solos, which abound on the CD particularly when you compare it to most of the other rock albums out today. Moore brings us back to the 1980's in that sense, and it is actually quite refreshing to hear the songs take a completely different path once Moore lays down his solo. I'd be very hard-pressed to single out the best solo on The Visitor, as they are all actually quite impressive.
The songwriting might not be the most innovative and in many ways hearkens back to 1980's metal, but UFO's new material is a lot more interesting than some other classic rock bands out there that have attempted to recreate their original sound. Granted, Michael Schenker is a force of nature in his own right, and it's very possible that the guitarist would have matched creativity with Moore. Even so, at the age of 44, Moore is outstandingly at the top of his game. // 8
Lyrics: It was mentioned earlier that many of the songs on The Visitor have a 1980's metal vibe, and the lyrics tend to follow suit. There's a good deal of your run-of-the-mill rock topics whether that includes being a renegade (Villains & Thieves) or how there will be hell to pay (Stranger In Town) but the content is enjoyable for the most part. The ballad Forsaken takes more of a serious, sentimental turn, but it's usually the bluesier, rawer tracks that are the most memorable. // 7
Overall Impression: The Visitor shows UFO at its most blues-driven, and the addition of acoustic slide is perfect. Everyone in the band is a quality player, but it's hard for Vinnie Moore to not become the main focus of each track. The guitarist just has a keen sense of adding textures/tones to the tracks, and that saves a few tracks on the record from being just mediocre. UFO might be more in line with the 1980's metal/rock sound than their mid-70's output, but that doesn't mean we're getting shortchanged when it comes to Moore's own creativity. // 8