... from "Hocus Pocus" to "Flying Saucer"
July 22 nd , House of Blues, Sunset Blvd
The venue is full, yes, you could have squeezed in a few more guys, but who cares ? They all scream for their heroes - U - F - O - ! And here they come... Phil Mogg (who could have easily shown off his muscles without a T-Shirt), Vinnie Moore (Guitars), Paul Raymond (Keyboards, Guitars), Jason Bonham (Drums) and Pete Way (Bass). Too old to Rock'n Roll ? Not these guys ! Severely more convincing than some newcomer bands, old and brand new material blows our eardrums out. "The Wild One", "Mr. Freeze", "Baby Blue" from their recent album "You Are Here", "Only You Can Rock Me" ("Obsession"), "Too Hot To Handle" (1977's "Lights Out") and "Shoot" (1975's "Force It"), just to name a few. The audience is boiling. I hear complaints about Vinnie Moore's guitar work. "Michael Schenker had more finesse", "Vinnie plays like a typewriter". Although Vinnie brought a little more melody into UFO's audible work, the fans rather go for the old stuff... and they all have the same question: "When is Michael Schenker joining the band again ????" Well, we asked Phil... listen to his answer for yourself....
UFO... and I don't mean the flying things that people see in the sky, formed in 1969 and helped pave the way for hard rock as we know it today. Originally known as "Hocus Pocus", the group, which took the name "UFO" in honor of a London club, debuted in 1971 with UFO 1. Vocalist Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker, guitarist Mick Bolton and bassist Pete Way were the original band members with Paul Raymond on keyboard and rhythm guitar joining in the late 70's. In 1973 legendary
guitarist Michael Schenker was asked to substitute for guitarist Bernie Marsden who didn't show up for a scheduled gig. Michael did double duty, opening the show with the Scorpions and headlining with UFO. "Everybody was very obliged. We only had fifteen minutes to sort things out; we ended up doing 25 minute versions of 'I'm a Man' and 'Come on Everybody'. Everything went so well we asked Michael to join us." Michael accepted the offer and the band began recording "Phenomenon". Having played a key role in writing much of the album's material, Michael's hard rock influence is most evident in the classics "Rock Bottom" and "Doctor Doctor".
Encouraged by the America's warm reception of "Lights Out", the band decided to pack up their equipment and embark on an American tour in support of the album. A few days before departing Michael disappeared. Paul Chapman of Lonestar was recruited as a substitute for the first few dates of the American tour. Soon after, Michael was tracked down in Germany and persuaded to re-join the band. After months of solid
touring, the band started to record their next album, "Obsession". By the end of 1978, Michael announced that he was officially leaving UFO.
The reorganized band underwent fifteen years marked by various eras and numerous line-up changes, not to mention extreme interpersonal conflicts and excessive drug abuse.
To everyone's surprise, autumn 1993 saw the return of the former UFO line-up consisting of Mogg, Way, Schenker and Raymond. 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.
Today, UFO is back with spunk. The enlistment of guitarist Vinnie Moore and drummer Jason Bonham can only be described as a fountain of youth for the aging "saucers".
Their new album "You Are Here" combines classic hard rock of the traditional variety with a fresh and inspiring UFO twist, as Phil Mogg describes tracks like 'The Spark That Is Us' with its heavy groove,
the rocking 'Slipping Away', 'Mr Freeze', the haunting 'Swallow', or the programmatic 'Looking For The Wild One'.
"It's been more fun than it had been in a long time to work with these two excellent musicians," is Phil Mogg's satisfied comment when asked about his new colleagues. "Jason and Vinnie aren't just talented individual musicians, they're also extremely nice guys, which obviously affected the atmosphere during the recordings noticeably."
Jason Bonham of course is the son of the legendary Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham. He received a gold award as a songwriter and drummer for The Disregard Of Timekeeping, the debut release by his own group, Bonham. He has worked with Paul Rodgers (ex-Free, Bad Company), Slash (Guns N`Roses), Ritchie Sambora and Jeff Beck, he was hired by the three Led Zeppelin survivors, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, for a tribute concert to commemorate the anniversary of their record company, and he manned the drum kit on Jimmy Page's solo recording, Outrider. UFO is the latest musical challenge for his powerful drum style. "Jason has an amazing presence on You Are Here," says Mogg. "You can hear him, you're aware of his feel for fantastic grooves, his playing is omnipresent. He's added a new rhythmic dimension to this band."
Vinnie Moore is a guitar hero in the classic sense. His intricate style, a successful mix of rock, progressive elements, blues and fusion, impressed the audience as far back as 1987 on his solo debut Mind's Eye. Moore was discovered by Mike Varney's talent forge, Shrapnel, and sold over 100,000 copies of Mind's Eye. Six solo releases have followed, and his guest appearance on Alice Cooper's Hey Stoopid in the early Nineties caused an international stir.
"I knew Vinnie's solo work and a lot of it had impressed me," Phil Mogg explains his decision to sign up Moore by simply saying "He plays a wonderful sound and complements the band perfectly as a songwriter."
UFO is scheduled to perform at the House of Blues Sunset Strip on Friday, June 22 nd . See you there ... and don't forget your tie-dye's.
S. Lewis / G. McAuley