- "You Are Here"
The story about how UFO constantly suffered because of Schenker's egocentric behaviour through the years of their existence is well known. Line-up has changed again, and this time UFO carries on without Schenker. Legendary keyboarder Paul Raymond is back to town, which increases a number of UFOmen back to five. News is also band got a new drummer Jason Bonham (son of great Bonzo), while Michael's change is guitar wizard Vinnie Moore, who worked in his past days with Alice Cooper and released also few fantastic solo instrumental albums. Schenker is a real chunk in guitar rock history. And I truly respect his unique playing style. I was quite worried how they'll carry on without "riffmeister"? But Vinnie Moore perfectly fulfilled an empty space. Michael's shoes suit him very well. This groundbreaking replacement for UFO is familiar to what went through Deep Purple last autumn, when Jon Lord retired and Don Airey jumped in. In both cases these replacements were risky but at same time very welcomed. It is simple fact that Schenker was no longer into it. He wasn't showing any interests in putting his soul investments into band. And both "Covenant" (2000) and Sharks "(2002)" are suffering a lot because of that. They are both quite inconsistent which in case of "You Are Here" would sound as a pure lie. "You Are Here" is a magical returning point to band's jewel "Walk On Water" (1995). Fresh wind is blowing in UFO again and a tight working relationship, which I personally missed on previous two records, between band's members is finally established. It reflects through new founded chemistry that bloody works here!
Vinnie delivered some real shivering riffs (as "riffmeister" in his best days), dressed in a bit sharper edged riffing style. Riffs remained big, I mean real huge. Also songs carry a plenty of imaginative guitar ornaments in intros, fade-outs or certain bridges. Solos are bit shorter than in Schenker's case, but still carries a melody; nevertheless that sometimes Vinnie likes to take a drive through bluesy curves. A lot of melody in solos that was well-known Schenker's notoriety is present also on "You Are Here". Solos are fluid, crafted with great presence of pure feel, gutsy and puzzled in song's frames on a perfect way. "You Are Here" is consistent, solid album, full of dynamics and waving moods. An album explodes from emotional energy.
Therefore refreshed UFO didn't loose even a sparkle of band's magic. "You Are Here" calls back to life "few recognizable things" which enthroned UFO as a definite milestone of rock, always delivering their lessons sounding so cool, so real. And this time I am glad, very glad that Schenker has gone. Over the years people got over spoiled with expectations, UFO can bring real magic only with Schenker in the band. Believe me or not, but this time UFO convincingly delivers magic without Schenker.
"You Are Here" strikes loud'n proud and in a vein especially wild because of Jason Bonham's thunderous contribution on drums. I mean band's refreshed sound picture got even more depth with Jason. And here we are discussing the album's production. Tommy Newton offered a real masterwork. Sound is crispy and production draws fantastic contrasts between Mogg's vocals and the rest of the gang. Always expressive unique and irreplaceable Mogg's soulful harmonic vocal, which can be (depending on a situation) very warm and tender or can fully explode in certain rockier motives, vibrates as in his best days. It is unbelievable, but Phil Mogg is one of those rare singers, who offer through singing all his passionate emotional outbursts most convincingly. He reminds me at most on David Coverdale. It is thrilling how through his vocal expressions, a sort of pain he carries deep in his heart is constantly present and fully reflects through his verses. On the other hands lyrics are cynic as usual, laughing straight in the face to all conformists, but also with lots of constant yearning for past days and searching for love that blossoms out of pain. Thanks to fantastic production Vinnie's riffs are creating massive sound wall and as a counterpoint to it there is rhythm line with low twanging and powerful Way's bass accompanied this time in great coexistence with Jason's work that is in one word splendid and even at very moments recalls great Bonzo's spirit back to life. There are truly stark contrasts being achieved between vocals, Vinnie's guitar and rhythm line, while Raymond's keyboards this time served as a background layer that widens the sound picture and holds the atmosphere that waves throughout the record real high. There is no special piano motives included on "You Are Here" like for quick instance (if we rewind back a bit) in UFO's classic This Kids.
Songs are pure hard rockin' lessons, plain and simple. Hard to expose highlights, there are straight rocking features as the opener When Daylight Comes To Town, than storming Black Cold Coffee (pay special attention here on Jason's explosion through intro's drum bridge) or forth song with fantastic rolling drive called Give It Up. Towards the end band delivers great ballad called Baby Blue with Vinnie's few southern rock folk guitar inclusions that tastefully spice up the whole thing. Song with huge groove is for instance raving Jello Man, which keeps Vinnie's main vah-vah riff busier than usual. Song's atmospheric highlights are sometimes caught in melancholic choruses like in The Spark That Is Us or Slipping Away, both with amazing aforementioned contrast between drum thunder mid tempo drive and expressive main guitar riff sound wall.
This band has still so much to say after all this years. With recent change in line up it seems they finally found a clue. This is it. UFO is saved and resurrected once again. "You Are Here" is a first class album with constant presence of spine tingling effect that only confirms; legends finally found their lost path. Let us say goodbye to Mr. Schenker and hope that band in recent line up will hold on together.