Speaking about UFO is certainly a synonym of talking about guitarist Michael Schenker. A guitar player that, without being one of those heroes of the continuous extraterrestrial pretension like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, has got a very good reputation and respect due to all these years of powerful and hard classic guitar style, which is focused in two different bands that Michael has used to give life and create different approaches caused by unique and open musical character. There are some musicians who have just too many ideas considered for various different bands at the same time, or in this particular case, for changing his projects constantly like Ritchie Blackmore, a talented musician who could not stay only in one band like Deep Purple and had to create other bands like the fantastic Rainbow, and later in the nineties, something completely different from that band and still interesting as Blackmore's Night.
The band with whom Michael has always shared his talent has been (and still is) Scorpions. A group in which he has shown a harder side and that took advantage of one of the greatest times for heavy metal, the early eighties, when they reached a lot of people and got some extraordinary sales with “hits” that became hymns like "Still loving you". But the group went down quickly during the second half of the eighties and throughout the nineties, a time when they began to publish some mediocre works for a more reduced (but also more radical and demanding) heavy metal who were hypnotized by people like Metallica.
Anyway the most interesting time for UFO, to my point of view, is that of the albums that came out in the second half of the seventies. It is true that the first works are those that sound more powerful and fresh with any group or solo composer, and in this case it is completely certain. "Phenomenon", "Not heavy pettin", "Lights out", or "Obsession" are all records with a great quality, in which Schenker shows with his band that hard-rock style based on an impressive and attractive rhythm and blues with songs like "Doctor, doctor", "Love to love", "Lights out", "Out in the streets", "Only you dog rock me", that produced an extraordinary result, as the whole work turned out to be in one of the best live albums in seventies rock and roll: "Strangers in the night", a record that shows all their power. It includes Phil Mogg on the vocals and Pete Way on bass guitar. The truth is that, Michael Schenker and the rest of his band are certainly at their best on stage; they display a great force while playing live. A band that gets even better in concert.
A bit after "Strangers in the night", Schenker left the band, causing immediately its break up, all that due to problems with drugs. In the eighties there were various reunion attempts, but the results were practically disappointing. It was during the nineties that the band seemed to come back to work and they published some interesting albums once more, like "Walk on water" (1993) and, finally, after some hesitations form the famous guitar player, they returned with "Covenant". A fantastic double CD, with a whole disc including only new songs whose sound still are that of the traditional UFO, and a second live disc that includes some of their best works during the band’s different periods. A perfect album that proves what I said before about their great quality on stage.
"Love is forever" (4:22) and "Unraveled" (4:16) are the first two pieces and have a unique, 100% original sound, full of hot "riffs" that can incite you to move all your body and sing a catching refrain with a great "feeling" and high quality rock and roll. The rhythm section is spectacular and gives the music an extraordinary projection. And it means that I have always believed that UFO’s sound had something that reminded of The Who. It is probably due to the rhythmic section, that there are those similarities with the famous rhythms created by Moon and Entwhistle that sounded as if it were a band with 25 musicians. The album goes on, oscillating between some quick and powerful pieces and more relaxing themes like "Miss the Lights" (4:43), that is something in between and has some of the best guitar parts you can find on a record with an extraordinary Schenker. "Midnight Train" (4:55) is pure dynamite, a quick, aggressive and exciting track of an American-like sound, and it is amazing that, having such a star like this German guitarist, the music sounds completely Yankee. "Fools Gold" (5:35) is a bit tricky because it begins as a ballad and suddenly becomes more spectacular.
There are not that many big changes in songs like "The middle of madness" (3:47) or "Smell of money" (3:42) that continue with this lesson about powerful and controlled hard-rock well played. In "Rise again" (4:27) they use vocals and play with them in a beautiful refrain with keyboard parts that, even though are softly heard through the whole record, are finally heard clearly. The following track, "Serenade" (4:58) is very similar, elegant, with exquisite counterpoints and a direct and clean melody. "Cowboy Joe" (4:13) and "The world and his dog" (3:34) close the list of pieces in studio. They are definitely the tracks that come closer to heavy metal, a bit of Scorpions maybe?. A CD full of good music made by excellent musicians. Although, (and now we will place a little critic) it seems that the musicians’ energy is gone right in the middle of the album. The first themes are the most spectacular and brilliant ones. It may be a bit long, it could have been better if they had removed two or three songs, even though it is a very good record.
On the "live bootleg" CD we find a brief summary of the group’s career that includes seven songs from their most successful and healthy period as well as some lesser known ones. "Let it roll", "Out in the streets" & "Love to love" are a sample of what made them great back in the seventies; songs that had a great commercial success and an extraordinary acceptance; pieces that now seem to be out-of-fashion for an audience that has got used to listening to things that destroy the headphones and whose spectacular side resides in the one who breaks the strings of the guitar before. UFO have spent their time (and they still spend it) doing music of high quality, based on rock and hard roll in a pure American style, a direct and very effective style. "Mother Mary", "This Kids" and "Venus" are also amazing in this live album, though it was not recorded with the same enthusiasm as "Strangers in the night", the sound could have been better, but I think it was not their purpose to publish another super live album, but completing a good CD of songs recorded in studio with an extra gift.
My goodness, but if this album is not even progressive at all!!. should I have written all that?. Of course! and I personally recommend it to you. And I do that because I think that a good prog-head should enjoy, or at least recognize, the quality of good music, wherever it comes from. Yes, I already know that the progressive fan is someone special and different from the others, but if you have a look at the Patrick Moraz’s interview that our founder did some weeks ago, you will find a sentence that he said: "music is music and in a reverse way music is still music".