1. Heartful Of Soul
2. Break On Through (To The Other Side)
3. River Of Deceit
4. The Pusher
5. Paper In Fire
6. Rock Candy
7. Mississippi Queen
8. Ain’t No Sunshine
10. Too Rolling Stoned
11. Just Got Paid
12. It’s My Life
Top marks! UFO stay coherent and consistent throughout their new studio offering “The Salentino Cuts”. Sounding as if penned by the band, the songs embody UFO’S musical prowess and fluidity in the overall craft of rock playing.
“The Salentino Cuts” is juicy-sounding, daring and playful all around. UFO pay homage to their musical heroes and not even once put their trademark sound to rest. They deliver a kick-ass hard rock album and a natural follow-up to their 2015 opus “A Conspiracy of Stars”.
The title refers to UFO’s favourite hang-out, pastime place, a bar in Italy called Salentino. Nice touch! No wonder then that I treat this album as a fitting siesta for the band. Italy and the heat of this country always gets me in a relaxing mood and so does this UFO album. After 21 studio albums, 14 live albums, countless tours, time came UFO took a little rest, had some fun, and made music just for the sake of playing music. The band entered the studio, put their feet up and cooked up an album for their die-hard fans, and maybe, just to please a casual fan’s ear.
UFO have cherished a rich musical journey, full of ups and downs. Just shuffle your mind through all UFO albums. They have often added a cover or two to their premier material, and now they have just come up with what has a good chance to be a jewel for posterity in their catalogue. This disc is a musical sojourn and a deep dive into what has been rocking the UFO boat for some time. A wholly unique venture for the band and surely a treat for their fans.
It would be great, now with the technology we have, if somebody filmed the process of recording a UFO album and allowed us all a sneak-peak into the creative process the band share when writing music.
This album surely is a grower. ‘The Salentino Cuts’ have the sound to get lost in. It is such richly textured and has a live feel to it. This otherworldly sound will transport you to somewhere you have never been with UFO before. The songs are abundant in musical nuances; and yet the sound nurtures and perfectly combines instrumental as well as vocal dynamics.
Upon first listen you just sit in awe and are not able to grasp the musical brilliance blaring out of your speakers. Upon the second listen, the songs are getting under your skin and you begin discovering some not so obvious, hidden textures, and musical tastes. Upon the third listen, the reworkings activate themselves in your system like a good ‘ole, favourite poison on that bar shelf. The music simply commences to take your mind, heart and soul prisoners. Fourth listen and more? You simply savour this energetic album, chewing on ace heavy rock.
Phil Mogg is one of those few, powerhouse, established “belters” whose mature voice has gained an all-new depth and gives the soundscape of UFO a resonating twist. Tsangarides- produced UFO albums have breathed a new spirit in the vocal chords of Phil Mogg. Here, Chris Tsangarides is responsible for engineering Phil’s vocals. The singer has always had a different timbre to other rock and roll singers; he never screamed; yet it is hard to pigeonhole his voice. Mogg is emotionally rich in ‘River of Deceit’. He sounds really epic on ‘Rock Candy’, his vocals are soaring on ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and totally hypnotic on ‘Mississippi Queen’. He simply denies any futile categorization. Although his performance on Newton-produced albums has always been flawless, the production of his vocals leaves something to be desired. It seems Tsangarides captured Mogg’s vocals in the live environment, because Phil sounds natural and there is absolutely no contrivance in his performance. The man has still got the pipes, and can ride on a sound of a prolonged vowel (‘Heartful of Soul’) for as long as he wishes, and at the same time his voice is lower and deeper, and unlike many of his peers it has retained its power, distinctiveness and resonance. What springs to mind? His voice is like a fine wine, matures with age… but this is way too mundane of a comparison for an artist of such standing… so let’s simply say…. he is killing it on the vocals and the command of his voice is flawless and brutally authoritative.
When I was talking to Vinnie Moore back in 2016 whilst on his solo show in Poland he was not allowed to spill the beans. Vinnie performs like a monster… but he always does, doesn’t he? His fiery solos, studied background work, harmonic licks, bombastic riffs and masterful rhythm playing are all there, but he remains respectful towards his inspirations and does not shred as much as we or he would have liked to. His playing seems tamed. This intended restrain plays to his advantage. After listening to “The Salentino Cuts” those people who see only one dimension of Vinnie will be proven wrong. The man demonstrates how fluidly he can manoeuvre in between the styles and at the same time from the first note you know who’s “operating” the axe. It is all about identity. Vinnie Moore is totally relentless in ‘Just Got Paid’, his guitar playing is lush in ‘The Pusher’ and indeed quite sublime in more mellow fragments of this recording.
Paul Raymond shines on the keyboards, rhythm guitar and backing vocals. This guy is an orchestra in one man. His sound has also altered and improved since UFO started working with Tsangarides. The keyboards are up in the mix and they are soaked with warmth and they compliment UFO’s sound in a delicate manner, not typically in your face. Raymond really squeezes out a lot of fluid juice of his keyboards, he is not strident and UFO would not sound quite the same without Raymond’s keyboards. His playing is really sensitive on “The Salentino Cuts” and I dare say he may be responsible for many of the arrangements. He furiously cuts through his keyboards only fill your ears with melodic and delicate touches the next moment. His keyboard work is truly soaring and it’s got a forward and bright quality. Check out his tactful nod to Ray Manzarek in ‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’.
Rob De Luca is the latest musician in the band, he stepped in Pete Way’s shoes, and “Salentino” is his second album with UFO as a permanent member although he has been offering his services to the band for nearly ten years now. Rob is a truly humble guy, but a mean bass player all the same. His bass sounds detailed and articulate. He can attack on the bass with fat, powerful grips. Indeed, Rob seems like fresh blood for this band, he penned a couple of songs on ACOS and even though songs on Salentino are not his; his heart is 100% devoted to performing with the best possible quality. His sound is lush and the notes he gets have a sense of life about them occupying you with sonic images. You get throbbing bass on ‘Mississippi Queen’ and upbeat, but punk-edged chord on ‘Heartful of Soul’. ‘Break on Through’ sees Rob in an ebullient mood, his bass literally jumps at you.
Andy Parker pounds the skins with utmost power and energy. He is one of the most underrated drummers in rock, and clearly this record shows why he should not be. Parker keeps the UFO machine going intense with his unquestioningly powerful drumming, energetic fills, snappy snares and thundering, boomy double bass drums. He hits as hard as possible especially in a fiery rendition of ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Paid’ but he can also be subtle like in ‘River of Deceit’ or a time-keeper like in ‘The Pusher’ whereas in songs like ‘Paper in Fire’ or ‘Too Rolling Stoned’ Parker comes across as a drumming beast and sounds particularly lively, check his harsh sounding cymbals and tight hihats. There still is a lot of steam left in Andy Parker and he is never only about power, and to me he is the backbone of this band’s sound, not often mentioned in one breath with the likes of Ian Paice or Neil Peart, while he definitely remains one of the most rocking drummers alive. If Paice is about swing, Peart is about technique then Parker is about distinctive and powerful rhythm.
All things considered, “The Salentino Cuts” is a powerful album without even plodding moments. I feel UFO have paid their tributes collectively and individually to the artist they have respected the most and it is good for them that they got this album off their chest. I feel, they have had this album in their system for quite a while, check out their output with Vinnie Moore, and you will find plenty of inspiration that manifested itself in the form of this covers’ album. Take their recent inclination towards the blues. The reports from their current tour that is rolling through the US with Saxon and Jarred James Nichols claim UFO is on fire, and surely this stage drive will translate into the new recording in near future. Those guys have tons of stamina!
It cannot be said that now UFO own the songs; well generally they don’t, but honestly I admit that I was not familiar with some of the compositions here and I totally don’t feel like finding them now and comparing…. that’s not the point and I’m more than sure the band would not like that as well. The main aim seemed along these lines more or less: go into the studio, have fun, and make room for new ideas. It’s only rock and roll, you know?
Is there a concept behind this album, apart from the rock and roll fun? UFO have proven their point, which may have been along these lines “we can take any song, tinker with it here and there and make it sound like UFO (Mogg, Moore, Parker, Raymond, De Luca)”. And that trademark sound is what will remain when UFO is no more. Dreadful thought though, but a kick ass UFO album nonetheless.
The album should have received better promotion from the record company, Cleopatra Records, but to turn a blind eye, it is not premier material, and sadly albums do not sell these days. The record is not available here in Poland yet, so I have to do with my digital iTunes copy. At least for now, but I cannot wait to hold the disc in my hands, smell it, marvel at the great cover art and simply put it on the shelf among the best of 2017.
Forgive the digression saved for the end, but it is one of the biggest “interrobangs” in rock music that UFO remain a rather low profile today. They have their faithful legions of fans, including me, and they constantly put out top quality albums and do fantastic, real pukka tours. Live, none of the band cuts corners – they play their hearts out. The same in the studio.
Yes, UFO is still the real deal. Amongst the very few left. Black Sabbath is no more, Deep Purple are having their long goodbye tour, and yet UFO still seem to be hungry and are not willing to lay down their guns. Not just yet.
– This album is dedicated to Tonio Neuhaus, UFO’s long-time tour manager who lost his battle with cancer in September, 2016.