by Griff Stevens
With a heritage that dates back to 1969, British rockers UFO are back with their 23rd studio release titled, The Salentino Cuts. With a line-up of: ever present front man Phil Mogg, original drummer Andy Parker and long-time keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond, the amazing lead guitarist, Vinnie Moore (a permanent member since 2003) and relative newcomer Paul De Luca on bass (joining 2012). For The Salentino Cuts, the band has chosen to celebrate material from other bands that inspire them, making it their first album of covers.
The tunes on this twelve-song collection range from: John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Paper in Fire” to the late Tom Petty’s “Honey Bee.” Each selection is given their own touch, making for something special on each selection. While these are all classics, UFO does a fine job of not sticking to the obvious and cover a wide array of songs outside their genre.
The Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul” opens the disc. With Moore’s warm guitar playing the opening riff, the band proceeds to give the track a nice dose of UFO style, which is full of classy, blues infused rock attitude and energy. Mogg’s vocals are strong and sit well in the groove, Moore’s solo is full of tasteful licks and blues overtones. De Luca and Parker give this tune a rock attitude that makes it fun, with a signature UFO style.
The standout track is their take on Mellencamp’s “Paper In Fire” where Mogg’s narrative style and deep voice, gives the song a remarkable amount of feel. The blues fills by Moore are packed with emotion and style. De Luca and Parker keeps things driving and give this song a lot of energy, resulting in a fulfilled listen, jam packed with whammy pedals, drum fills, sweet grooves, and smooth riffs.
As you might expect from such vintage performers, there’s a lot of heart and soul in their material from long years of playing together and straight up, a working band. A highlight is the incorporated UFO style with ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid.” The band sound is laid-back, but full of energy and Moore is on FIRE! His solo on this track is a must for guitar fans and the in-the-pocket playing and singing is a study in relaxed burn.
Petty’s “Honey Bee” is given a nice dose of UFO. With Moore playing a rich guitar part full of artificial harmonics and a deep rich groove that twists and turns along with attitude. Raymond’s keyboards add a great deal of ambience here. Adding more swagger than the original and the inclusion of brilliant guitar work, we hear once again how tremendous Petty was a songwriter. Moore is immense in creating such a melodic energy. UFO has always had a great guitarist, but Moore is something special.
The Salentino Cuts is good fun to listen to, we already know all the tunes and hearing UFO’s take on these classic tunes is a melodious treat. This release presents cover tunes well beyond par for the course, and the moments of wonder are nothing short of astonishing. The band has put a lot of effort into fine-tuning each track and have succeeded where it counts. These tracks comprise a moment in UFO’s career to be proud of, and hopefully such exemplary performances proceed to follow them wherever the journey may lead next.
Tracks to sample first: “Heart full of Soul,” “Paper In Fire,” “Just Got Paid” and “Honey Bee.” The songs to take a chance on are “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Rock Candy.”