Their first covers album – and it’s not what you’d think
Let’s be honest, covers albums can go either way. So it was that when MV received a press release saying that UFO were doing their first one in the 50 year history of the band, there was a bit of trepidation.
This was, however, tempered with the thought that it would be interesting to see what a band who has been covered enough themselves would come up with and also that this current line up is absolutely exceptional and their albums over the last decade or more have been wonderful.
Then we saw the track listing. And yeah, there’s the odd thing that you think, “fair enough, I can imagine them doing that”, but then there’s the others.
I mean really did you imagine Phil Mogg and the boys covering Mad Season’s “River Of Deceit”? No, me neither. They do a wonderful job of it though and there is real feeling here when Mogg mutters – he has a way of forcing words out that means he doesn’t sing quite like anyone else – “my pain is self-chosen”.
Likewise, UFO weren’t the type of band you could see turning Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” into a laid back, late night bluesy tour de force. On the “Salentino Cuts” they do just that.
Elsewhere, Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” is delivered with a real dirty glee, and there is a kind of knowing wink about the opening lines: “You know I smoked a lot of grass, you know I popped a lot of pills” as Mogg is in fine form, while the blue-collar stylings of Mellencamp’s “Paper In Fire” are a real high spot and “Just Got Paid” is merely proof that however you cut it, ZZ Top rule. UFO realise this too, and as such don’t play it like Billy, Dusty and Frank, instead they turn it into one of their own.
Which is precisely why “…Cuts” is a fine example of the genre. These are not copies, rather they are interpretations – as to be fair you’d expect from a band as storied as this.
Opening with “Heartful Of Soul” proves the point. If you don’t know The Yardbirds version it doesn’t really matter, and if “Break On Through” does perhaps stray too close to the original, then “Rock Candy” finds something a little monolithic in the groove.
“Mississippi Queen” gives Mogg the chance to do what he does over a filthy riff from the brilliant Vinnie Moore, who excels again on the take on “Honey Bee”, which sounds positively primal here.
“Too Rolling Stoned” has a fuzzy Hendrix like quality that Robin Trower himself would approve of, and the closing with The Animals “It’s My Life” is instructive. A brilliant song – everyone knows this – it has been covered by every rock band worth their salt at some point. Yet it sounds extra defiant here.
“It’s my life, I’ll do what I want” may well have been the mission statement here, because this is the sound of gifted band having fun. It’s more than that though and shows that even after nearly 50 years they can still surprise.