Survival sans Michael Schenker will forever be the plight of English hard rock heavyweights UFO. Indeed, for many ardent fans, the validity of the group's existence appears to hinge on the presence of the irascible German within its ranks. But with all due respect to the incomparable mad axeman, even his formidable talents have done little to elevate UFO's performance during its reunions of the '90s and 2000s, so it's only fair that the enduring "classic" trio of vocalist Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, and rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Paul Raymond should be free to carry on with or without him. They do the latter on 2004's You Are Here, a steady but very workmanlike album (recorded, ironically enough, in Germany) on which the lineup is rounded out by drummer Jason Bonham and American guitarist Vinnie Moore. Opening numbers like the AC/DC-riffed "When Daylight Goes to Town," the rhythmically jumpy "Black Cold Coffee," and the cool grooving "The Wild One" all throw off intermittent sparks, but leave no real lasting thunder in their wake. In a way, they are thus true to UFO tradition by prioritizing nuance over explosiveness, but this still can't mask the fact that there's no sign of a timeless tune among them, or the remaining material, for that matter. As for Moore -- surely the man under the most scrutiny -- from a purely technical perspective he is a more than capable replacement (his long resumé truly preceding him), but his input here (most evident on the muscular "Mr. Freeze") can't improve the final, mixed outcome, either. And except for a couple of fine, quasi-ballads in "Slipping Away" and "Sympathy," and a final flash of anthemic strength in the closing "Swallow," You Are Here reveals a decidedly flat band, perhaps still shell-shocked and getting back up to speed after Schenker's latest soap opera. With that in mind, better days may well come again to these survivors, should some level of stability be allowed to set in. After all, one should never count out a class act like UFO.
You Are Here Review
by Eduardo Rivadavia