Veterans of hard rock invasion make a foray into fellow repertoires’ territories to bring back misty green and blue.
These guys have never been strangers to introducing other artists’ pieces – from Frankie Miller to Elvis’ gems and beyond – to their sets way past UFO’s first flights, so the idea of recording an entire album of covers mustn’t look like jumping on the bandwagon. For them, it’s not a refuge as it is for those whose creative juices have run dry, 2015’s “A Conspiracy Of Stars” being strong enough to stir some chart action, yet “The Salentino Cuts” shows a wider expanse of the veterans’ interests than one could predict, and their approach to borrowed material should shine a new light on a few selections.
Replacing the exotic vibe of the original with a vigorous swagger, the quintet make “Heart Full Of Soul” their own, Phil Mogg delivering the gloomy confession over Vinnie Moore’s jagged riffs that dissolve into a soaring solo, while Tom Petty’s “Honey Bee” and John Mellencamp’s “Paper In Fire” get fleshed out in magnificent, muscular British blues – as does, for that matter STEPPENWOLF’s “The Pusher” with its acid burns removed in favor of refined energy. The players pile heavy grace upon “Break On Through” where Paul Raymond’s organ stages a shamanic dance, and exorcise their own psychedelic demons, but it takes such unexpected choice as MAD SEASON’s “River Of Deceit” to demonstrate the band’s interpretative skills and seasoned suppleness which allow them to wrap latter-day melodies in a classic rock shroud.
There’s rarely heard soulful aspect of UFO’s method in “Ain’t No Sunshine” – turned mellifluously dramatic here, unlike the celebratory “Just Got Paid” by ZZ TOP that falls flat on its smug face. Still, when Andy Parker’s drums and Rob DeLuca’s bass drive Robin Trower’s “Too Rolling Stoned” and MONTROSE’s “Rock Candy” towards the group’s own roughly textured rock bottom, there’s a well-tempered panache to their renditions. The roaring “Mississippi Queen” fits their style just as perfect, although it’s THE ANIMALS’ “It’s My Life” that’s the epitome of these cover-makers’ pride. Much more than a simple stop gap, the album adds another aspect to UFO’s storied journey.