Saturday, February 04, 2006

DVD: UFO - Showtime


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I just picked up this DVD for a whopping $37.99 Canadian, on special order. UFO are one of the best-known 70's hard rock bands from England but were arguably most famous in Japan. They peaked in the 70s but didn't receive a lot of airplay in North America and then were overshadowed by NWOBHM bands like Def Leppard, and Whitesnake, both of whom are more "metal" than hard rock. UFO also had within their ranks the celebrated German guitarist Michael Schenker, who was also briefly in the Scorpions. Most rock fans will recognize the fantastic title track from the 1977 album, Lights Out, and the classic rock standard, "Only You Can Rock Me" from 1978's Obsession. On disc 2, the band recounts the story of how they wrote this rock standard, with then guitarist Michael Schenker discovering the final pieces to complete the song.

The two-disc DVD features a concert in Wilhelmshaven, Germany from May 13, 2005, in what appears to be a small room, instead of an arena. I was surprised at first to see them size of the room, which wasn't packed tightly, but then I realized that these guys are long past their prime, despite being so influential during the pre-metal heydays of the '70s. The sound quality on my stereo television was fine. I don't have a surround set up so I can't say how much better the sound could be with the right equipment.

The interviews on disc 2 are really more for the serious fans, with the band talking about typical rock'n'roll debauchery, bandmates coming and going, etc. It's the sort of thing that I would watch once and then likely not again. At times, you get reminded how close to a chemically damaged Ozzy Osbourne some of these guys are!

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Disc 2 also has some fun moments like the band on a cruise ship, playing a one-off gig and six tracks filmed live in the studio.

DVD 1:
01. Mother Mary
02. When Daylight Goes To Town
03. Let It Roll
04. Out On The Streets
05. This Kids
06. The Wild One
07. Fighting Man
08. Only You Can Rock Me
09. Baby Blue
10. Mr. Freeze
11. Love To Love
12. Too Hot Too Handle
13. Lights Out
14. Rock Bottom
15. Doctor Doctor
16. Shoot Shoot
17. Making Of
18. Slideshow
19. Discography

DVD 2:
1. Pack It Up And Go (Peppermint Park Studio Session, May 26th 2005)
2. Try Me (Peppermint Park Studio Session, May 26th 2005)
3. Love To Love (Peppermint Park Studio Session, May 26th 2005)
4. Slipping Away (Peppermint Park Studio Session, May 26th 2005)
5. Cherry (Peppermint Park Studio Session, May 26th 2005)
6. Profession Of Violence (Peppermint Park Studio Session, May 26th 2005)
7. Making Of Studio Songs
8. Rockboat (Doku)
9. USA 2004 (Doku)
10. History (Interviews)
11. Bonus Statements (Interviews)
12. Credits

Joining longtime bandmates singer Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way and guitarist Paul Raymond and virtuoso US guitarist Vinnie Moore and drummer Jason Bonham, son of, well, you know who. UFO formed when Moore was 5 years old. He's famous for his 1986 neoclassical instrumental debut album, "Mind's Eye," which is yet another project from rock guitar impresario Mike Varney and Shrapnel Records. What distinguishes Moore from so many other guitar players of his era is his tasteful playing. It's one thing to play fast and it's another to play so with craft and taste. He is truly one of the rock world's finest musicians. Jason Bonham left UFO to tour with Foreginer and was replaced by veteran UFO drummer Andy Parker. There's actually very little mention of Parker in the band interviews, which was an oversight, IMHO. I met Jason Bonham in the late '80s when his band Bonham were opening up for someone at the Winnipeg Arena. With his shaved head, he doesn't look anything like the young fellow I spoke with briefly, barely out of his teens.

Showtime is really more for hard core fans than casual ones. Phil Mogg's vocals were all right but not spectacular. He has a soulful, distinctive sound...and he makes a mistake. During Lights Out, he accidentally inserts an extra chorus before the first official one! Clearly, UFO are a band whose best days are behind them and yet, they are still refreshing to listen to, compared to many of the more "hair" metal bands out there who still trying to hold to past glories built too much on fashion. There are no tracks from the '80s Paul Chapman era, which is too bad. Some of the stand out tracks for me include "Love To Love" (as lovely a rock ballad as you'll ever hear), "Too Hot Too Handle," "Doctor Doctor" and "Rock Bottom"...classic hard rock, if there ever was such a thing.

If you want to know what UK hard rock was like after Led Zeppelin dominated the world, but before hair metal, etc., you owe to yourself to check out some of seminal UFO albums. And if you have the bucks, get one of their concert DVDs. This DVD may not win you over if you're not familiar with their albums.

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