UFO – The Monkey Puzzle

UFO - The Monkey Puzzle


Release date: September 25, 2006
Run Time: 46+ minutes – 11 tracks

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The band UFO is about as “classic” as it gets when it comes to Hard Rock/Metal discussions. The voice of Phil Mogg belting out comfort tunes such as “Lights Out” and “Rock Bottom” still sounds fresh and contemporary even some 30 odd years later –- an indication of the true measure of quality songs this band has been able to put together throughout their storied career. UFO, though, has always been most remembered in a live setting … after all, Strangers In The Night may indeed be the “best” live album ever released by any band … and after a series of less-than-influential releases since the mid-1980’s, the band added one of the better guitarists of current times, Vinnie Moore, to handle the lead roles, and issued the You Are Here album in 2004, with none other than Jason Bonham behind the drum kit. 2006, now, sees the return of 4/5ths of the classic UFO line-up, with Andy Parker again pounding the skins, Paul Raymond on keys/2nd guitar, the sturdy Pete Way thumping the bass, Phil Mogg still behind the mic, and once again Vinnie Moore strumming out the tasty licks and leads.

With all of the pieces apparently in place, whether or not The Monkey Puzzle will be the album that puts UFO back on the tips of the proverbial Hard Rock Industry’s collective tongues is the operative question …

As a whole, this album is indeed a great success when looking at it from many perspectives. Phil Mogg sounds as vibrant as ever, Pete Way fills in the gaps admirably, Paul Raymond adds some nice flavor via his keys, and Andy Parker sounds like he’s back at home. Vinnie Moore, however, delivers THE stellar performance on this album. He plays a thick-sounding guitar – sometimes methodical, sometimes Bluesy, but often heavy, very groovy, and … brilliant! His guitar sound is pushed way to the front of the mix, and although that may sound like a production faux paux, it was the right decision with this album, and certainly becomes the justified focal point of The Monkey Puzzle. In songs like the outstanding opener “Hard Being Me,” “Heavenly Body,” “Some Other Guy,” and “Down By The River,” Vinnie shines in particular, although EVERY song on this 11 track album features innovative and ear-catching guitar work. From that standpoint, this album is a must buy for all Moore fans, or fans of just really good guitar jams, riffs, and solos.

From a highlight perspective, the album starts out in very strong fashion via “Hard Being Me” and “Heavenly Body.” Obviously knowing that a concert setting is the band’s strength, the production quality feel of these songs sounds very “live.” Now, many people frown on the “live” quality of songs, but for UFO, remember that they perfected this mode of song delivery, so opting for a “live” ambiance in the studio can be nothing but a good idea. Another song where everything just fits together perfectly is “Rolling Man,” and “Black And Blue” has a hint of “Teenage Wasteland” by the Who in it that works splendidly.

The only downside of the album comes via the down-tempo songs. “Who’s Fooling Who,” the open-hearted “Drink Too Much,” “Good Bye You,” and “Kingston Town,” unfortunately, come across as a bit boring, although there was probably a decent level of inspiration that went into each of them. There are a total of 11 tracks to this album, and the fact that there are 4 tracks that essentially “bring down” the energy and positive vibe largely created by the other 7 leaves the listener with a bit of an empty feeling at the end of this album. Sort of “blue balls,” if you will. If anything, UFO should have opted for maybe just 1 or 2 down-tempo songs and should have kept the energy created elsewhere throughout the album intact. The Monkey Puzzle is still a very good album, and a recommended purchase, but this album, especially with Vinnie Moore’s creative guitar work, could have indeed been “one for the ages” had the pieces of this puzzle included fewer songs that pop the euphoric, high-energy bubble created at the onset of the record.


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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