on 9 November 2006
Let me start by putting this review in perspective. I have just arrived back from a four day trip to Scotland - one thousand miles round trip, a total of about fifteen hours driving. I took ONLY one cd with me "The Monkey Puzzle", bought the day before my trip on the back of the storming reviews on Amazon.
I have followed UFO for the last quarter of a century ever since the Tommy Vance friday night rock show playing of SITN. They were the first band I saw live and I have seem them blow every other band away. I have also almost cried as Phil forgot words and (more recently) when Mr Schenker struggled to hit the right notes on his flying V. If you saw the gig at Manchester, trust me, you will know how bad it was.
Saying that I rate Phil as one of the best (unsung) songwriters of the last twenty five years. I have bought just about everything they have made and Phil and Pete have always been the glue that bound the band together.
After buying this album on the back of the reviews on this site I spent ages trying to work out why it just wasn't doing it for me. I played this cd back to back hour after hour and am still not exactly sure why I believe that it is not as great as everyone else seems to think - although I have some ideas.
Firstly, I can only describe some of the songs as "light weight" or even "soft". I am not sure whether this is down to over production, the way the songs have been mixed or the fact that when you look at the credits, they were all recorded seperately. For me UFO have always worked at their best when playing as a band,with lead and rythym guitar - I still rate the partnership between Tonka, Paul and Neil Carter (where are you now)? On this album the rythym guitar seems to be way back in the mix (overshadowed sometimes by the keybords)resulting in my humble opinion in a lack of power.
"Hard Being Me" is a great intro to the album and the nearest song to a rocker as I can find on this cd. It is typical UFO and works really well. Then the change happens. "Heavenly Body" has one of the heaviest guitar riffs on the album but I find the verse and chorus difficult to separate. Good solo and here you can hear the solo backed up by another guitar. If you need the first really good example of what I mean with the guitars listen to the first part of Vinnie's solo on "Some Other Guy". The only thing backing it up is Pete on the bass - then listen to the change in feeling when the rythym guitar kicks in. Miles better." Who's Fooling Who" has a great intro which builds and when the first verse starts it actually sent shivers down my spine - there's real tension there. Then the whole feeling of the song changes with a really light weight chorus!" Black & Blue" is another of the songs that seems to start well and then becomes repetitive and the ending just seems down right strange - it just drifts until Phil finishes with "my baby's in flight"."Drink to Much" and "Goodbye You", well, I have never been a big ballad fan but I just skip these tracks."World Cruise" again starts very promisingly but again the verse and riff just seem very soft and needs turning up to 11. "Rolling Man" reminds me of "When Daylight Goes to Town" from "You are Here" but again just drifts and gets a little repetitive with "come on, come on". Finally, Kingston Town" again starts with a really good lick, good verse and then the chorus goes all light weight and spoils it...!
I really wanted to enjoy this album especially as I bought it on the back of the reviews on this site. Whilst not brilliant it still has enough UFO to get me to play it. But, it is not as good as "You Are Here".
There is no doubting the talent and experience within the band but this album could be so much more that it is. It will be interesting to see the tracks performed live........!
on 5 October 2006
First heard `Doctor Doctor' on R1 in the late 70's and some kid in school lent me `Strangers in the Night', (still the best live rock album ever) and I was an instant fan! UFO still ROCK today as their awesome 2005 `Showtime' DVD proves and I can't wait to see the boys live again in November.
I'm not going to go into the "Schenker was the best guitarist" argument as UFO have always delivered with Phil `The Wild One' Mogg at the helm, but I was a bit worried when US Import Vinnie Moore turned up a few years ago. Panic not, what a talent! He looks ROCK and plays ROCK with style and with him the band created the classic' You Are Here' CD in 2004, a tough act to follow.
So here we are in 2006 with the eagerly awaited and faultless `Monkey Puzzle' which opens with the hard rockin' `Hard Being Me', an excellent show opener where Phil gets the crowds attention by proclaiming "We ain't about to quit boy, The bands back in town"! Track 2 (not as listed on most sites?) is the heavier `(It was a hard) Heavenly Body', (Phil writing about stiffness & bones again I think?), dark and raunchy.
Then the album takes a walk with the blues with `Some Other Guy' which has all the ingredients of the Budweiser advert, you know, baby's gone, dog, rain, harmonica etc. and it's a classic; Vinnie's guitar work is phenomenal as it is throughout the CD.
Next is a gem of a bluesy soulful power ballad, `Who's Fooling Who', the guitar solo worth the price alone; Phil expresses the vocals as if he's living it (hope they do this one live!).
Then comes Paul Raymond's excellent contribution `Black and Blue' a hard rockin' ride from the old style UFO, Pete & Andy tight as ever with the beat!
It just keeps getting better with `Drink Too Much' which is my kind of love song, if Bon Jovi did this it would be a big hit!
`World Cruise' and `Down by the River' continue the Bluesy US theme and demonstrates Vinnie's acoustic and slide guitar skills, both are catchy and different.
`Good Bye You' is yet another stunning composition, a power ballad sung from the soul and guitar work to make you cry! Phil, you must have been burned man!
Don't worry; Phil's ALRIGHT check out the lyrics of `Rolling Man', good time macho rock `n' roll!
The album closes with the laid back `Kingston Town' which has a classy style all of its own.
`Monkey Puzzle' is a Rock `n' Roller Coaster of music styles that showcase the talent of the band that just keep going On and On with the Action! And as all UFO fans know, their even better live!
on 10 October 2006
I've loved UFO from that first time I saw them on the Old Grey Whistle Test in the early seventies (Force It album). This obviously led me on to appreciate Michael Schenker as the worlds best guitarist, even to this day (better now than ever!). However, I always felt since he left, that UFO despite being very good, never quite managed to sound as sharp and powerful as the Schenker days......until now.
Superb. I took to the whole album the first time I played it as I did with each release in the seventies.
on 2 October 2006
on first listen, it might seem it's an ok album.but start's to really get under your skin, and it's damn hard not to like/love it after the first listen. hard being me is blues/honky tonk intro, which then kick into a good time rock n roll song as only ufo can do.heavenly body, after its acoustic intro is probably the heavest thing the band have done for years.some other guy is a real blues number which gets better the more you listen to it. whos fooling who, a great acoustic intro followed buy a really good rock song, with some good touches for vinnie moore on lead guitar. black n blue with an intro direct from the film school of rock, a great catchy rock song, like they dont make anymore, drink to much is not a reference to pete way other hobby, but a rather subdubed ballad ish from messers mogg/moore.world cruise is another rock n roll number with refrained guitar work, just listen, you will see what i mean.down by the river to me is just rock by numbers. good bye to you is possible the best track on the album, but it takes a couple of listens to appriciate this song, think swaalow from you are here and you wont be far from the mark. rolling man seems to drift by without noticing youve listened to it, but its got a great beat to it, from mister parker.kingston town on first listen was far from one my favorites, but like the rest of the album, you deffinatly grow to really love it. on the whole, its takes a few listens, but if you stick wich it , you wont be dissapointed, i promise.
on 23 October 2006
It's never good news when the first good song happens to be track #7 (Down by the River) out of a total 11 tracks. This outing has some fine moments (World Cruise, Rolling Man and Down by the River), but not quite enough to leave me satisfied because I know UFO is still one of the best hard rock bands in the world today.
I'm a huge UFO fan, but I'm massively dissapointed with this album, especially after so many favorable reviews. Indeed, Tommy Newton's sound and production is stellar, but the lads failed to compose some genuinely great tracks, as UFO is always capable of. I must say Andy Parker's drumming sounded pretty well, but again, I cannot quite get over the lack of spark in the songs.
I saw UFO live last year (2005) and they rocked like never before, yet I feel seriously disheartened by this release. Still, The Monkey Puzzle remains as one of the best hard rock releases of this year, although I don't think the potential was well capitalized upon this time. Better luck next time... UFO will still be one of the best all-time top rock bands.
on 3 October 2006
UFO return with a classic album, hot on the heals of their double live, 'Showtime' DVD and CD release late last year. Original drummer, Andy Parker, returns to the UFO family and does so in style. Vinnie Moore adds his magic with swathes of melody and fine riffing. Phil Mogg shows his class. ozzing with confidence and delights us with lyrics - to die for. Pete Way and Paul Raymond add their sparkle, not only with their playing but with fine contributions to the UFO song writing. The Monkey Puzzle is one of UFO's finest works - Joy
on 14 May 2007
This is a superb album and probably the best studio offering since the seminal The Wild, Willing and The Innocent. Having struggled with the second Schenker era, and owning but not really loving Covenant and Sharks, the arrival of Vinnie Moore has made this group into a fantastic collection of musicians. It's hard to believe that Mogg is now almost 60. His voice seems to get better with age and his phrasing on this album, mixed with his whisky induced new gravely voice, is an absoutle joy. Mr Parker back on drums (following Jason's understanable promotion to Foreigner) has almost brought back the classic Strangers line up. However, the real jewell in the crown is Vinnie Moore. What a guitarist, what a songwriter. This boy has got it all. If you know what you're talking about on the guitar side (ie if you play yourself to a reasonable standard), then you will understand exactly what I am talking. His sweep arpeggios are amazing, not overused, and always within the context of a more conventionally constructed solo. Best track on the album is the absolute classic Black and Blue. I would love to see that done live. But then there are fantastic pieces all the way through. Kingston Town, the album closer is incredibly well connstructed - two songs in one really. The ballads are reminisent of the No Place to Run Era, and the opener Hard Being Me is a storming bluesly based crunch fest with some lovely pentatonic soling. Mogg's lyrics never cease to amaze me. When he really makes the effort, as he has on this one, he goes from serious love songs (Drink to Much) to hilarious lines such as "I've got a woman with the magic touch - she's half crazy, she's half dutch". Brilliant. Just buy the album.
on 15 October 2006
If, like me, you're a little obsessed with Mr Schenker and have been wondering whether to shell out your hard earned cash for this CD, don't worry, having finally taken a chance on it this morning it really is as good as the other reviews suggest. Definately the best post/non-Schenker album, by a long way. A great listen from beginning to end. I've only given it 4* because, now that the band are getting into their stride, I believe that there is an even better album to come! Buy it, you won't regret it.
Is it just me or are UFO running some kind of shite cover contest? Cos' this is another stinker following on from the dire frontage to "You Are Here". On the plus side, "T|he Monkey Puzzle" sees the welcome return of original member Andy "No Neck" Parker to the drum stool, following the defection of Jason Bonham to Foreigner and the world of reality TV. It'll be interesting to see how UFO hold up, as on the "Showtime" DVD it seemed as though Bonham was the one holding all the strands together.
They're bigging this up as their blues rock album, and to a certain degree that's true. Certainly when the slide guitar gets chapping and honky tonk piano runs kick in on the opening number, "Hard Being Me", then it's blues rock ahoy! But really, after that, "World Cruise" apart, it's pretty much business as usual for UFO. Good songs, soulful vocals and some rock solid performances.
If there's one thing the CD lacks it's an absolute stand out killer track. To be fair, "Hard Being Me" and "Rolling Man" would slot easily into the their live set, but the best songs ahere are ballads - "Who's Fooling Who" and "Good Bye You". But if there's one thing the UFO back catalogue isn't lacking in, it's killer ballads.
However, my love of UFO is probably making me overly harsh, for I can think of no other band in their fifth decade making music this good. All the others have either given up making new albums or issuing ersatz versions of their years in the sun. UFO can still hold their heads high and touring the UK in November. You owe it to yourself to be there.
on 9 February 2007
I can't understand why anyone would consider this album a regression from "You Are Here". I think this is a fabulous album on a par with "You Are Here" and their best since "Walk on Water". The material is very strong and fresh with a definite bluesy feel. Just check out "Hard Being Me", "Down by the River", "World Cruise" and "Some Other Guy" (personally I would have preferred a harmonica solo rather than Vinnie's first guitar solo on the latter). All the tracks are really good and earthy, from the heavy guitar sound of "Heavenly Body" to the more conventional UFO ballad style numbers like "Who's Fooling Who" and "Drink too Much". In fact I like all the songs with perhaps the weakest "Kingston Town" still palatable.
I saw them live in Nov '06 and although the gig was great I was disappointed they only played "Drink too Much" from this album. I would much prefer them to play this new material and dispense with some of the older tunes unless Vinnie starts playing the solo's a little more accurately.
I have to admit that I am really comfortable with this line up and the rock `n' roll craftsmanship produced on this album. I am playing this all the time in the car so "out with the old and in with the new" so to speak. As a kid I was one of the die hards where anything produced without Michael Schenker on lead just wasn't UFO. Whilst that was still my favourite era I don't under estimate the brilliance of Phil Mogg and Pete Way anymore which is still alive and kicking. Now much wiser and wrinklier than these two I have finally got the monkey off my back!