Covering 1977, 1985 and 2000 releases at the same time, I’ve understood what the term lifer means. There is no safety net, no plan B. It’s music and music only.
In the 1977 reviews there was Michael Schenker and UFO. And here he is again in the 2000’s. In between he’s had it all, lost it all, started to regain it and then got ripped off by ex-partners and managers and family members.
But he’s still here.
UFO – Covenant
Michael Schenker returned, Schenker left, Schenker returned, Schenker left and Schenker returned again. This is UFO without the Chorus hooks from the past, but then again, I never saw UFO as a band who sat around to write big choruses. They just wrote songs for an album. On occasions, fans would make some of those songs big.
This album has a stellar band, in Phil Mogg on vocals, Pete Way on bass, Aynsley Dunbar on drums and Michael Schenker on guitar.
“Love Is Forever” kicks it off, written by Schenker and Phil Mogg. And immediately I am hooked, because the guitar playing of Schenker is in good form.
The second track, “Unraveled” is written by Pete Way and Mogg, but it’s how Schenker plays that riff, which captures me.
All of the other cuts are written by Schenker and Mogg. “Miss the Lights” has a finger plucked octave melodic riff and that section after the solo, it’s only for 20 seconds but its Schenker at his best, playing melodic palm muted arpeggios.
“Midnight Train” has a stomping E minor riff from Schenker and Mogg puts on his Bob Seger hat to deliver a vocal line which stands as one of my favourites.
“Fool’s Gold” shows Schenker’s classical and blues approach in a ballad sense. His chord voicings are classical in nature, but his solo is blues based.
“The Smell of Money” has more of Schenker’s unique playing style. “Cowboy Joe” is such a wrong title for an intro riff that sounds as heavy as “Unholy”. But the song moves between major and minor.
Michael Schenker was also busy as a solo artist. “Michael Schenker – Adventures Of The Imagination” is an instrumental album by Schenker and “Michael Schenker – The Odd Trio” is Michael Schenker playing all the instruments. He created pseudonyms for the bass and drums, known as Harry Cobham and Kathy Brown respectively.
I remember hearing em and moving on.
Poison – Crack A Smile And More
Poison – Power To The People
Poison is an interesting case.
On the backs of MTV and their blend of punk, pop, country and hard rock, they had platinum success for the first three albums.
Then CC left or was fired.
Richie Kotzen came in and the serious “Native Tongue” came out in a climate dominated by grunge artists. But this album wasn’t a glam rock album like the ones before. It was a blues rock album, a shining light in a cacophony of noise on the charts. It was different and the label wanted sales, like before, and the MKII version didn’t last long because Kotzen couldn’t keep his hands off a band members partner. Then again, true love is true love and they are still together.
Then I read that Blues Saraceno was hired for the guitar slot. And I was interested to hear what kind of Poison we will get with Saraceno, because he was doing guitar instructional articles in the various Guitar Mags and this guy knew his stuff, and his instructional articles covered so many different styles. But time went on and on and that album with Saraceno just kept getting delayed. We got a couple tracks on a Greatest Hits album, then CC came back in and they dropped two albums.
“Crack a Smile” began in 1994.
In between there was a motor vehicle accident involving Bret Michaels and a long recovery. Then Capitol Records had lost interest in a new album and wanted to cash in on a “Greatest Hits” album, which was released in 1996.
But the fans wanted it and bootleggers were selling it for a lot, so Capital Records, being astute to see dollars as a label does, released it with additional live tracks and “Face The Hangman” a demo from “Open Up And Say Ahh”.
“Be the One” at track 5 got me interested. It’s one of those bluesy power ballads that Poison do so well. “Sexual Thing” at track 7 is classic Poison, with some killer pedal point riffing from Saraceno. “Lay Your Body Down” is a carbon copy of “Something To Believe In”.
Track 10, “That’s the Way I Like It” sums up my feelings towards the song and Bret Michaels is in full form here, telling the world, that he likes it when a girl goes down on him. “Set It Free” is a bonus track and it’s better than the other tracks, while “Face The Hangman” the outtake from “Open And Say Ahh” is a classic rock track, a bluesy romp.
But I could hear why the label went cold to a new album.
“Power to the People” sees the return of MK1, with five new studio cuts and 12 live tracks from their successful “Greatest Hits” reunion tour.
The title track might have sounds of the Nu Metal movement and some fast spoken verses but its typical Poison, led by a killer riff and a cool balls to the wall vocal line. Plus “the People” in this case is the Poison fan base.
“Can’t Bring Me Down” sounds like “Sweet Home Alabama” with a new sound. And after two songs, CC demonstrates why he works so well with Poison. His riffing is different, accessible and his leads with those little interlude leads between Choruses and Verses are melodic or bluesy in a simple way that it works.
“The Last Song” is probably one of their best songs and no one knows it. The intro lead break from CC is enough to get me interested. Meanwhile “Strange” has this octave melodic riff that CC plays which catches me.
“I Hate Every Bone In Your Body But Mine (with C.C. DeVille on lead vocals) closes off the new studio tracks with probably one of the best “longest titles” that didn’t come from a Meatloaf album. And CC has this punk style voice that reminds me of Hanoi Rocks and their singer Michael Monroe.
And into the time machine for a stop in 1985.