By Tim Wadzinski

Taken from Detritus #77

UFO - COVENANT (A-) Shrapnel, 2000

11 tracks, RT: 49:03

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OK, so, I'm not a *huge* UFO fan, but I'm a Michael Schenker fan and I gotta admit something special happens when Herr Schenker and vocalist Phil Mogg collaborate. Between this and WALK ON WATER, the previous "reunion with Michael album," I'm convinced I need to go back and seriously investigate those ancient UFO records from Schenker's first term with the band. Anyway... COVENANT, like WALK ON WATER, is heady, polished, mature hard rock made for, and by, adults. No fluff, and no wasted moments. You just *know* Mogg has seen some shit in his life and he has an uncanny knack for lyricizing what's on his mind. He just makes you want to pull up a stool and pay attention. It's not the classic lineup--guitarist/keyboardist Paul Raymond is gone and drummer Andy Parker has been replaced by Aynsley Dunbar (and Simon Wright before that)--but the boys still don't disappoint. Schenker is once again everywhere, frequently firing off ultra-melodic licks and solos several times per song, and bassist Pete Way and Dunbar are solid; Way even gets nicely featured in "Serenade," a stellar pseudo-ballad that screams for the unplugged treatment, and Dunbar shines on "The World And His Dog." Other standouts include the driving, chugging "Midnight Train," the kinda heavy, kinda scratchy "Unraveled" (with guitar parts that resemble W.A.S.P.'s cover of "Locomotive Breath"), and "Fools Gold," which starts off slow 'n' sad like weepy Whitesnake before opening up with urgency. There are a *lot* of background vocals this time out, and they're expertly used. The best example is probably "Unraveled," and in an odd/cool move they sorta take over the lead in "The Middle Of Madness," which has a pleasant Scorpions groove. And though Raymond might indeed be gone, quite a few keyboards add in background color. Nothing here will really, truly, blow your shorts off--even Schenker's best moments are tasteful and refined--but COVENANT is a solid work from a team of grizzled vets. And, although my promo copy didn't have one, the store version (or at least a ltd. edition, anyway) of COVENANT comes with a bonus live CD recorded in 1995. Tracks: "Mother Mary," "This Kids," "Let It Roll," "Out In The Street," "Venus," "Pushed To The Limit," "Love To Love," "Shoot Shoot," "C'mon Everybody." (Sources say the last two are bonus tracks only on the Japanese version.) - Tim

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