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UFO: A Conspiracy Of Stars

UFO have the blues for you.

Twenty-two albums later and with the sort of personnel ructions and inter-band spats that would look ridiculous even if you saw them acted out in an episode of Eastenders, UFO, at this late stage in the day, seem to have attained a relative sense of calm.

Forget about the band that once nailed Geddy Lee’s shoes to the floor as Rush were about to take the stage, or drunkenly asked the spotlight man to stop shining the light in Phil Mogg’s eyes as he was having trouble seeing anyway. That band of outlaws has long since disbanded and ridden off into the sunset.

The iconic yet rarely eloquent Pete Way’s long gone off on his own adventure, while guitarist Vinnie Moore is no longer the new kid and after the promise of 2012’s Seven Deadly, A Conspiracy Of Stars has all the earnest charm and swagger of a band at ease with themselves and the world.

It’s the aforementioned Moore who shines the brightest here, stepping into Michael Schenker or even Tonka’s shoes was always going to be a big ask – though, to his eternal credit, it never seemed to trouble him live, his mellifluous playing bringing classics like Love To Love to thrilling life – but his playing has become more assured with each album.

A Conspiracy Of Stars might be his high watermark; electrifying riffs, washes of colour and delicate picking all float effortlessly by, while one of the album’s real highlights, the lyrical and bluesy Devil’s In The Detail has a guitar solo that’ll make the dentures fall from your head, Moore’s dazzling playing carrying the song to its unyielding end. Mogg’s no slouch either, still the bar end raconteur with tales from the wrong side of the tracks, they make for a formidable team.

The gently rolling, organ filled Precious Cargo is the flip side of their remarkable coin, a lazy and blues-infused jam, Mogg and Moore trading licks and vocals about yet another one that got away.

It’s not just the band at their colourful best either; producer Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy) helps brings things to thrumming life, the occasional striking piano chord, the clear strike of the snare drum, Mogg’s melodies and singularly insightful phrasing, all still as reassuringly sharp as a tack./o:p

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion. He ghosted Carl Barat’s acclaimed autobiography, Threepenny Memoir, and helped launch the BBC 6 Music network as producer and co-presenter on the Phill Jupitus Breakfast Show. Five years later he and Jupitus fronted the hugely popular Perfect 10 podcast and live shows. His debut novel, Cross Country Murder Song, was described, variously, as ‘sophisticated and compelling’ and ‘like a worm inside my brain’. His latest novel The Death And Life Of Red Henley is out now.