Vinnie Moore Helps Reimagine Pink Floyd's "Animals"
UFO guitarist takes on daunting task of performing David Gilmour's parts on Pink Floyd's classic "Dogs."
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For this issue, I spoke with UFO guitarist Vinnie Moore, who took part in the new album, Animals Reimagined — A Tribute to Pink Floyd. What follows is my review of the album and some background on Moore and his involvement in the project. The embedded video at the end features more of my conversation with Vinnie, including discussion about his career, being invited to play with the likes of Alice Cooper and Peter Frampton, how he became a member of UFO, and more.
Guitar hero Vinnie Moore burst onto the scene in the mid-1980s, joining a slew of other guitar gods who followed in the footsteps of Eddie Van Halen. While playing in clubs and bars, Moore got his break when his demo fell into the hands of Mike Varney, who was in charge of the “Spotlight” section in Guitar Player magazine. From there, Moore (or his hands, anyway) ended up in a Pepsi commercial, and shortly thereafter he released his debut solo album, Mind’s Eye.
Eight solo albums later, Moore can look back on a career that includes playing on one of Alice Cooper’s biggest albums (Hey Stoopid, in 1991) since his classic era and joining the legendary hard rock band UFO (of which he’s still a member) back in 2003.
Recently, Moore was among several big-name rock artists who contributed to Animals Reimagined — A Tribute to Pink Floyd. As the name indicates, the album is a re-recording of Pink Floyd’s iconic Animals album from 1977 in its entirety. The songs have been recorded with varying degrees of difference from Pink Floyd’s originals, by musicians from some of the best-known classic rock bands — we’re talking Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Rainbow, Utopia, Dream Theater, Yes, the Moody Blues, Vanilla Fudge, Blue Öyster Cult, and Focus.
Moore plays on “Dogs,” one of the best songs on Animals and one of the album’s most beloved tracks among Pink Floyd fans. Joining him on the song are former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet, Utopia bassist Kasim Sulton, Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, and drummer Pat Mastelotto — formerly of King Crimson and Mr. Mister and who played on the most recent Frost* album. When Moore was asked by record label Cleopatra to do the Pink Floyd tribute, he didn’t know which track he was doing or who else would be on the song.
“The record company, Cleopatra, pretty much put it all together,” Moore said. “And in fact, I was told initially that another singer (English vocalist Tim Bowness of No-Man) was going to be on that track. And I didn't know it was going to be Graham until it was totally finished and they released the sample of the music. And it was a pleasant surprise, because I've always really liked Graham. Great singer. So, it was even better than I thought it would be.”
By a happy coincidence, “Dogs” reunited Moore with Rudess (on the album, anyway, though not in person). The Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment keyboard wizard played on Moore’s solo albums Time Odyssey (1988) and Soul Shifter (2019). Moore also played on Rudess’ Rhythm of Time (2004) album.
Moore said his parts took a week to work on and record. The tricky part, he said, was figuring out where he could put his own personal stamp on the song and where he needed to stay true to the original, as recorded by David Gilmour.
“When I first heard about it from my manager, I was like, ‘Of course I want to play on a Pink Floyd Animals record.’ I was such a big fan of that record, but I had no idea it would be ‘Dogs,’ until they sent me the track and I was like, ‘It's 17 minutes long!’” he said. “Do they want me to do a couple solos? No, they want you to do all the solos, all the rhythm guitars, all the acoustics, and it was like, oh my god. There was a day where I went, ‘I'm not sure if I have time for this, because it's such a big undertaking.’ And I thought on it for a day and I went, ‘You know, this will be a really cool thing. I'll give it a week.’ And you know, it took quite a while to do that because it was so many parts.”
Moore needed the full week, going to great lengths in setting up acoustic, rhythm, and lead guitar sounds for “Dogs.” And there were times when he was less than happy with his results.
“Everything I played just sounded wrong,” Moore said. “And I know in most cases they didn't want me to duplicate what (David Gilmour) played note for note. They wanted me to add something new. But it just sounded wrong to me. And you know, I just kind of tried to nod at some of his stuff but take it in a slightly different direction. And you know the parts that were part of the song — like the harmony section — they needed to be played exactly as he did.”
Moore did a good job of balancing his intention of servicing the song and staying aligned with Gilmour’s guitar work when needed, but adding his own flavors where he could.
“You just know there's like the hardcore Gilmour fans who are gonna be like, no matter what you played — Jesus could play on it — and they're gonna go, ‘aww crap, that's not Gilmour,’” he said with a smile. “Gilmour is one of my favorite players. His sound and the feel…it gives you chills. And the solo in ‘Time’ is one of my favorite solos of all time.”
The musicians on the album all recorded on their own in their various home studios, but the parts came together seamlessly. The musicians involved are a veritable who’s who of great performers. Here’s the track list, along with the musicians involved:
Pigs on the Wing Part 1 (1:53)– Nick van Eede (Cutting Crew), and Martin Barre (Jethro Tull)
Dogs (16:59) – Graham Bonnet (Rainbow), Vinnie Moore (UFO), Kasim Sulton (Utopia), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson)
Pigs (Three Different Ones) (11:32) – James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Al Di Meola, Joe Bouchard (Blue Öyster Cult), Patrick Moraz (The Moody Blues), and Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra)
Sheep (10:24) – Arthur Brown, Rick Wakeman (Yes), Jan Akkerman (Focus), David J. (Bauhaus), and Carmine Appice (Cactus/Vanilla Fudge)
Pigs on the Wing Part 2 (1:38) – Jon Davison (Yes), Albert Lee, and Billy Sherwood (Yes)
The biggest departure on the album was the reimagined “Sheep,” which I’ll admit is easily my least favorite on the album. The other songs are all done well, remaining faithful to the originals in varying degrees, while still allowing some individuality to shine through.
“Pigs on the Wing Part 1” features gorgeous acoustic guitar from Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre, with keys and vocals by Cutting Crew’s Nick Van Eede. It’s moody and a different arrangement than the original, but it maintains the dark tone of the original. “Dogs” starts with Moore’s acoustic guitar playing more or less faithfully to the original. Bonnet handles the vocals well and the rhythm section of Sulton and Mastelotto are masterful. Rudess’ keyboards always lean on the “shreddy” side and here that’s no different. The tones he uses are a departure from the original as well. Some may not like what Rudess brings to the song but as a cover, it does a good job of introducing a different texture while remaining tonally true to the song. “Dogs” is, for me, the centerpiece of Animals Reimagined.
I kind of love the new flavors that ex-Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz and guitarist Al Di Meola bring to “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” Bassist Joe Bouchard (Blue Oyster Cult) and drummer Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra) give the song a nice groove. As much as I like Dream Theater, vocalist James LaBrie might not be the right guy for this particular track. His hushed vocals do the job well, but the louder Roger Waters parts in the verses don’t come off as well for me. It’s not that they’re bad, but he can’t duplicate the bitter scorn that Waters spits out in the original (and if we’re being honest, who can?). Still, this is an excellent cover with enough new twists of instrumentation providing something different while maintaining enough similarity to the original so as not to alienate the listener.
For me, something seems off about “Sheep” right from the opening keyboard notes of the legendary Rick Wakeman (Yes). Again, it’s nothing bad, and I like what guitarist Jan Akkerman (Focus) adds. But eventually the vocals of Arthur Brown (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) kick in and absolutely wreck the song, despite the best efforts of bassist David J (Bauhaus) and drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge) to hold it together. Brown has had a long, storied career, but what he brings to this particular song does more harm than good in my opinion. “Sheep” also devolves into a psychedelic rock piece that simply doesn’t work for me, although it might appeal to devotees of that style. It’s just too much of a departure compared to the other songs on the album.
The album wraps up with current Yes bandmates Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood teaming up with English guitarist Albert Lee on “Pigs on the Wing Part 2.” The cover is a little denser than the original, with layered acoustic/electric guitar — as opposed to the simple acoustic guitar accompaniment on the Pink Floyd version — but it’s recognizable enough. Amazingly, despite some different instrumentation and approaches throughout the record, Animals Reimagined clocks in only 43 seconds longer than the original album.
Overall, Animals Reimagined is a worthy addition to any Pink Floyd fan’s collection. Four of the five tracks are anywhere from good to superb, with “Dogs” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” standing above the rest.
For my full interview with Vinnie, see the video below. In addition to the topics covered, we spoke about his background, how he juggles his solo career with being in UFO, playing with Alice Cooper and Peter Frampton, and other topics.
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