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STATUS QUO IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Since late 1967 when Francis Rossi recruited Rick Parfitt into the band that had been The Spectres and then briefly The Traffic Jam, both guitarist/vocalists being the sole survivors from the 1960s line-up, and they changed their name to The Status Quo ('The' was dropped a year later), they've released 29 albums, excluding live sets and compilations, this being the 27th. Sometimes they' re magnificent, occasionally they're pretty lame, more often than not they're good but not quite of the first rank. This belongs to the latter category.
Basically, what do you want, or expect, from a new Quo album? Ideally, a decent mix of driving, no-nonsense boogie, and a few good songs, preferably their own, that occasionally break the mould and turn the tables on those who still say that they only know three chords (some of those cloth-eared critics have been saying that since 1973). Having got those tiresome cover version albums, done at the behest of the record company, out of the way, it's back to 'Quo Sing Quo' most of the way - and it's all the better for it.
In view of that, perhaps it's ironic that the two singles released from this album were both penned by John David, Dave Edmunds' bassist, who also wrote their 1986 hits 'Rollin' Home' and 'Red Sky'. Even so, what's not to love about the title track on this record? The sheer Quo drive is there, while the intro guitar lick and chorus are so effortlessly catchy. In all their 40-plus years, they rarely recorded anything more infectious than this. The second David song, 'All That Counts Is Love', is pleasant and tuneful enough, but not quite in the same rank. A third song which he co-wrote, 'Kick Me When I'm Down', has Parfitt on lead vocal, and is a heavier, uncharacteristically aggressive number.
That leaves ten group compositions, and it's good to see that while Rossi has the lion's share of writing credits as usual, all other four members have a chance to pitch in as well. It's easy to pick almost any of them and say 'didn't they record this a few years ago with different words?' and yes, there's a touch of déjà vu, but I find this rather endearing. Maybe the basic boogie of the second track, 'Gotta Get Up And Go', sounds pretty similar to 'Softer Ride' on the 1973 album 'Hello', but there are enough little twists in the chord sequence to let them get away with it.
Parfitt takes lead vocal on 'Bellavista Man', which is a nod to the blues and boogie roots of the early 1970s work, and they turn the pace up a ratchet for 'Velvet Train', on which it's good to hear keyboards man Andy Bown give it his everything on the harmonica. 'You Never Stop' and 'Cupid Stupid' are in much the same vein, but it's rather a case of having heard them do it before yet much better. Likewise 'The Bubble' is pleasant enough pop fare but seems lacking that vital spark, while 'Nevashooda' is fun as far as it goes, yet never really gets out of that single groove and sounds like it wants to be taken further. Nevertheless, they redeem themselves on 'Goodbye Baby'. Maybe it's only a step away from 'Bye Bye Johnny', but what it might lack in originality, it makes up for that with power. This really is rock'n'roll an' 'avin' a blast. If it doesn't at least get your foot tapping, something is wrong somewhere.
That leaves two quite uncharacteristic songs, both co-written by Parfitt who takes lead vocals on each. Lyrically they're the best of the lot. Both rely quite heavily on acoustic guitar and organ, and are much more laid-back, even close to ballad territory, or the more folksy style of their 1979 hit 'Living On An Island'. 'Familiar Blues' is not a blues at all, but a wistful bittersweet tale of love going wrong - 'Sometimes I dare to wonder, is there life after you - Could my heart stand the loneliness, could my head see it through?' The only thing which lets it down is the 'Oh oh oh oh' chorus, when another verse on the same theme would have improved it significantly.
Finally there is the similarly subdued closing track, 'This Is Me', Parfitt apologising for being a bit of a Jack the Lad - 'I opened up the paper, I was all across the page - With another senorita, will I ever act my age...What you get is what you see, this is me.' Neither of these songs are typical Quo, but they are among the best on the record.
Included is a 16-page booklet with individual and full band photos, plus the complete lyrics to every song.
It has its moments of 'OK, but not much more than OK' as well as the real goodies. Overall it doesn't quite measure up to the standard of 'Heavy Traffic', which is generally agreed to be their best album since they reformed in 1986. But in my view it certainly beats their lacklustre late 1980s albums hollow. If you've got the classic stuff from the 1970s and are keen to hear more, I'd recommend it, particularly as it has now been relegated to budget price. It may be a tad more poppy, but at leas there's nothing that plumbs the depths of 'Restless' (a soporific single from their 1994 album 'Thirsty Work'). Also I never cared for the title track of 'In The Army Now' (shame, I hear some of you cry), and there's nothing remotely like that here either.
[Revised version of a review I published on the other side of the road]