Universal Music [Release date 21.10.16]
Over the years a myth has grown up around Quo that all songs sound the same and that their songs amount to the ABC of rock, three chords, heads down, see you at the end.
As those who take the time to listen to the band’s back catalogue will soon realise however the band and music are a lot more complex than most people give them credit for. The release of the first Aquostic album ably demonstrated there is a lot more to Status Quo than meets the ear and this latest release emphasises that point.
With the imminent demise of the fully electric, high energy Quo live shows the slower, more laid back acoustic approach is the perfect way to ensure that the band can continue to deliver the goods in concert. Better a slow Quo than no Quo!
This album continues in the same vein as the previous Aquostic release bringing together new versions of live favourites coupled with some less well known album tracks and a few new numbers for good measure.
‘That’s A Fact!’, opens proceedings. I did worry for a few seconds that the guys had gone with a cover of George Michael’s ‘Faith’ to get things going as the opening chords are much the same. I needn’t have worried though as the song soon turned into a feel good folk rock song with a great melody which has a bit of a Mariachi band feel to it.
‘Roll Over Lay Down’ follows and it has been transformed into a slow paced bluesy stomp which works well. One song perfectly suited to the acoustic makeover is ‘Dear John’ which is underpinned by the delicate strains of the string quartet and for me is one of the album highlights. Francis Rossi puts in a heartfelt vocal performance here which really brings out the emotional content of the lyrics. This is followed by ‘In The Army Now’ which is kept fairly standard, but the addition of the string section and the odd mouth organ blast add depth and drama.
One song that stands out on this album for me is ‘Hold You Back’. Always one of my favourite Quo tracks, the mandolin-led version included here is such good fun and so joyful it should be on prescription. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face and get you bouncing then I would check for a pulse. In a live setting this will be a set highlight, no question.
Another new track ‘One For The Road’ is next and it has a country tinge to it with great harmonic vocals on the chorus. ‘Backwater’ is as dark and brooding as ever with the string section again taking the lead. The last of the new tracks ‘One Of Everything’ follows and is an upbeat, uptempo song, again with a country tinge to the melody.
Two less well known tracks are then given the acoustic makeover in the shape of ‘Belavista Man’ and ‘Lover Of The Human Race’ both of which transfer well to the new format. ‘Ice In The Sun’ then takes us way back to the depths of the Quo archive. As with ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Men’ on the first album the 60’s sound of ‘Ice’ is perfect for this treatment, it transports you back to a land of loon pants and dodgy moustaches.
A swinging version of ‘Mess Of Blues’ and ‘Jam Side Down’ follow. The album is then rounded off with a stripped back, rock n roll version of ‘Resurrection’ complete with some tasty slide guitar and mouth organ all that’s missing is the lazy ‘gator in the swamp!
Status Quo may well be winding things down in the coming months and with recent health issues who could grudge them a bit of respite. The Quo Army however can take heart in the fact that musically the band are still in rude health and those searching out their Quo fix will not be disappointed with this album.
They may be unplugged but Status Quo are still on a charge. ****
Review by Dave Wilson
Gig Review (Union Chapel, London, 2016)
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