Album number nine, and the last, for the famed Frantic Four line-up would contain a few live staples that have dominated their setlist for decades. How does it stack up amongst their best 40 years on though?
It has been a sad and reflective time for British rock n roll over the past couple of months. The loss of rock legends like David Bowie and Lemmy has left a sizeable void in the bonafide living legends inner circle. Death has taken more than his fair share of inspirational musicians recently and this should make us all the more grateful that there are still some genuine rock legends still around.
Whilst Status Quo will never be accused of constantly reinventing themselves in the Bowie mould their influence on rock music is just as profound for those who prefer denim to spandex and make-up. Just as Lemmy kept the ear-bleeding full throttle formula short and simple for Motorhead so the Quo have perfected the 3-4minute hard boogie rockin’ sound that is now as much a part of British music as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the aforementioned Bowie. The critics, of course, would never agree and any opportunity to denigrate the achievements of a band, that have not only lasted over 50 years but have also constantly kept their hardcore fanbase thrilled and entertained through every fad and trend that has swallowed a million artists following them, has never been wasted. As is the norm they have gone through a few line-up changes, but not as many as you would think given their longevity but the core of Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt has remained as solid as they day they were formed.
40 years ago the band were riding high on the success of the brilliant On The Level album in 1975 and were arguably near the peak of their popularity. That album spawned their No.1 hit “Down, Down” and entered the charts, remember them, straight in at the top spot, and stayed there for three weeks.
There are roads littered with bands and artists that have briefly tasted huge success only to fasil miserably when trying to follow up that initial success. Thankfully, and down to their work ethic, ability and no shortage of charm, this was not a problem that Messrs Rossi & Parfitt and Co encountered.
The album, which was recorded at Phonogram Studios in London between December 1975 – January 1976, opens up with the speedy rocker “Is There A Better Way”. The Blues-soaked “Mad About The Boy” follows on with the foot only temporarily taken off the pedal slightly to enter into familiar boogie shuffle territory.
The criminally underrated “Ring For A Change” is an absolute highlight and picks up the pace once again as the band are now looking to hit top speed. It may not veer from the tried and tested formula but it deserves to stand alongside their greatest hits. The Alan Lancaster title track “Blue For You” provides the most melancholic and restrained track on the album. A soulful, swaying four minutes that provides a little light relief from the heads down, foot tapping nature of the other eight tracks.
“Rain” was the first single released from the album and has been a live favourite ever since. Parfitt’s vocals give his self-penned track added kudos as does the heavy chuffing guitars that give the track it’s power.
“Mystery Song” was the second single from the album. It’s a slow start to the track before bursting into life in typical Quo fashion and never relenting until the end. In 2005 the album was re-issued with bonus tracks including single b-sides and the band’s cover version of the Artie Carter & William Warren penned classic “Wild Side Of Life” as they unsurprisingly gave it the full Quo treatment.
Co-producer Damon Lyon-Shaw was keen to stick with the now classic Quo sound. The album doesn’t contain any obvious radio-friendly hits of the “Whatever You Want”, “Down, Down & “Rockin’ All Over The World” variety but it still contains great song after great song. There is a live feel about it, which is a trait that many of the great Quo records share. Following the album’s release Andy Bown would join the band and herald in the new era for Status Quo with keyboards and piano’s introduced more prominently into their sound.
Donnie’s Rating: 9/10
- “Is There a Better Way” (Rossi, Lancaster)
- “Mad About the Boy” (Francis Rossi, Young)
- “Ring of a Change” (Francis Rossi, Bob Young)
- “Blue for You” (Alan Lancaster)
- “Rain” (Parfitt)
- “Rolling Home” (Francis Rossi, Alan Lancaster)
- “That’s a Fact” (Francis Rossi, Bob Young)
- “Ease Your Mind” (Alan Lancaster)
- “Mystery Song” (Rick Parfitt, Bob Young)
2005 reissue bonus tracks
- “You Lost the Love” (Francis Rossi, Bob Young)
- “Mystery Song [Single Version]” (Rick Parfitt, Bob Young)
- “Wild Side of Life” (Artie Carter, William Warren)
- “All Through the Night” (Francis Rossi, Alan Lancaster)
- “Wild Side of Life [Demo Version]” (Artie Carter, William Warren)
- John Coghlan – Drums
- Alan Lancaster – Bass, Guitar, Vocals
- Rick Parfitt – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
- Francis Rossi – Guitar, Vocals