Thursday, October 3, 2019

STATUS QUO's Backbone reviewed!

Even though Status Quo’s roots go all the way back to 1962, the band has been operating under the Quo name for 52 years. One of the UK’s finest – and longest-lasting - Rock bands, they’ve hardly made a dent here in the U.S. apart from their 1968 single “Pictures Of Matchstick Men.” And even that is not representative of the ‘Mighty Quo Sound.’ By 1970, the band left behind their Psych-Rock sound and embraced the heads-down Boogie Rock that they are best known for. Clad in blue jeans and cranking out a patented Blues-influenced chooglin’ groove, Status Quo became superstars in nearly every country around the globe… except the United States.

Commercially, they’ve had their ups and downs while also dealing with a few line-up changes over the years but those details are best left for SQ fan pages and Wikipedia. The biggest blow that the band experienced was when co-founder Rick Parfitt passed away in 2016. From the very beginning, Parfitt and Francis Rossi were the guitar-slinging, song-singing duo that led the band through every stage of their career.  While the non-nonsense Rossi handled a bulk of the band’s vocals, Parfitt was always there at his side, chug-chugging away on his guitar and singing a decent number of tunes as well. Rick didn’t play the part of a Rock Star – he WAS a Rock Star. So, when he died, nobody was really sure what would happen next…

During the last year of Parfitt’s life, his health had been failing so the band recruited guitarist Richie Malone in to take his place live. Whether this was a permanent move or not was based entirely on how Rick’s health issues would play out. Sadly, his passing was the answer to that question. The band fulfilled their touring commitments and then retreated to figure out their next move. Now, nearly three years since Parfitt’s death, the mighty Quo return with BACKBONE, an album that embraces the band’s legacy while also sounding contemporary and fresh.

With a line-up that includes Rossi, Malone, keyboardist Andy Bown (a member since 1976), bassist John ‘Rhino’ Edwards (Quo-certified since ’85), and drummer Leon Cave (since 2013), Status Quo still creates music with passion and purpose. Not many bands get the opportunity to make it to album #33 (not including compilations or live) so to experience an energetic, optimistic Quo at this point is an absolute treat.

Over the years, the band has expanded upon their Boogie Rock sound, veering in a more melodic Pop direction for some albums but they’ve always done it with integrity and style. In regards to their poppier material, the fans either loved it or hated it – there didn’t seem to be an in between with some factions of the Quo brigade. (Full disclosure: I love Quo’s poppier stuff just as much as their Rock ‘n’ Roll bashers.) BACKBONE, the album, leans closer to the band’s classic ‘70s chooglin’ sound but they still manage to squeeze in a lot of great hooks, too.

Produced by Rossi, the album sounds warm and earthy. The band are certainly in full ROCK mode but these recordings connect with the listener intimately instead of sounding like they are bouncing off of stadium walls and slapping you on the back of the head. Don’t get me wrong – big and bombastic Quo is always awesome, but this sounds like a band with all feet planted on the ground and finding their way again. Rossi co-wrote a bulk of the material along with Rhino (“Cut Me Some Slack,” “Liberty Lane,” and “Backbone”), Bown (“Backing Off” and “Running Out Of Time”), and longtime collaborator Robert Young (“Waiting For A Woman,” “I See You’re In Some Trouble,” and “I Wanna Run Away With You”). Welsh singer/songwriter John David, who has written past Quo tracks like “Rollin’ Home,” “Red Sky,” and others, penned “Better Take Care.” Richie Malone composed the energetic “Get Out Of My Head,” a track that makes you wonder how the ‘’elderly’ members kept up with the song’s pace. Finally, drummer Leon Cave offers up “Falling Off The World.” Before you think to yourself, ‘Oh, dear. A Ringo-type song,” let me assure you that the track is one of the catchiest tracks on the album.

Initially, I wanted to single out some highpoints on the album but I’m on the fifth listen and every track is a proud addition to the band’s catalog. While I enjoyed BACKBONE on the first listen, I usually expect certain songs to stand out once I’ve heard the album a few times. And I’ll be damned – they all keep getting better with each listen. Far from being a syQUOphant, I do have my favorite songs and favorite albums… and BACKBONE is right up there with the best of them.

For those of you that don’t accept SQ without Rick, I fully understand. However, we must be grateful that these talented chaps have chosen to continue. That is a tribute to Rick and YOU, the fan who has been there, supporting Quo for decades. BACKBONE is a move in the right direction... and it doesn’t hurt that this is one of their most consistent and focused albums in a career of very fine albums.

OK, if you want a proper ‘gateway’ song that I recommend you to listen to, try “Falling Of The World,” “Liberty Lane,” “I See You’re In Some Trouble,” or the title track. And then listen to the rest of ‘em.

Your pal,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee



Available NOW!


Unknown said...

Couldn't agree more...I have different tracks running through my head every day...and that's all the tracks, very unusual for that level of consistency across the album.

Unknown said...

Its up there as a Quo album - just a bloody good album!

Keith said...

Been a Quo fan since 77 through good and bad. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard. I had Backbone and On the level on my phone and played them on shuffle, Backbone tracks stood their ground and some are even better. I’ve hated some albums over the years but love this one