In this post I’m going to review the 3 albums that Status Quo have just re-released as deluxe editions On The Level, If You Can’t Stand The Heat and Whatever You Want. Each consists of 2 CDs – one for the original album, and the second for bonus tracks – plus a booklet, all within fold-out packaging. The albums are also available as downloads (without digital booklets). I tend to download albums online these days, but for my favourite bands like Status Quo, whose physical CDs I’ve bought over many years, I like to keep buying the CDs, at least for their studio albums. There are plenty of live shows of theirs I’ve downloaded.
The booklets that come with the CDs are small, as you’d expect, but I’ve scanned them into my computer using Readdle’s Scanner Pro app, so I can zoom in and read them on screen. And they are interesting, telling you a bit about each track, along with a lot of honesty about the tensions and difficulties that were taking place at the time. They don’t tell you anything about the bonus tracks and demos though, which is a pity, it’s just the original album tracks they discuss. The only exception to that is the American remix version of the Whatever You Want album, which does get addressed (and not favourably).
The cases for each pair of CDs also get unique artwork – but the discs themselves do not, which seems a shame and is a strange decision. They’ve used the same generic background on the discs in all 3 sets, effectively just changing the album name on the front. So that will be a letdown for all the fans who would have wanted something specific to the album itself, given the effort put into the cases that the CDs are sitting in.
So here are my thoughts on the music itself…
On The Level
The album starts with Little Lady and Most Of The Time, one a great heavy rocker, and the other slower with more of a blues feel to it. They’re both great tracks to start the album with, because they complement each other very well, both lyrically and musically. Most Of The Time doesn’t have as many lyrics to it, but those it does have are easy to relate to. I Saw The Light and Over And Done aren’t as good as those, but they’re still catchy in their own way. Nightride is slower in tempo, but I like it more, as it’s got a good solid groove to it and good lyrics too.
Then there’s probably the best-known, and certainly my favourite, track from the album – Down Down. The opening is so recognisable and sounds so great, and it’s one of those tracks that you can’t help swaying, nodding and foot-tapping along to. The Single Edit is also included as a bonus, which is a minute and a half shorter, but it does tighten the track up nicely, cutting down a few of the repetitive parts and shortening the fade at the end, effectively giving you the best and most important elements of the track.
There’s also a Demo Version of the track at the very end of Disc 2, which is interesting to listen to. You don’t hear the vocals very clearly, but the guitar comes out nicely. It sounds very different to the finished song of course, but the basic melody and lyrics are already taking shape here, even if it does get a bit repetitive when the same riff gets played again, again, again… 😉 It’s not a great version, being a demo and all, but it’s a nice glimpse into the development of the song.
Broken Man is a track that Alan Lancaster would have preferred it to be a bit grittier and less ‘poppy’, according to the booklet. But I think it works ok as it is, as it’s got a nice rhythm to the tune and the lyrics that I like. What To Do, meanwhile, is acknowledged by the band in the booklet as not making much sense lyrically, but it’s still a fun song, including a nice snippet of studio banter at the start. Where I Am is then a lovely little ballad, much lighter in tone than the more rocking tracks on the album. It also gives you a little breather before the album closes with the rocking cover of Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny, a key part of their live shows. I think it sounds better live as well, as you get the crowd joining in, but this version’s cool too. You do get a brief audience singalong at the end though, singing You’ll Never Walk Alone, which is a nice touch.
Disc 2, apart from the single and demo versions of Down Down, is filled with live tracks – a few from the Roll Over Lay Down Live EP, and the majority from a show in Mainz, Germany on 22/02/1975. The audio quality on the Germany show isn’t as good as the rest of the album, but it’s alright. In any case, all of the live tracks show the Quo in fine form – if you’re used to hearing their live tracks, you know what to expect here. I would have preferred more demos and alternate versions instead, but it’s nice to get something extra.
So overall, it’s a good album, with ok extras. It’s not one of their best, but that said there are a few classic tracks – Down Down, Most Of The Time and Little Lady standing out most to me – so it’s still worth having in the collection. I’ll rate it 6 out of 10.
If You Can’t Stand The Heatu
Again And Again is a great track to start the album with, a very uplifting rock track. There’s also a short Demo Version at the end of Disc 2, though it’s more of an outtake really, as they forget the words and have to stop to figure things out. It’s interesting to listen to though.
I’m Giving Up My Worryin’ is another good, upbeat track, and Gonna Teach You To Love Me also has a good rhythm to it. Someone Show Me Home is slower with a nice keyboard backing to it. It’s an interesting little song about a man fascinated by a prostitute, inspired by a night Francis had spent in an Amsterdam hotel. He later did a version on his solo album King Of The Doghouse. Then it’s back to a faster rocker with Long Legged Linda, about a waitress this time. That’s followed by Oh! What A Night, which is a good song, though nothing particularly striking. Francis Rossi says in the booklet that he’s not particularly fond of the backing vocals on this – and it does feel a little out of place sometimes. It doesn’t ruin the track, but it’s not a necessary part of it either. Indeed, as noted in hindsight in the booklet for Whatever You Want, the extra brass and backing vocals aren’t necessary on any of these tracks really. But there was no major harm experimenting with it.
The next song is the album’s second single – Accident Prone. Personally, I’m Giving Up My Worrying might have been a better choice for the next single, but this is still a good song too. The Single Edit, about a minute shorter, s also included as a bonus track here. After that comes Stones, and it’s clear from the booklet that it’s not a popular song among any members of the band. It’s not as terrible as that makes it sound, but it’s nothing special either and not very memorable. Let Me Fly is a much better song, with a catchier rhythm and better lyrics, and is one of my favourites from the album. The original album then concludes with Like A Good Girl, a very enjoyable, dance-along number.
The remaining tracks on disc 2 consist of 5 songs. These songs were not released on the original album, which makes them very interesting (though one or two had final versions released as bonuses on later albums). You get 2 demos for each song as well, which allows you to hear how each one developed.
As there isn’t any information about the demo tracks in the booklet, I’ve instead used a website called The Makers Of… to help me here, as I stumbled on it while Googling with curiosity about these tracks. It shows that these demos have all been released before somewhere, but not always in a way that’s easy to get hold of (e.g. on the Anthology set that I never had). So it’s good to have them gathered together here. I only had one of these demos already from the Rockers Rollin’ boxset, the others are all new to me.
One By One is a lovely track for a start. The first demo has some lyrics and basic backing, while the second demo is a full instrumental, with a long piano and synth melody before the drums and guitars kick in halfway through (it made me jump the very first time, as the first part of the track is quite relaxing). It’s got a sense of While My Guitar Gently Weeps about it, or it makes me think of that song anyway. It was finished, and eventually released as a bonus track on the German version of In Search Of The Fourth Chord. I didn’t have that track, so I’ve just looked it up on Youtube and it’s a lovely ballad, worth checking out.
No Time Left To Cry (also known as Another Game In Town) didn’t get finished in the end, but going by the demos this is also a fun and upbeat track. The first demo is more fully formed and has better audio quality, but the guitar sound on the second demo (called the writing demo on the CD case) sounds pretty good.
Another track that did get completed is Keep Me Guessing, and it’s a wonderful foot-tapper. The first early demo is an instrumental version and sounds pretty cool, while the second writing demo is lower in audio quality so the vocals are hard to make out, but is still interesting. The final song was released on the B-Side to Rollin’ Home, and I already have it as a bonus on the album In The Army Now. I do like the song, so it’s nice to be reminded of it and to hear those early takes of it.
Late Last Night also has a good rhythm to it. The first demo here is a good instrumental, while the second Early demo is a lower quality affair but still interesting. The final version was released on the single of In The Army Now, and it’s another of the bonus tracks I have on the album of the same name, so it was good to listen to that version again after hearing the demos. It’s faster with more power behind it than the demos, and works very well because of it, it’s an enjoyable song.
Invitation is the last of these new tracks, and is yet another one whose final version was released as a bonus on In The Army Now. Which may lead to the question as to why these demos weren’t included on that album instead of this one, but they were presumably recorded around the time of If You Can’t Stand The Heat, so chronologically they make more sense here. In any case, this is also a good song, and the demos are good to listen to. The first demo is the best quality one, and closer to the finished song, but the song was clearly taking shape nicely in the second Early demo too.
Overall, therefore, this is a good album – not quite great, but better than On The Level, and its appeal is bolstered by an enjoyable selection of demos. So I’ll give it 7 out of 10.
Whatever You Want
Of the three albums here, this one is my favourite. The title track that kicks off the album – Whatever You Want – has one of the best and most memorable intros in rock music, and leads into a classic singalong masterpiece. You can’t fault it, even if it does make you think of the Argos adverts! Shady Lady is another great, fast track, and the Demo Version included is pretty similar to the final cut really. Who Asked You? is also great, and I like the lyrics to this – when someone tells you you’re doing things wrong, as if they’re superior to you, the question “Who asked you for your opinion?” may come into your head, and this song is the embodiment of that response. Your Smiling Face is next, and while nothing outstanding, it’s still good.
Then there’s one of the Quo’s very best and most beautiful tracks – Living On An Island, it’s such a well constructed song. The shorter Single Edit is also included here, which basically fades out a minute earlier, so the essential elements of the song are still intact. The Early Demo, meanwhile, is a really nice acoustic version of the song, though with slightly different or missing lyrics in parts as it’s clearly unfinished. And the Demo Backing Track is essentially the extended instrumental version of the finished song, as it’s over a minute longer than the song on the album, and it also sounds pretty cool. It’s often interesting to hear tracks you know without the vocals, as they can still sound great in their own right and you hear elements you would otherwise have overlooked. So these demos are both great inclusions.
Come Rock With Me and Rockin’ On are next, and are an enjoyable pair of tracks which link into each other well as there’s no gap between them. The tracks Runaway and High Flyer are also decent little rock songs. Breaking Away is a longer track at nearly 7 minutes in length, and is pretty good with interesting changes in style and rhythm throughout. It’s a good way to finish the main part of the album.
There’s also a B-side called Hard Ride, which is another enjoyably catchy song, a song called Bad Company that didn’t make it on to the original album or any singles, but is still pretty good, and a nice little demo called Rearrange.
Apart from all that, this release also includes the American Riva Remix of the album called Now Hear This. Not every track on the original album got the remix treatment, but most did. It’s not very good though. It was an attempt to get them played more on the radio in the States but, as a couple of the band members acknowledge in the booklet here, the tracks sound very bland and inferior compared to their originals. It’s ok to have it for the sake of completion and curiosity, but you’re not missing anything if you never hear it.
Those dodgy remixes aside, this album is one of their better ones, and the bonus tracks are a nice addition. So it gets 8 out of 10 from me.