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STATUS QUO In Search Of The Fourth Chord (2007)

Status Quo

I'll nail my colours to the mast immediately here and admit I'm a long time Quo fan. However that also means that I approach every new Quo album with a certain amount of trepidation, hoping for something akin to my idea of the 'real' Quo of days gone by where despite all the chart bothering success the songs had real backbone and appealed equally to the rock fraternity as they did to the single buying general public.

To be honest, to get 3 or 4 tracks I really, really like on a new Quo album marks it something of a success for me although in recent years I've been a bit spoilt as Under The Influence (1999), especially the excellent Heavy Traffic (2003) and The Party Ain't Over Yet (2005) have all met or exceeded my target quota of good 'uns. Of course in those 'recent years' we've also had to endure three insipid covers albums as well, that despite earning good money for the band just haven't cut it with most of the real hardcore fanbase. What then do I think of the new Quo album, the amusingly titled 'In Search Of The Forth Chord'? The first released on their own record label and the first for years to be produced by Pip Williams, he of the 'Rockin' All Over The World', 'Whatever You Want' and 'In The Army Now' knob-twiddling duties.

Well pretty quickly I'm upping the amount of crackers I'm hoping to find on the album as tracks one and two tick the box straight away. 'Beginning Of The End' is the sort of high tempo rocker that Quo used to release regularly around the turn of the 70s and 80s. Big guitar sound, catchy Francis Rossi sung lyric and an obvious choice for the single. 'Alright', it's successor, follows suit, with the piano augmenting the sound nicely rather than dominating it and Rick Parfitt this time delivering the vocal.

The return of Bob Young to the songwriting fold back on the aforementioned 'Heavy Traffic' release has had a marked effect on the quality of recent Quo albums too I think and Forth Chord is no exception. 'I Don't Want To Hurt You Anymore' is a typical Rossi/Young number mixing that 12 bar boogie sound with a bit of a country flavour whilst the classy slower tempo blues of 'Electric Arena' offers a very welcome change of pace and defies the ever present critics who claim everything they do sounds the same.

The real surprise on this album though is the emergence of bass player John 'Rhino' Edwards as the man who seems to really understand the Quo sound of old.

The man still called the 'new' member despite some 20 odd years in the ranks, produces a couple of heavy rock gems that shine brightly and first up, 'Gravy Train' has one of the most incessant, heaviest riffs to be heard on a Quo album for years. If you hanker for the opportunity to stick your thumbs in your waistband and shake your head a bit then look no further than here. Later in the album, his other solo composition 'Bad News' arguably takes the plaudits as the albums best track being a real old-school rocker with a great lyric, superb guitar work and most surprisingly the vocal delivered not by either Rossi or Parfitt but by Edwards himself. Quite correctly a song already picked up on by Planet Rock Radio this also deserves inclusion in the live set on the forthcoming tour.

Of course not everything works as I'd hope, with 'Figure Of Eight' being one of those annoying high tempo bouncy efforts Quo seemed to live off in the late 80s and 'Pennsylvania Blues Tonight', despite being another Rossi/Young co-write, not quite working for me on the first few listens either. Elsewhere the drummer Matt Letley gets in on the writing act by providing 'You're The One For Me' and further decent album cuts are provided with 'Saddling Up' and the Parfitt sung 'Hold Me' which will reignite the ZZ Top comparisons although also it brings to mind Chris Rea for me!

The lovely acoustic guitar and piano lead number 'Tongue Tied' is a fine, somewhat melancholic way to end the album showing the band can still do the quieter number as well as they did with songs like 'A Year' but leaving the excellent 'I Ain't Wasting My Time' as merely a bonus track is somewhat of a mistake to my ears. It's another superb piece of 12 bar blues complete with harmonica therefore unsurprisingly another Rossi/Young effort.

I went into this hoping for 3 or 4 good tracks and found about of the album being just what I'd hope for from Quo 2007. A real return to form, not that the form on original albums has been that bad recently, but this is arguably their best release since 'Never Too Late' back in 1981.

****

Review by Bill Leslie


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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