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'Aquostic (Stripped Bare)'
(Ear Music/Fourth Chord Records)

Johnny Main

johnny main

status quo

Status Quo – forever those denim clad no-nonsense boogie rockers and whether you like them or not, they are one of the UK's most successful acts having had more UK hit singles than any other band and appearing on BBC TV's Top Of The Pops a staggering 106 times (also more than any other band) but no-one divides opinion quite like them – especially if you're a Status Quo fan.

Their new album, 'Aquostic (Stripped Bare)', is a collection of classic Quo tracks performed on acoustic guitar which is a first for the band, however the tracks are adorned by a plethora of additional musicians including violins, a cello and an accordion which rather than simplifying the sound of the songs and stripping them bare as the subtitle of the album suggests, it does quite the opposite - confusingly.

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When it comes to song choices, there are twenty four tracks in total most of which are taken from pre-1985 which, for those not up on their Quo history, mainstays Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi went through an acrimonious split with their old bass player Alan Lancaster.

Included here are some of the usual suspects when it comes to Quos back catalogue with familiar hits like 'Down Down', 'Whatever You Want' and 'Pictures Of Matchstick Men' all included, but there are some tracks (some of which were never released as singles) that might be unfamiliar to fair weather fans like 'All The Reasons', 'And It's Better Now' and 'Na Na Na', for example.

'And It's Better Now' was the first single from the album and it works really well with it's long guitar intro, and even Rossi's voice sounds good set against the strums of acoustic guitars and the basic drum sounds from drummer Leon Cave and some light backing vocals. This is the stripped down effect the band should have stuck with throughout the album because it brings a freshness to a track that's essentially nearly forty years old.

Likewise with 'Na Na Na', which was originally performed on acoustic guitar back in 1971 on the 'Dog Of Two Head' album. Here Rossi practically reuses the original arrangement of the song with the addition of some heavy plodding bass guitar from John 'Rhino' Edwards giving it a bit more body, as does the subtle addition of the accordion in the background. All in all though, it ends up being a great re-interpretation of a great song.

'Claudie' is a song that Quo have never performed live but Rossi did play it on his 2010 solo tour and it's another gem here. Culled from Quo's 1973 'Hello' album, it's a jaunty little number that suits the acoustic set up really well. The backing vocals from Amy Smith are a good contrast to Rossi's lead vocals whilst the accordion and violins are placed in the background so that it gives it the country feel that it was most likely written with in mind all those years ago.

For all the great tracks, there are naturally a few disappointments. The classic 'Caroline' unfortunately falls into this category. A mainstay of the Quo live set for over forty years, this was originally demo'd by Rossi and co-writer Bob Young as a slower tempo country number before Rick Parfitt added on the famous guitar riff intro that we're all so used to seeing blasted out at the start of Quo's live shows.

The acoustic version here starts off really well, reverting to the simpler version with Rossi's voice and guitar settling down into a nice groove. Unfortunately you're less than a minute in when the slow tempo tails off and is replaced with the more standard electric tempo. If you add in a piano, an accordion and drums to the mix, you end up with a pretty standard version of the song. It's a shame really, because this could have been a standout track with the much simpler sound played at a slower tempo, as opposed to sounding like an oom-pha band.

Of course, it wouldn't be an album of old Quo numbers without the ubiquitous 'Rockin' All Over The World'. Here was another chance for the band to overhaul the arrangement, like replacing the piano intro with something a bit more inventive but again, the band seem to have reverted to the original version as a template, and the songs arrangement and tempo remains largely untouched. The piano may have been pushed into the back ground but the addition of the accordion doesn't radically change the way the song sounds leading to another unadventurous track.

There's no doubting the ability of the band to play these tracks on just acoustic guitar, but the whole album just seems to have lost it's way from the original intention of presenting the songs as being 'stripped' down when they introduced the accordion and strings.

The reality is that this album could have been really good but it just comes across as a half hearted attempt to do something different with Quos back catalogue. It was a good attempt, but for me it's missing the mark, and just comes across as a missed opportunity.

'Aquostic' Track List:
Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Down The Dustpipe
Na Na Na
Paper Plane
All The Reasons
Reason For Living
And It's Better Now
Softer Ride
Break The Rules
Down Down
Rockin' All Over The World
Again And Again
Whatever You Want
What You're Proposing
Rock 'N' Roll
Don't Drive My Car
Marguerita Time
Burning Bridges
Rock 'Til You Drop

Status Quo are:
Francis Rossi – Guitar/Vocals
Rick Parfitt – Guitar/Vocals
John "Rhino" Edwards – Bass/Backing Vocals
Andy Bown – Keyboards/Backing Vocals
Leon Cave – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Geraint Watkins - Accordion
Martin Ditcham - Percussion
Amy Smith - Backing Vocals
Lucy Wilkins - Violin (Leader)
Howard Gott - Violin
Natalia Bonner - Violin
Alison Dods - Violin
Sophie Sirota - Viola
Sarah Wilson - Cello
String Arrangements by Richard Benbow

Status Quo Online:

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