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'On The Level'/'If You Can't Stand The Heat'/'Whatever You Want'
(Universal Music Classics)
Out Now

Johnny Main

johnny main

status quo

Status Quo are often laughed at more than lauded for their output these days, but over fifty years since Quo stalwart Francis Rossi formed the band with bass player Alan Lancaster (who left the band in dubious circumstances in 1985), the band look to be hanging up their electric guitars for good later this year with the recent announcement of the "Last Of The Electrics" UK and European tour dates.

In keeping with the fiftieth anniversary of the band's formation, the record company vaults have been slowly plundered to offer the fans a steady stream of new product. A compilation CD (and accompanying DVD), titled 'The Definitive Hits' was released late last year as well as a set of deluxe edition CDs of four of the bands most celebrated releases, 'Piledriver', 'Hello', 'Quo' and the 'Rocking All Over The World' and the record company have now issued another trio of releases that will hopefully entice Quo fans once more to part with their cash, although these releases aren't quite as fitting a celebration of Quo's illustrious past as some Quo fans might expect.

Each of the original albums have been mastered from the original master tapes by Andy Pearce with the assistance of Quo's unofficial "fifth band member" Bob Young, and also include updated booklets containing rare photos and memorabilia from the band's personal collections as well as brand new and extensive notes by Classic Rock scribe Dave Ling, which fit together well with the other deluxe editions that are already available.

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Looking at the contents of each set, they're very much a mixed bag. First up there's the bands eighth studio album, 'On The Level', which was originally released in late 1974. The original album contains a number of classic tracks including 'Little Lady' and a thunderous version of Chuck Berry's 'Bye Bye Johnny' which includes a great vocal from then bass player Alan Lancaster. Both these tracks have remained in the band's live set (in various formats) for many years, and quite rightly so.

Also included is the band's sole number one single, 'Down Down', which is again still played by the current line up of the band at every gig. With all of Quo's chart success it's still incredible they only had one number one single throughout their long and illustrious career.

The bonus disc promises much but sadly fails to live up to expectations. A demo of 'Down Down' is a nice addition but Quo were at the height of their live powers during the mid-Seventies so the live tracks are of more interest, and the promise of half a dozen unreleased live tracks is certainly a selling point for this disc. Unfortunately, the reality isn't quite as expected.

The whole gig has been available to collectors for years and is also available on a well known streaming site so I'm not quite sure why only six tracks have been made available here. If you're going to put out half a dozen tracks, surely it makes sense to add in the other six tracks too (seven if you include the drum solo) so that the whole gig is available to everyone?

Don't get me wrong, what's there is great to have but the fact that someone has cherry-picked half a dozen tracks but left the rest has me confused. Of the tracks that have been included, these are good quality but certainly not top quality, so you do wonder where these were sourced from and this may answer the question as to why some tracks have been missed off if they were of much poorer quality.

'On The Level' Tracklist:
Disc One:
Little Lady
Most Of The Time
I Saw The Light
Over And Done
Down Down
Broken Man
What To Do
Where I Am
Bye Bye Johnny

Disc Two:
Down Down - Single Edit
Roll Over Lay Down - Live At The Kursaal, Southend 1975
Gerdundula - Live EP Version
Junior's Wailing - Live EP Version
Roadhouse Blues - Live At The Kursaal, Southend 1975
Backwater - Live in Mainz, 22nd February 1975 (Previously Unreleased)
Just Take Me - Live in Mainz, 22nd February 1975 (Previously Unreleased)
Claudie - Live in Mainz, 22nd February 1975 (Previously Unreleased)
Little Lady - Live in Mainz, 22nd February 1975 (Previously Unreleased)
Most Of The Time - Live in Mainz, 22nd February 1975 (Previously Unreleased)
Bye Bye Johnny - Live in Mainz, 22nd February 1975 (Previously Unreleased)
Down Down - Demo (Previously Unreleased)

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status quo

Next up is the band's the eleventh studio album, 'If You Can't Stand The Heat' which was originally released in October 1978. With Andy Bown by this point a permanent member of the band (joining the established line up of Rossi, Lancaster as well as guitarist Rick Parfitt and drummer John Coghlan) to give the band a broader sound with the addition of keyboards as can be seen with the previous album, 'Rocking All Over The World'.

Recorded at Wisseloord Studios in Holland, the album originally reached number three in the UK charts and spawned hits like 'Again And Again' and the much over-looked 'Accident Prone'. Unusually for Quo, they added not only a horn section to some tracks on the album but also a trio of backing vocalists including one Jacquie Sullivan who was later to find fame as a member of Bananarama in the early 1990s.

The band also included the ballad 'Someone Show Me Home' (written after a serious night of partying perhaps?) which shows a lighter side to the band's sound and still stands up well today. Set that against a good couple of rockers like 'Long Legged Linda' and 'Let Me Fly' and you end up with a good if somewhat uneven sounding album.

The extras on disc two are a selection of unreleased demos and early versions with no live tracks included from the subsequent tour. Whether or not any high quality live recordings exist from this part of their career I'm not exactly sure, but I guess that the record company don't have access to any material otherwise it would have been included right?

A tad disappointing however, as this renders the second disc of little use once you've heard it a couple of times. Certainly the least impressive of the trio.

'If You Can't Stand The Heat' Tracklist:
Disc One:
Again And Again
I'm Giving Up My Worryin'
Gonna Teach You To Love Me
Someone Show Me Home
Long Legged Linda
Oh! What A Night
Accident Prone
Let Me Fly
Like A Good Girl

Disc Two:
Accident Prone - Single Edit
One By One - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
One By One - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
No Time Left To Cry - Early Demo (Previously Unreleased)
No Time Left To Cry - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Keep Me Guessing - Early Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Keep Me Guessing - Writing Version (Previously Unreleased)
Late Last Night - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Late Last Night - Early Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Invitation - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Invitation - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Again And Again - Demo (Previously Unreleased)

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status quo

The final release is 1979s watershed album, 'Whatever You Want'. Once again recorded at Hilversum Studios in 1978, the final mixes were completed in London in March 1979 with the album being released the following October. Apart from the album's title track, a further single featuring 'Living On An Island' backed with 'Runaway' (both taken from the album) reached the top 20 in the UK with the former two tracks regularly being played throughout the band's live career.

Along with these tracks the album features the outstanding 'Shady Lady' and 'High Flyer' along with the classic coupling together of 'Come Rock With Me' and 'Rockin' On' which, surprisingly, would have to wait until their 1995/96 tour before they got their overdue live airing.

Due to personal issues within the band at the time, there was no accompanying tour to go with this album, so no live tracks on the bonus discs. However, in 1980, the album was remixed and re-titled as 'Now Hear This' for the American market, and is available for the first time outside the US on this release. Well, some of it is, in what becomes another oddity with this release.

The original 'Whatever You Want' album contains ten tracks and the original 'Now Here This' album contains those same ten tracks (albeit in a different order), however, the bonus disc here includes only eight of the remixed tracks missing out 'Shady Lady' and 'Your Smiling Face'! This seems to be another peculiar decision by the record company.

Of the tracks that have been included, it sounds like these aren't digital copies of the masters and sound instead as if they've been taken directly from a vinyl record and that the tracks haven't been cleaned up properly. Maybe this, again, explains the missing tracks which is a bit disappointing but at least most of the tracks are finally getting an overdue release on CD.

Overall these releases are a good attempt to raid record company vaults and to give Quo fans something new but you just get the feeling it's been a half hearted attempt and the flaws are there for all to see. Quo fans are notorious for accusing the band and record company of ripping them off and as harsh as that may be, if the record company really pulled out the stops, it would keep the fans happy and would create an overall better product.

'Whatever You Want' Tracklist:
Disc One:
Whatever You Want
Shady Lady
Who Asked You
Your Smiling Face
Living On An Island
Come Rock With Me
Rockin' On
High Flyer
Breaking Away

Disc Two:
Hard Ride - Single B-side
Living On An Island - Single Edit
Bad Company - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Shady Lady - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Rearrange - Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Living On An Island (American Remix)
Who Asked You (American Remix)
Whatever You Want (American Remix)
Come Rock With Me (American Remix)
Rockin' On (American Remix)
Runaway (American Remix)
High Flyer (American Remix)
Breaking Away (American Remix)
Living On An Island - Early Demo (Previously Unreleased)
Living On An Island - Backing Track (Previously Unreleased)

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