Category Archives: Album Reviews

Paul McCartney – Run Devil Run

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Paul McCartney’s Run Devil Run album (1999), marked his first release following the death of his wife, Linda McMartney, a year before. This is the second 50s-focused album that McCartney has released, the other being Снова в СССР from 1988. However, unlike the 1988 album, Run Devil Run chooses not to focus on the great rock’n’roll standards, like “That’s All Right” or “Lucille”, but on more obscure cuts that McCartney, and the other Beatles, grew up with in the 1950s.

The sound on Run Devil Run varies noticeably from track to track. This may be a side-effect of the album being recorded in different sessions at different times. On the highlight tracks, and most of the numbers to be fair, the sound is pretty much spot on. The vocals are clear but well supported by the rhythm while, in the first track especially, the guitars kick in loud when they come to solo. However, there are a handful of tracks where, similar to Jerry Lee Lewis’ Youngblood, an artificial attempt at 50s echo is made. This leads to some tracks losing vocal clarity – most noticeable on “Honey Hush”.

Track List

Blue Jean Bop – This Gene Vincent classic kicks the album off at a rather steady pace. Paul starts off alone with just voice and bass before the drums kick in. This opener delivers two stinging guitar solos and overall the track starts the album with a faithful 50s sound.

She Said Yeah – One of the highlights on the album for me. Paul makes the most of his voice, kicking into ‘Little Richard’ mode to belt this one out. The speed is high, the vocals are loud and the whole thing rocks!

All Shook Up – The first track that Paul has some fun with. A catchy guitar riff kicks the track off before Paul starts to rip through. The vocals are a little OTT for me on this one, the lyrics better the suit the more suggestive tone taken by The King.

Run Devil Run – The first of Paul’s originals on the album. Named after a drug store in the US and written in a style aimed to pay tribute to Chuck Berry, this track rocks full out. The story concerns the ups and downs of a ‘holy roller’, including getting siblings out of jail and picking cotton!

No Other Baby – Paul claims that this is the ‘most obscure song on the album’ and that he ‘never had the record’. However, the song remains imprinted in his memory and Paul and the band produce a solid job on this slower, more bluesy number.

Lonesome Town – A Ricky Nelson song that, lyrically, doesn’t stray far from the “Heartbreak Hotel” territory. This is a classic early ballad and fits neatly into the “Who Will The Next Fool Be” line of piano led songs.

Try Not To Cry – The second of McCartney’s originals on the album. This is one of the least 50s sounding tracks on the album and, while its not my favorite track, it does inject some variety into the album.

Movie Magg – I prefer this cut of “Movie Magg” compared to the original by Carl Perkins. Paul keeps the general country feel of the track, but, with the less-American voice, the overall effect feels more subtle.

Brown Eyed Handsome Man – This track, like “All Shook Up”, makes a conscious effort to step away from the original – in this case the Buddy Holly version of the Chuck Berry classic. I wouldn’t say that this version is my favorite but it is quirky and different and that deserves recognition on a track this well known.

What It Is – Another stand-out track on the album and another McCartney original. This is almost early-Beatles sounding and retains that classic sound, belting vocals and is a happy, uplifting track that rocks along in its own relaxed way.

Coquette – McCartney rolls out his best Fats Domino impersonation for this bluesy number. At this stage in the album it seems important to note the overall impact on Paul these musicians had, including his singing voice. Paul’s singing stye owes a lot to Little Richard and the other 50s rockers.

I Got Stung – An obscure Elvis number. This song is really the archetypal rockabilly sound on nearly every instrument. Drum stops, key-bashing piano and faced paced chuggin’ guitars – all at max pace. The lyrics are a little forgettable and, for that reason, this track isn’t one that I race back to time and again.

Honey Hush – An pre-rock’n’roll Big Joe Turner song. I can’t say this track does much for me. The leveling is out, making lyrics hard to hear – therefore the song becomes Paul wailing over slightly overdriven guitars screeching 12-bar.

Shake A Hand – This echo-soaked slower number nudges the album towards the close. A Little Richard number that Paul picked up when in Germany with The Beatles. This song is ok but lacks the oomph or impact of some of the highlights of the album.

Party – Another obscure Elvis number, this time from the movie, Loving You. The song is upbeat, happy and paced to make you dance. This makes is ideal to close out this album – a celebration of the 50s and the great rock’n’roll music.

Overall, Run Devil Run is an enjoyable, rocking album. Most of Paul’s singing and performances sound fresh and the band is tight and rockin’. There are a few tracks that I’m largely indifferent about but the tracks that are absolutely top-notch more than make up for that. A final reflection on rock’n’roll albums: Part of the challenge I think is knowing when to stop – too short an album and the customer feels cheated, too long and album and sub-par tracks sneak in; aren’t we a tough lot to please!

Paul McCartney – Run Devil Run – 6/10

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Jerry Lee Lewis – Live At Third Man Records

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Live At Third Man Records is the Killer’s first full concert release album in the 21st Century. Picked and produced by Jack White, of The White Stripes, the album is one of a series where the famous guitarist has worked with legends including rockabilly pioneer, Wanda Jackson. For this gig a specially selected band was put together. Jerry Lee’s producer Jim Keltner drummed and his long-time guitarist, Kenny Lovelace, led the band. The line-up is completed by Steve Cropper on guitar and Jack Lawrence on bass.

The album is representative of a regular Jerry Lee Lewis show from almost any point post-2005. I think this fact is a mixed bag. Firstly, I’m glad that there is a documented record of a ‘regular’ 21st century gig but it obviously misses the excitement of something new and rare. Perhaps there was space for a double-album, this record and something with some prepped songs in, like “Mean Old Man” or “A Couple More Years”. This however would rely on The Killer putting the prep work in, something he’s not famed for!

The sound of the album for me is mixed. The overall sound is very strong, clean and clear – something that is always a positive for a live record, this doesn’t sound like a posh bootleg. However, at times, unless Jerry was bashing the top notes, the piano got lost – especially in some of his more intricate playing in songs like “Before The Night Is Over”. The overall band sound is very tight; Jim Keltner supplies a great rhythm for Jerry to work over and this is well supplemented by the rest of the band.

Track List

Down The Line  – Following a short intro, this rock’n’roll classic kicks the gig off. The track is a moderately fast pace and the age of Jerry does show on the vocals without them being weak. The piano solos may not fall into the ‘inspired’ category but it neat and sharp none-the-less, no missed notes here. Both Steve Cropper and Kenny Lovelace supply solid guitar solos and fills. The band here is tight and sharp and Jerry’s performance outshines that of the Killer Piano DVD.

Georgia On My Mind – Barely space for a breath before Jerry kicks into this Ray Charles classic. Cropper fills in some classy licks throughout this track as Kenny sticks largely to chord strumming until his solo. In his singing Jerry seems to shape the longer notes better than I’ve heard on some other recent recordings, they’re neither cut dead short nor extended till he runs out of breath.

Drinking Wine, Spo-dee-O-dee – This song is ironically caught out by the neat little riff that Jerry brings it in with. The riff itself is classy but it sets the song off at a pedestrian pace that it never recovers from. Some of the piano is lost a little in the mid-range notes during the solo. This song is one of the weakest on the album with nothing really lifting it from its middle-of-the-road nature.

Before The Night Is Over – could have come from any gig from 2006 onwards. Nether-the-less, the Killer puts out a solid performance on this one. The more complex beat in this track shows Keltner off to his best; the only downside here is that Jerry’s tight, fast piano solo sounds a bit muddy in the mix.

Why You Been Gone So Long? – An undoubted highlight from the album and the subject of TMR’s promo video. The track kicks off at a fair pace with both the piano solos and guitar solo, supplied by Steve Cropper, being tight and sharp. Cropper’s contribution here, after Kenny nods him in, is a real highlight of the track.

I Wish I Was Eighteen Again – The second slow song on the album after “Georgia”. The melody of this track starkly reveals the age in Lewis’ voice but, given the lyrics of the song, this isn’t necessarily too much of a problem. Like “Georgia”, this track lacks any sort of a solo.

Sweet Little Sixteen – One of the stronger rockers on the album, Jerry kicks this track off at a good pace and keeps it going throughout. Already in the gig, his voice seems weaker than it did on the earlier tracks – perhaps part of the reason that his gigs now rarely tip over the 45 minute mark. Both the piano and guitar solos are the classic expected but both are played well.

You Belong To Me – This classic cut has been a regular throughout Jerry’s career and is one of the decreasing repertoire that the Killer stills keeps access to. As ever on this track, Kenny’s solo is a real highlight; other than little of note here – not because the track is badly played but because it is played very often.

She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye – One of only three ‘hits’ that features in the album. This rendering of the 1970 classic again could have come from any good gig from about 2005 onwards – a good rendering though and, once again, Jerry’s voice holds up well.

Mexicali Rose – This song has become one of the strongest in Jerry’s recent years repertoire and its another stand-out item on this album. I think pace is so vital to many of Jerry’s songs and the pace is not only good here but it doesn’t lead to any missed notes the piano solo. Overall a great rendering of this track which isn’t spoiled by a guitar duel which, when listening back to a gig, just leads to a messy overall sound.

Great Balls Of Fire – The sign that the end is nigh. This is the short, ‘Sun’, version of the track. performed well and loved by the crowd. The ‘whoop’ from the crowd shows that its the hits, naturally, that the crowd know and love.

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On – ‘If you like that one, you’re gonna lurv this one!’ and so into “Whole Lotta Shakin” we go. The song is as you’d expect really, classic solos abound, both on piano and guitar, and the crowd love it. These two songs are the first where you really notice the crowd as part of the gig. Cue finger wiggling, smashed top keys, a cheer and all that’s left is time for Kenny’s thanks for ‘the guys on the sound and the lights’. Before you know it, it’s all over!

Overall I must return to how I kicked this review off. This could be almost any gig from 2005 onwards and this both the pro and con of the album. The performances are strong, Jerry comfortably outplays and outsings his live performances from “Killer Piano” but we know tracks off-by-heart, with the only nuances being the solos of Steve Cropper rather than Buck. This perhaps opens the debate on how well served Jerry would be by a stronger band and by varied setlists for tours. However this is being written in a time where its quite possible that Jerry will never again grace a stage. Be thankful for what you’ve got and enjoy this solid, if unspectacular rock’n’roll feast.

Jerry Lee Lewis -Live At Third Man Records- 7/10

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Lee Rocker – Night Train To Memphis

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2012’s Night Train To Memphis is Rocker’s new album following last year’s Cover Sessions EP. In the build-up to the album Rocker claimed that this would be his stamp on his favourite rockabilly classics and cuts from his career with Stray Cats. The tracks that he’s picked to cover certainly span his career from his early Stray Cats days, and before, to his working with Carl Perkins, something he reflected on when playing his brother, Jay Perkins, in Million Dollar Quartet.

The sound on Night Train To Memphis is not far removed from that on The Cover Session EP. Lee’s band play more of a role on this album and the overall sound is tilted more towards the rockabilly end of the spectrum. However, Lee has not lost all of the country flavour that marked out his last album. The country sounds pop up in some unexpected places on the album which I’ll cover in the track-by-track. Generally, the sound on the sound on the album is crisp, clean and very well levelled.

Track List

Rockabilly Boogie (Burnette, Burnette, Mortimer & Hawkins) – Rocker leaves no doubt as to his primary instrument as a thoroughly-slapped bass kicks this album off! The lyrics of this track make it one of my less appreciated on the album as I always feel rockabilly songs about rockabilly are a little thin. However, both guitarists and Lee are in fine form on this track so there’s still something for the instrumentalists to enjoy, even if the  solos are tantalizingly short.

Night Train To Memphis (Acuff) – The second track on the album starts off with a more gentle acoustic feel with one semi adding almost slide-guitar style riffs. Lee’s voice and tone suit this song perfectly and in many ways it reminds me of some of the gentler stuff on Lee’s strongest album, Black Cat Bone. Look out for the Luther Perkins-style guitar solo.

Slap The Bass (Rocker) – When I first heard the sample for this track I feared that this going to be Lee’s attempt at “Rockabilly Boogie” type song which had little originality in it and generally wouldn’t appeal. I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised by a number where Buzz Campbell’s jazzy playing and Comets-style riffs keeps proceedings interesting and adds a good deal of cool spice.

Twenty Flight Rock (Fairchild) –  I must start off on a controversial note here and say I generally don’t like Stray Cats’ covers of Eddie Cochran songs! I know this may sound very odd, with Cochran being a key influence on the band, but, to me, they miss that sense of cool Eddie had in his singing. To me, Cochran always sounded slightly laid back in most of his singing, like there was always another gear he could push on to but never used. The Cats however, tend to go for all out hell-for-leather covers that then lose that sense of cool. That said, this is a fair cover and one of the better efforts a Cat has made a covering an Eddie Cochran classic.

Wild Child (O’Keefe) – This version of “Wild Child” takes its inspiration most strongly from the cut that Jerry Lee Lewis recorded when he was at sun records and was also a track Brian Setzer chose for his covers album, Rockabilly Riot. Unlike Setzer, Rocker chooses to leave the piano at home at home for this track and it becomes a guitar led rockin’ chugger. Considering that two of the Cats have chosen to cover this song, it seems odd that it’s not surfaced on either any Stray Cats live album that I’ve heard, nor on the Stray Cats’ Original Cool.

Honey Don’t (Perkins) – This track is perhaps the closest to the original of any on the album. Having worked with Carl Perkins in the 1980s, I think this track is intended as a direct tribute to Mr Blue Suede Shoes. Overall, a strong performance where Buzz Campbell shines in particular through his delicate finger picking and rhythm playing.

That’s Alright / Blue Moon (Crudup / Monroe) – A medley of these tracks has been a regular staple of Lee’s career and he has released a live version on Burnin’ Love and Blue Suede Nights. This rendering is very much a studio recording of how Lee has played this live without the bass solo as the songs pass from one to the other.

Tear In My Beer (Williams) – My least favored track on the album. This is a strong country-and-western flavored track that would have felt at home in Rocker’s previous release. For me, this is too country and also it strikes me as being some of Williams’ weakest writing when compared to his other compositions, such as “You Win Again” or “Lost Highway”.

Lonesome Tears (Holly) – A relatively hidden gem in Buddy Holly’s catalogue is wonderfully brought to life by Lee Rocker. At this point I must mention the strength of Lee’s guitarists in referencing the styles of various 50s guitarists as various Tommy Allsup licks are spread over this track. Again, this is faithful to the original song and Lee’s vocals are top-notch.

Built For Speed (Setzer) – A interesting, quirky cover of this Stray Cats staple. When the album was originally advertised I expected several straight runs of Stray Cats classics with Lee singing. However, we have one, and straight it isn’t! The primary instrument here is not a chugging Gretsch but a banjo and an acoustic taking back towards Cover Session territory. A definite grower and an interesting twist to a track that any Stray Cats aficionado can hum in their sleep!

So Sad (Smith) – The first of a pair of Everly Brothers classics that see out the album. The two tracks together give a gentle, soulful close to the album and I feel give a timely nod to the Everlys, who are easily forgotten on much of the rockabilly scene.

All I Have To Do Is Dream (Bryant and Bryant) – This is another recent staple of Lee’s gigs. From what I’ve seen, the song is performed live by Lee and Buzz Campbell singing together Everly-style. However, on the record the whole band is in place. In this faithful covering it’s hard to tell if the second voice is Rocker overdubbed or Campbell supporting the, clearly, Rocker vocal lead. My guess is that it’s the former.

Overall I prefer Night Train To Memphis to its predecessor as I prefer the stronger rockabilly stamp that this album holds. Night Train To Memphis is an enjoyable listen where all the musicians shine and the performances are generally strong. However, after two covers releases, I’m now looking forward to hearing more original material from Rocker that can match the superb serving we got on Black Cat Bone.

Lee Rocker – Night Train To Memphis – 7/10

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Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three – Middle Of Everywhere

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Middle Of Everywhere is the 2011 release by Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. This album is in a style that stands apart from all the other pieces I have blogged on to this point – being a mix of pre-WWII country, blues and ragtime merged into what laFarge calls River Boat Soul. I first became aware of the band through their performance on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny show at New Year.

At a first listen, country is the predominant style on the album but I have found that, the more listens through I give it, the more I pick up. Traces of Robert Johnson’s blues, Woody Guthrie’s folk and others are all in the seamless mix that the band has put together. Each of the tracks is led by LaFarge’s nasal, yet charismatic singing and his rhythm guitar. The South City Three consist of upright bass player Joey Glynn, Adam Hoskins on lead arch-top guitar and Ryan Koenig on washboard percussion. All of the group are superb musicians in their own right and each plays an integral role in the overall sound.

Track List

“So Long Honeybee, Goodbye” (LaFarge) – An ‘old-time’ country flavored track that laments trying to hold together a relationship while being on the road. The singer remains upbeat, claiming that, if the girl gives up on him,  ‘You’ll be the one to sit alone and cry’ as there is plenty of fish in the sea. A strong opener to the album with a cleverly used change of pace later in the song.

“Ain’t The Same” (LaFarge) – A guitar and harmonica track that strongly reminds me of the soundtracks to the Railroad Tycoon games! The singer here is arguing that he can offer a girl a life better than the one she is living and more like the wanted she wanted further back in time. The song keeps it bluesy feel throughout and has a very catchy central riff.

“Head To Toe” (LaFarge) – A feel-good ragtime song with a strong call-and-answer technique throughout. The lyrics are fairly traditional ‘I Love You’ lyrics but this doesn’t stop the song being enjoyable.

“Sunny Side Of The Street” (LaFarge) – A laid-back song where the singer is crying out for something ‘to lift my out of the world’ after a failed love affair has broken down. A gentler song.

“Shenandoah River” (LaFarge) – Another of the album’s gentler tracks that talks about a couple sharing a gentle sail in a rowboat on the title’s river. The song has a jazzy feel contained within it, brought through in some of the chord choices.

“Mississippi Girl” (LaFarge) – The pace picks up here as the harmonica brings this track in. The pace has picked up to that which marks the opening songs on the album. Here the singer sings of the joys of dancing with a southern girl.

“Feels So Good” (LaFarge) – Another of jazzier feeling tracks on the album. Set to a raunchy beat, the lyrics are talking about how good it is to be in love. There is a brief bass solo in this track, slapped in the rockabilly style. Also this track features the largest amount of horn music on the album.

“River Rock Bottom” (LaFarge) – A harmonica driven ballad gives the tale of the singer complaining of having the blues while his partner claims that she has all he needs to get the blues over. This is the most downbeat start to a song on the album so far but as it progresses to the solo it kicks up to the gear LaFarge has used throughout the album.

“Weedwacker Rag” (LaFarge) – This track is again representative of LaFarge’s charismatic singing as he proclaims that he’s a whole new type of person from those mostly found in the world.

“Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight” (LaFarge) – The song that caught my attention on Jools Holland. The song is a celebration of drinking together with friends and the good times that ensues. The song, especially live, shows off the musical ability of the band and the charismatic leadership of LaFarge.

“Good Country Girls” (LaFarge) – Like so many of the tracks on this album, this one is hard to pin down. In line with the song’s title, country, is a strong influence here but there’s also a fair amount of ragtime jazz in the mix here and this mix keeps the track interesting as the different instruments, especially the harmonica, solo through.

“Coffe Pot Blues” (LaFarge) – The song sounds very different to most on the album. I’m not sure if this was recorded in a different place to the rest of the album or whether the change is simply a deliberate choice of LaFarge. This is  a strong bluesy track that has strong traces of Robert Johnson and other pre-war blues artists in it.

“Keep Your Hands Off My Gal” (LaFarge) – The album finishes on a gently jazzy note where the singer calmly threatens to kill  anyone who puts their hands on his girl!

Overall the sound that Pokey LaFarge has (re)created on this album sits well outside of what I would usually listen to. The strong pre-war country/ ragtime/ blues feel marks it out from my more normal fare of rockabilly and classic rock. However, the band’s secret weapon is Pokey – his voice and charisma keeps drawing me in and I find it infectious, especially in the stronger tracks. The only downside to the album is the samey feel of some of the songs. Listening to this album does make a refreshing change generally and I do think it is dominated by an upbeat feel that’s guaranteed to garner a smile.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three – Middle of Everywhere 6/10

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Status Quo – Heavy Traffic

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Having recently purchased a copy of this album that is fast approaching its decade anniversary, I thought it time I gave Heavy Traffic by Status Quo a review. The album marked Bob Young’s return to song writing duties for the band for the first time in approx. 22 yearsThis fact is significant as Young has held the joint pen for some of Quo’s great classics, such as “Caroline”.

Overall, the album is viewed amongst Quo fans as being one of, if not the, best album that Quo has released since the reformation of the band in 1986; the close competitors being Under the Influence (1999) and Quid Pro Quo (2011). Allmusic.com claims that the album is the band’s finest since Blue For You (1976) (http://www.allmusic.com/album/heavy-traffic-r609450).

The album is noted for being recorded with all the members of the band playing together in the studio, ‘traditional’ style for the rhythm sections. Using modern studio techniques (and overdubbing, such as Rick’s guitar parts ) the sound quality of the album has not suffered for its live input and it sounds tight and well balanced with the dual tele’s leading the trademark Quo rhythms. Other instruments – notably Bown’s keyboards and organ are spread over the guitars delicately so as not to knock them off of front-and-centre. Both Parfitt and Rossi supply top-notch vocals across the album.

Track List

“Blues and Rhythm” (Bown, Rossi) – A heavy boogie track that must have had the hardcore smiling in 2002! The song is a semi-autobiographical look at someone starting out in a rock band. The song contains a nod towards Quo, with the Marshall Stack and Fender Tele mentioned, and also a nod towards the band’s inspirations; namely ‘that Brown Eyed Handsome Man’: Chuck Berry.

“All Stand Up (Never Say Never)” (Rossi, Young) – Bob Young’s first writing contribution on the album gives rise to a song designed to be concert crowd pleaser. A fast paced boogie-shuffle, the track is a celebration of the weekend and the need to live to party! The song is fast paced and keeps the Quo tradition. The lyrics are light-hearted in nature which perhaps reduces the songs appeal to the hardcore but I say that it is a pleasant enough listen and a track I can enjoy.

“The Oriental” (Edwards, Rossi) – A quirky Quo number that is built around a superb riff created by Francis Rossi and expanded on by John Edwards. Edwards, the bass player for Quo since ’86, claims that this is one of his favourite self-penned songs as it keeps true to the Quo shuffle whilst not being ‘Quo-by-numbers’. This track is awesome live as its open feel, starting with just a bass drum and guitar, helps it to rock and sound different. The lyrics are highly questionable – the song’s downside – and must be tounge-in-cheek. This song is a rocker live and, with hindsight, the studio recording doesn’t manage to live up to the track live.

“Creepin’ Up On You” (Edwards, Parfitt) – “Creepin” is a firm favourite amongst fans – I’ve heard quotes saying that it’s one of tracks that sits best along the band’s output at their peak in the 1970s. The song is a slower shuffle over a bluesy key. The lyrics state how the singer is creeping on the girl who is bound to be his love. For me, this song is a grower, initially I wasn’t keen on the opening riff or the bluesy key, but, as time has gone on, the track has grown on me and I’d now give it 3/5.

“Heavy Traffic” (Edwards, Rossi, Young) -The title track of the album and my personal favourite here also. This song is another boogie-shuffle at a more moderate pace. The lyrics are on fairly central ground, they’re not as a light as “All Stand Up” and not as heavy as others, such as “Creepin Up On You”. This mid-set pace, middle lyrics and an incredibly catchy chorus makes this song my favourite – it’s just a shame that it hasn’t made the live set since 2003!

“Solid Gold” (Rossi, Young) – A ‘Quo-by-numbers’ track that features Bown prominently on harmonica. The track is solid enough (pardon the pun) but nothing special. The lyrics are the singer almost pleading the potential partner to go with them ‘on a wing and a prayer’. I’m not that keen on this track overall as it has a slightly darker feel but I can see it being a favourite among many of the ‘hardcore’.

“Green” (Bown) – An interesting number penned by Andy Bown, the multi-talented member of Status Quo. The song is led by Bown’s Hammond Organ and by acoustic guitars – a marked difference from the usual Quo sound. It reminds me both of “Gerundula” and of Bown’s solo album released nine years later. The lyrics have an environmental concern and speaks of how humankind is turning where we live into ‘a hole in the ground’. This song is definitely a grower and the more I hear it, the more I like it!

“Jam Side Down” (Britten, Dore) – This cut was the publicised single for the album and featured a promotional video filmed aboard HMS Ark Royal. The track itself is at the lighter end of the album – a poppier sounding cut picked as a single to try and please as many potential fans across different genres as possible I guess. I don’t mind this song, I wouldn’t call it a classic Quo track by any stretch but it has a catchy guitar riff and a generally upbeat feel which I like. The lyrics are nothing to write home about though and sound very contrived in places – ‘My bread keeps landing jam side down, say you’ll be there to spread love around’. This is in no small part due to the fact that boogie-rock is not the natural field for Britten and Dore who are more recognised as writing for artists such as Tina Turner and Cliff Richard.

“Diggin’ Burt Bacharach” (Rossi, Young) – A shorter song that has two different tempos within it. The verses have a slower, more open feel and the song kicks into another gear for the choruses. This song I first heard on Francis Rossi’s solo tour and have been a fan ever since. I don’t think it’s custom-made for the Quo faithful but it it’s a good chance for Rossi and Young to show their talents.

“Do It Again” (Bown, Edwards) – An mid-tempo track that argues life is for living and that, if you find something you like you should “Do It Again”! The song is not a highlight of the album for me; it’s not a bad song per se but just nothing special and one I don’t find myself searching for very often.

“Another Day” (Rossi, Young) – The topic of this song is the singer arguing that he needs ‘another day’ to save a relationship that the partner is arguing should be dispensed with. The song is tightly performed and the chorus is catchy. I’d put the track firmly in the middle of the album – not one of my picks but not a song that I’ve taken a dislike to. A song inspired by Francis Rossi telling the Quo manager at the time, David Walker, that he needed ‘another day’ to finish the album.

“I Don’t Remember Anymore” (Bown) – I fun track that is truly belted out by Rick Parfitt! The song speaks of a booze-fueled night out that the singer can no longer remember much about. The lyrics are mostly fun and light hearted although perhaps one could read a darker hint at the Quo singer’s reputation for wild living across his career.

“Money Don’t Matter” (Bonus) (Rossi, Young) – A gentler track that spins out far more choruses than it does verses! The style and songwriting remind of that that Rossi and Young later put towards Rossi’s solo album One Step At A Time.

“Rhythm Of Life” (Rossi, Young) – A slower, bluesy track to see out the album. The lyrics aren’t clear but certainly lamenting in style and lend themselves well to the bluesy feel of the song. A well played track, I don’t know the source of pain for the lyrics – some may argue that they come from points of regret as Rossi looks back across his life – I simply don’t know!

Overall I can fully understand and sympathize with those who argue that Heavy Traffic represents a return to top-form for Status Quo. Right from the opening riffs of “Rhythm and Blues” it’s clear that Quo are on form and intending to rock the way that the fans want them to!

There are plenty of highlights on this album, tracks such as “All Stand Up”, “I Don’t Remember Anymore” and the title track are all what I want to be hearing from the Quo. There has been a lot of talk on the official Quo message boards that the band should consider playing an album in full. I know that, in all reality, the album is not one of the 70s highlights and so wouldn’t register as a possibility – but- if the band ever took this route they’d do worse than to look at Heavy Traffic; and that is some of the best praise I can give.

Status Quo – Heavy Traffic 9/10

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Status Quo – Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo ends the longest wait for a new Quo album since the legendary band’s first hit in1969, following on four years after 2007’s In Search Of The Fourth Chord. It marks a return to Quo recording duties for frontman, Francis Rossi, after his solo album One Step At A Time. Prior to the album’s release a charity single, In The Army Now 2010, and a free download, Rock ‘n’ roll ‘n’ you, were released with the latter generating much interest in the Quo community. Over the years since the reformation of the band in 1986 (and quite possibly prior to that!) there has been much consternation in the Quo fan community about the quality of the band’s output and various debates have raged regarding the sorts of tracks the band has laid down and whether some members of the band are up to the job. Therefore, watching the debates that raged about whether this album was the long-awaited ‘return to form’ did not surprise me. The going rumour prior to release was that this would be the most rocking Status Quo album in years.

The album, when it arrived, did not disappoint on its promise. There is rock in abundance here! The overall sound is generally what you’d expect from Quo. In comparing it to In Search Of The Fourth Chord I notice that is a little more of a echo soak here but this may just be taking the edge off of the years on vocal. However, as a counter to that, it should be noted that in terms of vocal performance this albums blows its predecessor out of the water. It feel like Rossi and Parfitt had more fun recording this album and some of Parfitt’s vocals in particular are top class.

Two Way Traffic – A fast paced standard rock song and one that has proved popular with many on the message boards since the album’s release. The chorus is quite catchy but the song as a whole isn’t really my thing – I like the Quo boogie shuffle or pop happy sounds and this isn’t really that.

Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘n’ You – This track, released for free download prior to release, is an archetypal Quo track, with the unmistakable rhythm of boogie-shuffle. The track is likeable if not spectacular, the lyrics are nothing to write home about and the solo is a tad short but generally the track is OK and I have often found myself humming the chorus under my breath.

Dust To Gold – Very popular among many of the fans but this track does very little for me. It starts off with an almost psychedelic return but overall this echo covered song just doesn’t move me – I’ll admit that I just don’t ‘get’ this one.

Let’s Rock – This song marks the first single from Rick Parfitt since 1980’s “Don’t Drive My Car”. This track really belts along well and, even if the lyrics aren’t anything too special, the vocals from RP are absolutely stonkin’! A highlight on the album and a real feel-good track – you can’t be down listening to this!

Can’t See For Looking – A nice little track about persuading a girl that the singer is the man she “Can’t See For Looking”. Some of the lyrics are a tad stretched but I don’t go to Quo for the deep and meaningful as a rule!

Better Than That – If there is one thing this album specialises in, it’s catchy choruses! This track delivers the same! I don’t think it’s one I’ll listen to much as around the chorus the rest of the track doesn’t really appeal.

Movin On – This kicks off with a killer riff – one of the best on the album. This is a fast paced rocker with a hint of shuffle in the guitar. I really enjoy the country-rock choruses in this one. A good track that has grown on me the more  I listen to it.

Leave A Little Light On – An absolute favourite on the album for me and definitely one of the most listened to since I’ve got my hands on the album. The chorus is insanely simple but also insanely catchy! Rick’s tracks are storming on the album and it sounds like both Rick and Francis had much more fun on Quid Pro Quo than they did on In Search Of The Fourth Chord.

Any Way You Like It– A mid-paced Rossi light rocker. This has the lighter Rodney Crowell/ John Fogerty feel in the verses. Some fans love this sort of stuff, some don’t. I’m take-it-or-leave-it on this track. It’s not bad but it’s not my favourite on the album by some length.

Frozen Hero – This is an interesting track with a very 1980s feel to it for me. This includes the huge intro and fast guitar picking bringing the track. Another more general rocker rather than the trade-mark Quo shuffle – an interesting track and perhaps Quo’s chance to step outside the stereotype in a slightly different direction.

Reality Cheque – A slow boogie-shuffle sung by Rick Parfitt, the subject is having a “Reality Cheque” on a relationship that’s going downfall. This track gives a nice change of pace on the album and partly for that reason this is a definite hit with me.

The Winner – A Rossi track that stands out for its chorus (notice that before!) and also a ‘da-da-da’ ending in a similar vein to “Hey Jude”. This could be a real winner (pardon the pun!) played live with the ‘Loyal Family’ joining in the chorus and the ‘da-da-da’s!

It’s All About You – Another track that’s growing on me. This has the boogie shuffle and light sprinkling of Andy Bown’s harmonica thrown in for good measure. The solo itself is pretty good but the riff after some of the choruses I’m not too keen on.

My Old Ways – A fast paced boogie shuffle. This track is quite quirky but it really appeals to me! It’s generally upbeat and I like that in Quo music and this could rapidly build to be a favourite for me.

In The Army Now (2010) – A recut of the Quo classic from 1986 with some more pro-army lyrics! Recorded as a charity track for the Help The Heroes campaign.

Overall I like this album. It’s an interesting comparison to In Search Of The Fourth Chord. On that album there are fewer tracks that I liked but those I did, such as “Beginning Of The End”, I thought were outstanding. On Quid Pro Quo there are fewer tracks that I think are outstanding but I like the album in general more. Quid Pro Quo is a range of tracks aimed at pleasing a substantial portion of the Quo fan base with its almost relentless rock. Something of  a ballad or a real slow blues number might have been good to vary the album further but overall this is a good album and can be put on to Quo away the day!

Status Quo Quid Pro Quo – 8/10

Article first published as Music Review: Status Quo – Quid Pro Quo on Blogcritics.

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Buzz Campbell – Shivers and Shakes

The early 2011 album, Shivers and Shakes, is the first of Buzz Campbell’s ‘solo’ albums as it no longer carries the name Hot Rod Lincoln, his long time rockabilly band. Campbell is an American rockabilly guitarist/songwriter/singer inspired in no small part by the 1980’s rockabilly giant: Stray Cats. Indeed, Hot Rod Lincoln toured with the Cats in 2008, had songs written by Brian Setzer and  Lee Rocker and Campbell is now a lead guitarist in Rocker’s solo band.

The sound of the album is set in fairly safe rockabilly territory but that isn’t to say that there are no style changes between Shivers and Shakes and earlier Hot Rod Lincoln albums. Campbell himself mentioned in an interview at the tail end of last year that this album has a much edgier feel than the Hot Rod Lincoln sound. This is noticed most in the echo surrounding the vocals and the style of the songs being a lot less gentle than tracks such as ‘Runaway Girl’. The sound of the album is largely consistent, but there are a few separate sounding tracks and I shall pick those up in my track by track listing.

‘Crazy When She Drinks’ – This track originally appeared on Rocker’s brilliant Black Cat Bone. Campbell’s version is faithful to the original, well sung and well played. A good opener to the album even if it’s nothing new.

‘Rockabilly Heart’ – A Rodney Crowell – sounding track bemoaning being a rockabilly in an uncool world. The song is not a hard rocker by stretch of the imagination but it’s got a pleasant enough feel. The guitar solo is impressive and certainly highlight of the track.

‘Shivers and Shakes’ – The title track is the edgiest track on the album. The echo is high on the vocals and most of the the song is in minor key. The song rocks well and is a definite highlight of the album.

‘My One Desire’ – A 50’s original by Ricky Nelson I believe. This is a faithful cover of the Stray Cats recording of the track. It’s hard for me to judge this song fairly as the 2003 version at the Stray Cats reunion gig is one of my favourites. Nonetheless, this is a good version with some smart guitar.

‘I’m on Fire’ – Upon seeing the title I assumed that this a cover of the early ’60s track by Jerry Lee Lewis. However, it is rather a Campbell original. A slow – country flavoured track and not a favourite on the album for me.

‘Bag of Bones’ – A mid-tempo rockabilly track focussed on the singer’s inability to balance his work and his sex life with his girl! The song is securely within the rockabilly genre but I certainly couldn’t see this appearing on a Hot Rod Lincoln album, the style change is certainly present on this track.

‘Another Rooster In The Henhouse’ – The low point of the album personally. This sounds very much like one of the ’50s rockabilly cash-ins that sprang up as Elvis kicked off the rockabilly style. I’m not sure whether this is a Campbell original or a cover of an earlier track but either way the lyrics really don’t appeal to me at all and the song does very little for me.

‘King Of Fools’ – The first heartbreak track on the album. This is still a mid-tempo track but has a much gentler feel matching the subject of the song. Pleasant if not special in my opinion.

‘Time’ – An interesting cut that sits across the jazz/ rock’n’roll line.A track with a clear hooking riff begging a girl to spend a little more time …

‘Baby Don’t Go With Him’ – A pure rockabilly track that shows up the strength of the bass player in the band. The vocals have quite an Elvis touch to my ears – ‘Baby don’t-a-go with-im’.

‘Love, Lies and Heartaches’ – A rockabilly track closer to the country end of the spectrum. Some of the underlying finger picking reminds me very strongly of a Buddy Holly track but I can’t place which one it is.

‘Rawk-a-billy Fever’ – Another track that sounds straight out of those ’50s rockabilly cash-ins, some of the lyrics make me believe that this is an original by Buzz but I’m not quite sure.

‘Scot-Mo’ – Buzz rounds the album with a quiet country/rockabilly track to show the strengths of his finger picking. This wouldn’t sound out of place on Setzer goes instru-MENTAL.

Overall this is a decent rockabilly album. There are certainly plenty of tracks on the album that I really enjoy and the few that I would consider skipping are certainly in the minority. The album makes a good addition to any rockabilly collection and I can’t imagine that a fan of the Stray Cats or similar would want to turn this one down.

Buzz Campbell – Shivers and Shakes: 7/10

Article first published as Music Review: Buzz Campbell – Shivers and Shakes on Blogcritics.

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