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 years. This 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.
“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