UK band STATUS QUO are one of the most successful bands in the history of rock, at least in their own backyard. With a career now ongoing for more than 50 years, they have had multiple top 10 hits and literally sold albums by the truckload. They are also a band that is frowned upon, and ridiculed, by living a bit too much up to their name. “Live!” from 1977 was the first official live album of the band, and one of their commercial success stories.
It is easy to understand why many don’t hold this band in high regard. They do have something of a core sound they return to fairly often, at least in the vintage years of their career, and this bass pumping, slow to mid paced foundation doesn’t have the elegance and intensity of a similar band like, say, AC/DC. Status Quo is a bit more grandfather music, material closer to the original rock n roll of the 1950’s, and while this gave the band a wider audience reach it also made their music safer, less rebellious, something harder to be impressed by. If AC/DC was the music of the young rebels, Status Quo was perhaps more the music for the working class fathers that financed the rebellion of their sons, so to speak.
On “Live!” the band is captured in fine form. The band had been a going concern for some years at that point, had played their share of gigs and then some, and was climbing up the success ladder in a steady fashion. And while their music may be a tad on the simpler side, this is also music that can sound really good when the band is tight, the musicians have a good night and the material is of a good enough quality in general. Just how much it will impress obviously depends on musical taste: In the case of mid 70’s Status Quo a certain affection for blues and 50’s rock n roll is most likely needed, or at least a taste for music at times very directly based on those origins.
For my sake I didn’t really find any of the songs on this live album to be weak as such. Some suffered from poor vocals, especially the first few tracks, others from less than engaging melodies and arrangements, but all of them were also elevated by a tight band with a good drive. The arguably weakest songs for me were the ones where the band used long stretches to flirt with the audience: Fun for fans and for those who treasure live albums in general, great at the concert I imagine, but not all that entertaining if you aren’t in those or related categories.
There are plenty of good songs elevated by the band being tight and firing on all cylinders too though, as long as blues-based hard rock and the good old boogie aren’t alienating in for for you. And on a couple of occasions the band manages to reach extended moments of brilliance too, at least in my opinion. Roll Over Lay Down is the song here where I find the band to be masters of their approach and performance alike. Easy and fairly predictable, but here executed to perfection. And then there’s one of the exceptions, at least as far as performance goes. Forty Five Hundred Times. A creation that, in my view, is a platform for extended guitar solo runs first and foremost. And while this isn’t guitar hero stuff, compelling, pleasant and inviting guitar solo runs performed by a guitarist that knows how to please an audience is always an interesting thing. And again, executed to perfection here as far as I’m concerned.
I’ve never been a great fan of Status Quo. I have found some of their music pleasant, other parts of their production quite appallingly weak, but have never experienced this as a band that could engage me. This live album, fairly raw and honest, does perhaps present the best sides of the band, and those best sides are captivating indeed. Brilliant at their very best, and proof that music doesn’t have to be complicated to be captivating nor to have staying power. A well made, quality live album, and one that merits a spin if the combination of blues, boogie and hard rock comes across as appealing in general and then in a live setting in particular.
My rating: 78/100
Junior’s Wailing // Backwater. Just Take Me // Is There a Better Way // In My Chair // Little Lady. Most Of the Time // Rain // Forty-Five Hundred Times // Roll Over Lay Down // Big Fat Mama // Don’t Waste My Time // Roadhouse Blues // Caroline // Bye Bye Johnny