Status Quo: Hello! /Quo / On The Level / Blue For You

 

 

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Status Quo are an English rock band whose music is characterized by their distinctive brand of boogie rock. The group originated in The Spectres, founded by schoolboys Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster in 1962. After a number of lineup changes, the band became The Status Quo in 1967 and Status Quo in 1969.They have had over 60 chart hits in the UK, starting with 1967’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, and the most recent being in 2010, which is more than any other rock group. Twenty-two of these reached the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart.

Culture Factory has remastered four of their albums to make them look like albums. with slipcases and even bonus tracks on all of them. Giving listeners the chance to hear these albums in clear, crisp versions is a real treat and makes the albums sound spectacular.

Hello! is the sixth studio album and was released in September 1973, it was the first of four Quo albums to top the UK Albums Chart. In August 1973 the only single from the album, “Caroline” was released, reaching #5. This was the group’s first single to reach the UK top five. Its B-side was a non-album track called “Joanne” and is included on this release. “Roll Over Lay Down” is a tongue-in-cheek lyrical paean to bed space. “Claudie” and “Reason for Living” have a country underbelly that was nevertheless part of Quo’s musical recipe. “Caroline” is perhaps the ultimate Status Quo song, a seemingly simple, catchy rock’n’roll song. Lastly, “Forty-Five Hundred Times” is the quintessential Quo tour-de-force, starting a bit jangly before proceeding into a propulsive, stomping song.

Quo is the seventh studio album by Status Quo from 1974, with the only track to be released as a single was “Break the Rules,” in April 1974, and it peaked in the UK at #8. On this album there is generally a harder edge to the songs and performances, with less emphasis on the more pop side of the band. “Break The Rules” is a chugging, bluesy, driving song with the instrumental section adding a honky-tonk piano solo, and a wailing harmonica. This is an album to please the rock fan, it’s an album that contains enough variation for a listener not to get bored, and instant gratification when you first pick up the disc. The CD also contains the bonus track “Lonely Night.”

On the Level is the eighth studio album and in November 1974 the band released the only single from the album, an edited version of “Down Down.” The single gave the band their only #1 hit to date. Its b-side was the Parfitt/Young album track “Nightride.” This album is one of the definitive Quo long players with every sound, from the opening bars of “Little Lady” to the closing Chuck Berry cover, “Bye Bye Johnny.” The album starts with “Little Lady” and “Most Of The Time,” the first one being a great heavy rocker, and the other one slower with more of a bluesy feel to it. “I Saw The Light” and “Over And Done” are catchy songs that stick in your ears. “Nightride” is slower in tempo,and it’s got a good solid groove to it. Then there’s probably the best-known track from the album, “Down Down.” The opening of the song is so recognisable and it’s one of those tracks that you can’t help foot-tapping along to. This is the album version which is longer and not as concise as the single version that most are familiar with. “Where I Am” is a lovely ballad which is much lighter in tone than the other more rocking tracks on the album. The album closes with the rocking cover of Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny,” a key part of their live shows still. This release also includes the bonus tracks “Down Down (Single Version),” “Roll Over Lay Down (Live Version),” “Gerdundula (Live Version),” “Junior’s Wailing (Live Version),” and “Roadhouse Blues (Live Version).”

Blue for You is the ninth studio album by English rock band Status Quo, released in March 1976 and is both the last album to feature the “Frantic Four” lineup. “Rain”, the first single from the album, reached #7 in the UK charts after its release in February 1976. Its b-side was the non-album track “You Lost the Love.” The album was released the following month. It entered the British album chart at #1 and stayed there for three weeks, making it one of their most successful long players. An edited version of “Mystery Song” was the second single from the album and, released in July that year, peaked at #11 a few months later. “Drifting Away,” from their 1974 album Quo, served as the single’s b-side. In December that year the band decided to release a cover of “Wild Side of Life,” a song made famous by Hank Thompson and His Brazos Valley Boys. Its b-side was “All Through the Night,” which reached #9. “Is There A Better Way” has rolling bass, thrashing guitars and a very speedy little guitar solo which almost has the energy of punk rock.”Rolling Home” is another classic with dueling guitars, and wailing harmonica. Blue For You” is a restrained slice of blues/soul. “Rain” rocks really hard, almost borders on heavy metal in places. “Blue For You” retains all the crunch and pleasingly booming bass of all the other songs that came before. “That’s A Fact” has a terrific groove,  “Ease Your Mind” is a great blues boogie song , and “Mystery Song” closes out the album with another great track. The bonus songs on this CD are “You Lost The Love,” “Mystery Song (Single Version),” “Wild Side Of Life,” “All Through The Night,” and “Wild Side of Life (Demo Version).”

If you are a fan, you need to get these great looking and sounding remasters, and if you want to hear a band on top of their game, you definitely have to get these CDs. The sound of a band being everything that they could be and more, now with awesome sound and very collectible.

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Vinnie Moore: Aerial Visions

Vinnie Moore was born in New Castle, Delaware, and he began his professional career at age 12 playing in clubs and bars until Shrapnel executive Mike Varney discovered him via a demo and bio that Vinnie submitted to the Spotlight column, which Varney headed for Guitar Player Magazine. Through Varney, it led to an opportunity to appear in a Pepsi commercial in 1985, (only Vinnie’s hands appeared in the commercial as his guitar playing is heard. Following this, Moore recorded his first solo album, Mind’s Eye (1986), released on Shrapnel Records. Vinnie Moore played lead guitar with Vicious Rumors on their debut album, Soldiers of the Night (1985). Moore joined Alice Cooper’s band for a tour and then appeared on the Hey Stoopid (1991) album. Moore has been the lead guitarist for UFO since June 2003, and this is his eighth solo album.

This album strikes right to the core of what Moore’s fans have always loved about his playing, guitar-centric music with plenty of melody. Each song is beautifully crafted and his technique is never at the expense of taste, and this album has a delicious flavor. The playing is tight, but not so flashy that the casual listener gets bogged down in flair and flash, instead you get an album full of songs with terrific guitar playing that draws you in and won’t let go. If you’re going to release a guitar based instrumental album these days, since it’s not really in style anymore, it’s imperative that you mix up the styles on it, and Moore has indeed done just that here. “Mustang Shuffle” is blistering blues rock, and his version of ZZ Top’s “La Grange”, which would make them proud. “Now’s the Time” and “Faith” are two songs that originally were intended as instrumentals, but some of the arrangements were later used as UFO tunes. “Looking Back” is a tender ballad, while the title track has a rootsy blues/jazz/funk sound. “A Million Miles Gone” has a moody atmosphere, with Moore playing a jaw dropping solo that is dripping with emotion.

If you want an album of guitar wankery, this is not it, there were plenty released in the 80s (Yngwie Malmsteen anyone?), this one has the ability to go beyond that into an album that is a classic. The playing is on point, the song selection is terrific and everything just clicks.

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BETTY BOO: Grrr!

This is the long-awaited reissue of Betty Boo’s second album Grrr!, a whole twenty-four years after its original release. This Deluxe Edition includes the ten original songs, plus twenty bonus tracks all sourced from the original master tapes. The CD booklet features the original album front cover plus extensive sleeve notes and a UK discography. Betty Boo’s original breakthrough came with the release of “Hey DJ/I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing)” as The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo (real name Alison Clarkson) on Rhythm King in 1989. Her debut album Boomania followed in 1990 peaking at #4 in the UK album charts and achieved platinum status of 300,000 sales.

This second album had a more mixed bag of sounds than her first album, more jazzy and of course the rap and house music that she’s known for. “I’m On My Way” is a peppy little dance song that includes a jazz horn section that turns into The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.” The actual horn section on the original version, led by Ronnie Scott is playing on this track. The next song “Thing Goin’ On,’ has a jazzy backing, and her rap flowing effortlessly. “Hangover” which was another single, is a mid-tempo, hip-hop shuffler that is built around an orchestral sound that sounds like it could have come right out of a spaghetti western. The album also has the catchy “Wish You Were Here,” and “Gave You The Boo,” to keep the dancing and party going. The remixes are a real treat on here with “Hangover” including the album and 12″versions plus the Streets Ahead remixes – Saturday Night & Sunday Morning. The Sunday Morning remix was previously unavailable in the UK. “Thing Goin’ On” includes the album version, the radio remix, club mix and the Underground mix by US DJ/Producer MK (Marc Kinchen). Three of these mixes were previously unavailable in the UK. “Catch Me” includes the album and David Morales’ 12″ version, also the original version and the London Underground mix feature. Three of these mixes were previously unavailable in the UK. The remastering of this album makes it sound fuller, more clear and crisp than before.

An underrated and lost album that although isn’t as immediate as her first album, is still worth looking for and exploring. The songs are fun and make for a great listen, grab this one and re-live the early 90s.

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THE MUFFS:Blonder And Blonder

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This is the Muffs second, and best-selling album, now remastered and with seven bonus songs included, five previously unreleased as well as notes from the band. The sound is crisper and the added tracks add to the album and give some insight to what they were up to at that time.

The album is a 90s punk staple in my house and should be one in yours too, with its tight playing and sharp lyrics. The songs are fast, catchy and full of energy, so much more fulfilling than the pop punk that is out there today. What the hell happened to that style of music? Anyways, this has hit written all over it and they deservedly had the biggest selling album with this amazing album. The crunchy guitars, the assured, yet manic vocals, and clean sounding drums still hold up after all these years. I remember getting this album when it first came out and playing it a lot, but this really takes it up a notch with the improved sound. This hook laden album has been mostly left behind by kids nowadays, but really needs to be heard and loved all over again. The album has intricate playing mixed with the quick and furious songs, and also the clear production helps add to the mix.

If you haven’t heard them before, grab this album and turn it up loud, be proud of your new-found favorite album, and if you are a fan from the old days, play the hell out of the album too. The album is a definite must have in your collection, so stop wasting time and get a copy today.

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LOOKING STATESIDE: 80 US R&B, Mod, Soul & Garage Nuggets: Various Artists

This is the fourth collection in the highly successful LOOKING… series, and the series now takes a trip to the USA for its latest theme. The latest Looking set travels from uptempo R&B and Early Soul to Garage Punk, Northern, Frat Rock, Proto-Psych and wild instro’s. Paying homage to American Mod music from the Sixties. Beginning with turn-of-the-decade R&B, Frat Rock and Proto-Soul on Disc 1, a smattering of bonkers instrumentals, plenty of four-on-the-floor Northern Soul congregated on Disc 2, Nuggets-friendly fare on Disc 3 and tracks which flirt with Psychedelia as this four-hour soundtrack draws to a close. Many of the tracks here are drawn from the prestigious back catalogues of Challenge, Scepter/Wand, Etiquette, Swan, Shell, and Select, and a large number of those new to CD.

The three CDs are packed full of great songs that will get you dancing, wanting to bob your head and just plain rock out. You get some names that you’ve heard of, The Champs, Joe Tex, and Gene Vincent, but the real treat is in finding out new bands that you’ve never heard before and now love. The bad part of a collection like this, is that once you hear a band that you like, you now have to try to find more of their music, and that might be very difficult. The songs are a treat for someone who has never heard them before and has an interest in the more obscure tracks that are out there. The quality of the songs is amazing, with song after song of catchy and fun songs that work perfectly together. The compiler of this collection really did a great job finding these mostly underrated and hard to find songs where there is literally something for everyone, and no time to get bored because of the various styles mixed together on these three discs.

With great sound and a booklet full of stories about each of the songs, this is a collection that will keep you listening to it over and over again. This is a great way to hear songs that aren’t the typical, over-played songs from the time period and learn something new at the same time.

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SKELETAL FAMILY: Eternal

Fronted by glamorous singer Anne-Marie Hurst, The Skeletal Family were at the forefront of the goth rock movement of the 1980s. Compiled with the full involvement of the band, this collection boasts all of the Skeletal Family’s independent recordings for the Red Rhino label between 1983 and 1985, and both of the band’s albums, Burning Oil and Futile Combat are included, alongside all their non-album singles, B-sides and rare compilation appearances. For the first time, many of the band’s unissued BBC sessions for John Peel, Kid Jensen and Janice Long are also included. The fourth disc concentrates on live material, drawn principally from a show at Folkestone Peter Pipers (01-03-84) and a later show with Anne-Marie’s replacement Katrina Phillips. The fifth and final CD boasts a clutch of demos of previously unissued, brand new songs by the modern-day Skeletal Family, alongside earlier demos and some live reunion material.

As you can see, this is a lot of rare and interesting music compiled for your listening pleasure. Starting with the first disc, which is their debut album Burning Oil and some bonus tracks, we can see where they were coming from. The album has a bit of an early, punky Siouxsie and the Banshees sound, but manages to hold its own and you can hear the enthusiasm that they brought to the album. The bonus songs are a treat and give you a bit more insight to the band. The second disc which is their second album Futile Combat sees them growing a bit and stretching out more. You get the terrific “Promised Land” single heard here in both album and 12” versions, and their interesting covers of the Batman theme and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” The third disc is the BBC sessions that show the raw talent that the band had. This was getting close to when original singer Hurst left the band. Disc four features two concerts, the first has Hurst on great form, and on the second, Katrina Philips takes over vocal duties, including a cover of “Knocking On Heaven’s Door,” featuring the Sisters’ Andrew Eldritch and Wayne Hussey from The Mission. Both have a bit of a bootleg quality to the sound, but they make for a very cool look into the band’s two vocalists. The last disc has the newer music and shows that the band still can come up with great songs and it bodes well for their future.

The sound on these discs is great, giving a clarity to the songs, plus the booklet is chock full of info, pictures and an interview with the band, that makes for a great piece by itself. If you are a fan, this is a dream collection that has everything and more that you could ever want from them. I had heard some of the songs back in the ’80s, but never knew that much about them, but with this box set, I feel that I have a relationship with them that goes deep.

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ULTRAVOX!: Ha!-Ha!-Ha!

This was the second album by British pop group Ultravox, at that time known as “Ultravox!” with an exclamation mark, as a nod to Neu!. Although the group would later achieve fame and commercial success with lead singer Midge Ure the band was, in 1977, led by singer/songwriter John Foxx who was accompanied by guitarist Stevie Shears, drummer Warren Cann, bassist Chris Cross and keyboard/violinist Billy Currie. Ha!-Ha!-Ha! was released on 14 October 1977, and was accompanied by lead single “ROckwrok.”

This is the remastered release from Culture Factory and has six bonus tracks as well as clear, crisp sound and a replica cardboard jacket, just like it did when it was on vinyl.

The album sounds great with the beautiful remastering and you get to hear the band still in the punk style that they had before Midge Ure came in as lead singer and they became slicker and more polished. The songs are played with gust and you can hear the excitement and the experimental nature of the band, especially on “Distant Smile.” It has the atmospherics that they became known for and then blasts in a blistering track. The mix of the hard-edged punk, and the slicker new wave mix perfectly on the album with neither overpowering the other, but complimenting each other. The tide was changing in the band as well as on the charts and this still sounds amazing today. This is a collection of songs that grab you right from the start and keep a hold of you right until the end of the album. The bonus songs are a great treat too, something that makes for a longer and interesting album.

If you are a fan of later era Ultravox, you need to hear how they started out and don’t compare them, just enjoy them as almost two separate bands linked together.

 

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