Is there more to Quo than the standard rock ‘n’ roll boogie sound?

Never have I been so intimidated by two plastic discs in all my life. Is there really any way to review a Greatest Hits collection from a band of Status Quo’s stature? This is a band who have survived 40 years of the music industry and managed to retain their integrity, decency and style. One could perhaps suggest that this is the last attempt of a couple of washed-up old men to milk the last of the royalties from their fading creativity. This would, however, be a bare-faced lie, proven by the success of 2002’s Heavy Traffic, and by the inclusion of two new tracks in this collection. I doubt there is anybody, anywhere in the western world who hasn’t enjoyed a Quo song at one time or another. Something about Status Quo seems to be present in the human genetic code. Everybody likes Status Quo.

In the past, Status Quo have come under criticism for a lack of creativity. Indeed, any Quo song is instantly identifiable, even before the vocals begin. However, this cross-section of their career shows the listener exactly what the Quo are capable of; the rock ‘n’ roll boogie sound is always present, but the songs display subtle differences, that to the die-hard Quo fan justify a forty-song greatest hits collection. To the majority of listeners however, this CD is liable to become boring and predictable. To many listeners, the first eleven tracks of CD 1 will sound like just the one song with different lyrics and a different introduction tacked to the front; however, this is expert musical tacking we're talking about.

‘Something About You Baby I Like’, at track 12, is still undeniably Status Quo, but relaxes the tempo a little and tends towards a different sound, thus breaking the chain of blues-boogie progressions. The difference between earlier and later Quo is definitely audible, with tracks such as ‘You’ll Come Round’, a new track for XS All Areas, and ‘Creepin’ Up On You’, originally from 2002’s Heavy Traffic, showing more diversion from the traditional Quo sound. Most prominent in the changes is the vocal sound; in the earlier recordings such as ‘Paper Plane’ and 1968’s ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Men’, there is a much younger sounding voice delivering the lyrics as well as the vocals sounding much more distant than the more modern recordings. One can appreciate that this is as much to do with advances in recording technology and the inevitable aging process as it is to do with changing styles.

A broad cross-section of Status Quo’s 40 year career is showcased on XS All Areas, with the classic singles, unconsciously known by everybody, everywhere, ever such as ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ placed alongside unreleased album tracks that prove to the unbeliever that the Quo weren’t just about stupidly catchy singles. Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt create one of the greatest rock and roll guitar partnerships ever forged, and this album is a testament to their simple blues-influenced sound.

Overall, disc two of this collection exhibits more diversity than disc one, with the almost Spanish-sounding noodlings of ‘Gerdundula’, the political anthem ‘In The Army Now’ and the down-tempo acoustic ballad that is ‘Living On An Island’ among others. In my opinion, disc one is the party disc, it is perfect background music that everybody will recognize, while disc two is the listening disc; it is certainly more interesting than the persistent shuffle rhythm of disc one, but isn’t without its share of the stereotypical Quo sound: ‘Jam Side Down’ and ‘Anniversary Waltz Part 1’ offer an interlude of the standard Quo boogie.