Sunday, May 19, 2024

BMG Presents STATUS QUO The Early Years (1966-69)

Pausing the releasing of Status Quo archived ‘live’ material, BMG have gone back to the very beginning of the band’s stellar career and have come up with a 5 CD box set focussing exclusively on the Quo’s mid-late 60’s period.

What Quo has achieved over its fifty-year-plus career has been quite remarkable. They’ve had 25 albums in the top 10, 22 singles in the top 10 and appeared on ‘Top of the Pops’ more times than any other artist, which includes the Beatles and the Stones. But, The Early Years takes you right back to where it all began

This comprehensive set includes the band’s first two albums, presented here in both mono and stereo versions, and several early Quo singles, with both A and B sides, plus also demo tracks and outtakes, plus various sessions and interviews with the BBC. There’s also a CD of tracks from their pre-Quo days when they were known as The Spectres and Traffic Jam. In short, this is as complete a package as you could ever want to hear from the early Quo, before they morphed into becoming one of the greatest rock bands of our time, receiving a Brit Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’ in 1991, and attaining national treasure status along the way. Not too bad for a band who supposedly knew only three chords.

The first two discs feature the albums Picturesque Matchstickable Messages and Spare Parts in both mono and stereo, with the sound much clearer and brighter on the stereo versions. These albums bring together all the psychedelic/pop material Quo played before evolving their style, with tracks like ‘Technicolour Dreams’ and ‘Sunny Cellophane Skies’ being pure 1967 attempts at psychedelia, and with their version of the ‘Lemon Pipers’ Green Tambourine’ comparing well against the original.

Disc three, Before Status Quo 1966-67, features tracks recorded as The Spectres and Traffic Jam. What stands out most on these tracks is the integral role played by Roy Lynes on keys, because on covers like ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’ and the Blues Magoos classic ‘(We Ain’t Got) Nothing Yet’, Lynes’ keyboard sound turn the Spectres into a superb British garage band .. certainly ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’ would fit very comfortably on Lennie Kaye’s seminal Nuggets collection. Other creditable covers include ‘Gloria’, the Bee Gees’ ‘Spicks and Specks’ and Carole King’s ‘Walking With My Angel’. Despite this, I can’t even begin to imagine whatever it was tempting Rossi and co into believing they could do anything with the Everly Brothers’ classic ‘Bird Dog’, as their harmonies don’t even come close.

Disc four, A & B sides, Demos and Outtakes, reveals some of the confusion the Quo were experiencing, as their first two albums hadn’t sold as well as expected, and the band were struggling to come up with their own identity. Singles like ‘Are You Growing Tired Of My Love?’, ‘Make Me Stay A Little Longer’ and two less than complimentary versions of ‘The Price Of Love’ (they really should leave Everly Brothers songs well alone!) suggest a band unsure of their next move, though the alternate version mix of ‘Matchstick Men’ is really quite good.

On disc 5, BBC Sessions 1968-69, the Quo are now playing with more assurance, and they rock out on covers like ‘Bloodhound’, ‘Judy In Disguise’ and Eddie Floyd’s ‘Things Get Better’, plus their single, ‘Ice In The Sun’, which suggests the direction the Quo were about to go in.

Soon after this period, Roy Lynes leaves the band just as their third album is released. Alan Lancaster stated, ‘We were scared to play without him as the organ drowned out the bad bits.’ I’d like to have seen a little more recognition of Lynes’s contribution to the early Quo, as little is said about him in the accompanying booklet. After he leaves, the band would gradually morph into the “Frantic Four” and a seventies rock behemoth emerged.

This collection of five discs offers a fascinating historical insight into the growth and rise of the Quo from being a covers band, dabbling in psych and attempting to be a pop band before taking the early faltering steps towards developing into the enduring and important rock act they ultimately became. This is a collection for fans of the band and rock historians alike.

STATUS QUO The Early Years (1966-69) is available now via BMG

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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