The long-awaited Status Quo 'anthology' - rather cumbersomely-titled as "Rockers Rollin Quo In Time 1972-2000" - appeared in December 2001 as a superbly-packaged 4-CD set on the Universal label. Coming complete with a 72-page full colour booklet, the set has been put together using quality materials and first appearances of both the set itself and the track selection are good.
The booklet is once again composed by Dave Oxley and is familiar territory for readers of his previous Quo history, "Rockers Rollin". Much of the content from that book gets recycled here, but with some tailoring to meet the tracklisting for the anthology. The booklet features a good collection of photographic material, Plummer's early works in particular being of special note. The photographs appear in chronological order throughout the booklet but the accompanying text does not keep in synch, which is a little offputting. A notable omission is a shot of the current line-up (circa 2000/1) and a mention of the recent contribution of Paul Hirsh. Numerous spelling and typographical errors detract somewhat from the overall feeling of quality, but the booklet as a whole is well-presented and accurately crafted by Oxley as ever.
The first CD of the set is dedicated to what many would term the golden age of Quo, 1972-1976, and thus needs to cover material from the "Piledriver", "Hello!", "Quo", "On The Level" and "Blue For You" albums. Of the four CDs on offer in the set, this first CD covers the shortest time period, but also one of Quo's most prolific - and significant - recording periods. Live versions of "Don't Waste My Time", "Roll Over Lay Down" and "Bye Bye Johnny" have been scrubbed up very well and display the vibrancy and live passion which cemented Quo's longevity. "Roadhouse Blues" in particular is a very welcome official release here, with Coghlan in great form and reminding us all of what Quo with fire in its belly can feel like. Also worthy of note is the excellent remastering on "All Through The Night" which reveals a significant keyboard contribution from Bown which struggles to make its presence felt on older analogue recordings.
The second CD offers the largest number of tracks of the four on offer, some twenty cuts covering the period from 1977 to 1983. The selection is made more interesting by the inclusion of a large number of previously unreleased offerings, in the shape of "Whatever You Want" album outcasts and live tracks from 1982.
On the face of it, the four tracks from "Whatever You Want" that form the bulk of the notable material on the disc look interesting enough. However, "Another Game In Town" and "Rearrange" have already appeared widely on bootlegs and the recordings on this official release are no better than the bootlegs dishing up the same material. The audio quality on these two tracks is unforgivably poor and makes their inclusion at all within a compilation of this nature very questionable. The demo of "Shady Lady", whilst being welcome for its different intro and arrangement, also suffers from appalling sound quality. The only track of the four which merits inclusion is the Lancaster-penned "Bad Company", which appears with a decent recording quality and is actually also the strongest of the tracks not to be included on the "Whatever You Want" album. The version here is clearly not the final mix - if indeed one was made - but it is still a worthy addition to the set.
The live tracks from the NEC in 1982, taken from the night prior to the Prince's Trust gig at the same venue, are good quality and were well-chosen for inclusion here, being the only live coverage of the Rossi/Parfitt/Lancaster/Bown/Kircher line-up. Whilst being an admirable attempt at showcasing some unheard material, this disc is ultimately a disappointment just on sound quality and offers little that the bootleggers haven't seized upon long ago. The "Whatever You Want" rejects also highlight the troubled sense of direction of late 70s Quo, coupled with production mishmashes.
The penultimate CD covers a period during which Quo's line-up changed once more, namely 1983-1989. The selection of tracks here is generally good, a reasonable mix of standard fodder and more interesting tracks. Kicking off with "Ol' Rag Blues" featuring the Lancaster lead vocal (rather than what became a Rossi lead on the final release), the CD also includes Quo's cover of Springsteen's "Cadillac Ranch", "The Greatest Fighter" and three live tracks from Wembley 1988.
Quo's stab at "Cadillac Ranch" comes across well and the quality of recording here is good. Later showcased as "The Fighter" on Rossi's solo album, 'King of the Doghouse', the originally scheduled title track for the 1988 album which would become "Ain't Complaining" sees the light of day for the first time here, as "The Greatest Fighter". In this form, the track is laughable and even Rossi's solo version has a harder edge than this accordion-laden effort. This would have stood up even less well than "Ain't Complaining" as the title track of an album , even a late 80s Quo one. The three live tracks from Wembley work well, as previously broadcast as part of the BBC's "In Concert" series (and hence already bootlegged at high quality).
"Perfect Remedy" gets all the coverage it deserves, via its two top songs in the form of "Little Dreamer" and "The Power of Rock", to complete the CD. Although this CD is well thought out, it would have also been ncie to ditch some of the standard tracks in favour of remixes of them, like "The Wanderer" and "In The Army Now".
The final CD on offer here covers the period 1989-2000 and, as such, includes material which has received less critical acclaim, both from the fans and the industry. The best material produced by the band during this time - with the exception of the excellent "Rock 'Til You Drop" album - formed the Eagle offering "Under The Influence" in 1999. No such material finds its way onto this CD, presumably because of copyright issues across the companies - the lack of this material leaves this final CD as an inevitable disappointment, concentrating as it does on cover versions where it's obvious that the band was having issues coming to terms with this popularist and ill-fitting fodder.
Compared to the "Don't Stop" and "Famous In The Last Century" tracks, the two parts of the "Anniversary Waltz" (unnecessarily split on this disc) sound fresh and lively. Obvious ommisions include the "Roadhouse Blues Medley" (from "Live Alive Quo"), acoustic and/or hooligan versions of "I Didn't Mean It" (rather than the appalling "Back On My Feet"), "Temporary Friend" (B-side of "Don't Stop"), and "I'll Never Get Over You" (B-side of "All Around My Hat", rather than the sickening track itself). The inclusion of the "Proud Mary" live is an ill-placed bet - the performance is nothing special to begin with and the recording quality is surprisingly poor considering the BBC broadcast was of high quality in the first place. Whilst being necessary for completeness of the band's career, this final CD highlights where Quo have lost their way in terms of recorded offerings in the last ten years. Only with the inclusion of some "Under The Influence" tracks would this CD redeem itself and stand up alongside the other material on offer across the anthology.
As the foreword from Rossi and Parfitt suggests, it's impossible to please everyone with a collection of this nature. On the plus side, the set is very well presented, has an informative and well written booklet, and includes a number of tracks which the general Quo audience may not have had access to before. However, if the set is aimed at the die-hard Quo fan and/or collector, then it falls short of the mark in critical areas - there are too many standard editions of tracks, too few genuinely unheard tracks, and poor sound quality on some of what should have been the highlights of the set. The re-issues of the early Pye albums by Castle showed how this kind of production should be done, with fantastically good sound quality even on late 60s and early 70s demos. It would be hard to believe that the producers of this set covering more recent material would not have had access to much better quality offerings than what has ended up on the discs, particularly disc 2.
Overall then, "Rockers Rollin' Quo In Time 1972-2000" is a professional effort and will please the vast majority of its target audience. Only those collectors who have already sought to complete their coverage via bootlegs will perhaps be a little disappointed that there is not more "new" material for them to get their teeth into.Revisit the December 2001 event list
The following article, by Simon Ward, appeared in the December 2001 edition of "Record Collector" magazine. It included a review of the box set, an interview with Rick and Francis and some vintage 70s photos of the band.
"Rockers Rollin' - After countless compilations, Status Quo are receiving the box set treatment again"
In an era dominated by repackages and compilations, Status Quo have more than their fair share on the shelves. However, the arrival of "Rockers Rollin': Quo In Time 1972-2000" sees the band finally get the full-on box set treatment for the first time since 1982's "From The Makers Of..."
The 4-CD set covers the band's re-emergence into the public eye in 1972 following their signing to Vertigo, via a lengthy succession of hit singles and albums, right up to last year's "Famous In The Last Century" covers collection.
With 68 tracks on offer, you'd think that the average Quo connoisseur would be more than satisfied, but that's until you take a look at the facts. Since 1972, Quo have racked up nearly 50 Top 40 hits (discounting live versions and re-recordings), which doesn't leave room for much else. Wisely, in principle, the compilers have chosen to omit some less successful and unmemorable 45s to make room for album tracks that have gone on to become live favourites, along with rarities from the archives.
CD One kicks off with the single that began the Quo renaissance, "Paper Plane", and then treads a chronological path through the band's subsequent career via singles, album tracks, live material, B-sides, demo versions and unreleased recordings. Of most interest to the Quo collector will be the 17 unreleased tracks scattered across the set, although all of them have been available on bootleg. It's interesting to compare Alan Lancaster's vocals on an out-take of "Ol' Rag Blues" to the familiar, Rossi-sung hit and try to fathom why the band were so incensed when 1988's "The Greatest Fighter" was rejected (it's certainly no better than what was released at the time).
There are also various live tracks that haven't seen the official light of day before. These include prime cuts of classic Quo like "Don't Waste My Time", recorded in London in March 1973 by BBC Radio, and a stomping version of the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues", from the Southend concert in March 1975 that spawned the "Quo Live!" EP.
The first two CDs are pretty solid in their selection, with singles, album cuts and live tracks all demonstrating what a powerful band they were in their heyday. Three demo tracks from the "Whatever You Want" sessions is probably one too many, but these were obviously included as an incentive for committed fans. There are a few omissions, notably fan favourites "Break The Rules", "Wild Side of Life", "Dirty Water" and "Don't Drive My Car", which could have replaced more superfluous tracks like "Like A Good Girl", "Lies" and "Jealousy" without anyone complaining.
However, CD Three raises a few question marks over the compilers' choice of material. Is it really necessary to have five tracks from the sessions that spawned the woeful "Ain't Complaining" album, plus live versions of a further two live tracks? Do B-sides like "Late Last Night" and "Lean Machine" really merit inclusion over the likes of the band's comeback hit "Rollin' Home" or "Another Shipwreck"? It seems in certain cases the need to include rarities outweighed the need to include good music.
CD Four is a little better on selection grounds, if not always musically. Good to see the fan and band favourite "Mysteries from the Ball" get a look in, although there are more uninspired B-sides in the shape of "Dead In The Water", and their lumpen cover of Leonard Cohen's "Democracy" is included at the expense of better-known and simply better tracks.
The compilers of "Rockers Rollin'" faced a difficult task, in that to the majority of people the golden era of Quo was the 1970s and 80s. To represent that era too heavily would have looked like an admission that what the band has done since has rarely lived up to those standards. However, the inclusion of so much post-1986 material does that anyway. In parts, "Rockers Rollin'" is a great summation of why Quo have lasted all these years; in others it does them no favours at all.
BLUE FOR YOU - Quo mainstays Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt talk back
RC: How involved were you in the production of "Rockers Rollin'"?
Rossi: Not really at all, except that David Walker (the band's late manager) would say to Rick and I, do you want this track on, or this one - and some we said no to. We had the final approval. There are 60-odd tracks and I think there's something for the Quo collector or for people who haven't got this stuff.
Parfitt: We weren't involved at all, except that we had approval for the final track-listing. And looking at it, there's everything on there since we left Pye. It's a really nice set, and I'm sure it will be a nice package for people to buy and make a very nice Christmas present.
RC: It's good to see songs like "Mysteries from the Ball" appearing
Parfitt: Yeah, a few people have said about "Mysteries from the Ball". Maybe Francis and I should write more songs together, but we never seem to get the time.
RC: Why aren't some of Quo's more popular tracks like "Break The Rules" and "Don't Drive My Car" on there?
Rossi: No idea, they must have sat down with a deck of cards and picked them. Is "Softer Ride" on there?
Rossi: Well, they're probably saving them for the next one (laughs). Well, it's like the live set; every time we take out "Don't Waste My Time" we get to the third show and someone shouts for it. Trying to please all the people all the time you have to get a jolly clairvoyant - a happy medium.
RC: What do you think about the constant stream of repackages and compilations of your earlier material?
Parfitt: You can't stop them and they're all packaged nicely and don't look like shit. We still get people bringing stuff from across our 40-year career and we're like, what the fuck is that? It keeps the royalities coming in as well.
RC: What's next for Quo?
Parfitt: We're going to continue working on the new album after we've done this British tour and it should be out around this time next year. It's going well: we've cut five tracks so far, although they haven't been mixed or had the final fairy dust sprinkled on them. One of the songs is the closest thing to heavy metal we've done. It's going to be good.