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That was the Quo month that was ... November 2003

2nd - Quo concert at Sheffield City Hall

Many punters complained of poor sound at this gig and Francis in particular was very unhappy with his sound for most of the gig. A few photos of the gig can be found here.

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3rd - Quo concert at Bradford Alhambra Theatre

Originally scheduled at the more notable St Georges Hall, this gig was moved to the Alhambra Theatre due to emergency work being carried out at the St Georges Hall. The sound here was much improved and the band had a more enjoyable gig. The setlist had changed a little by now, to the following:

Revisit the November 2003 event list  

6th - Quo concert at Newcastle City Hall

A review of this gig can be found here. By now, the set had changed again - "Caroline" was in its traditional opening spot, pushing "Down Down" to the latter part of the first act. "Hold You Back" remained and "Burning Bridges" was new for the encore. The complete setlist was:

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9th - Quo concert at Manchester Carling Apollo

Punters were delighted to share the company of Bruce Jones aka Les Battersby from Coronation Street (and contributor to the recent " Classic Rock Special Edition") and were treated to the same set as at the Newcastle show. For a review of this show by Don Frame from Manchester Online, click here.

Revisit the November 2003 event list  

17th - Release of "Riffs" in the UK

Thanks to the success of 'Heavy Traffic', Universal changed their plans to release the 'Riffs' album as a Christmas 2002 double-header and instead opted to let 'Heavy Traffic' have its full run before unleashing 'Riffs' in readiness for the Christmas 2003 market. Released in the UK on November 17th (catalogue number 9813909), first copies of the CD come with a bonus DVD and all UK CD copies have a bonus track (that being, "Don't Bring Me Down", a cover of the ELO song).

The booklet is well presented, with a nice set of new photos taken in Powderham Castle during the Summer tour. The cover is adorned by guitar-swinging scantily-clad model Michelle Clack. Now there's a selling point...

First up is a re-recording of the Quo classic opener, "Caroline". This version is more inkeeping with the current live version. The Rossi vocal here is very clean and the keyboard features quite high in the mix, unfortunately overpowering the new quiet guitar playfulness about four minutes in. The final minute is fantastic though and has a real driving rhythm that just gets better and better as the volume goes up and up! A worthy re-recording, if only to get down on CD the subtle changes this great track has undergone in the live arena.

Next up is "I Fought The Law" (originally by The Bobby Fuller Four) and this starts off really well with a faithful and well-executed intro. The Rossi vocal, though, is maybe too clean and his first solo seems a little contrived. When he gets the chance, Rick's vocals are strong but are again masked on occasion by an over-zealous keyboard mix.

You'd be hard-pressed to spot "Born To Be Wild" (originally Steppenwolf) by the Quo intro and their treatment of this overplayed classic rock track is unorthodox throughout. The entire song is drowned by keyboard and, while Rossi never sounds like he's breaking sweat, he displays an unexpected vocal range. A simply awful keyboard break mid-song does nothing to lower the opinion of this track - it makes even the tired original sound heavy and somehow just doesn't quite work.

Another mainstay of the classic rock radio station, Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Taking Care of Business" is next up. This is the best cover song on the album yet. Rossi's voice has a rougher edge to it and it sounds like everyone's putting into this track. The good ol' harmonica is well placed and finally we have judicious use of keyboards. A good version (only marred by the fade to finish) and shows that Quo can still "Quo it up".

Prepare yourself for "The Wild One" (originally by Australia's Johnny O'Keefe and familiar more recently by Billy Idol). This is the most inventive work from Quo in a while, with a great original vocal effort from Rick. The production is also inventive and it really feels like a lot of work went into this one. The rhythm never leaves you alone and sounds fabulous cranked up. Different, original, unexpected, awesome.

Again hard to pick from the intro, next up is "On The Road Again" (originally by Canned Heat). This track is something of a plodder, but gets there in the end and some nice harmonica work salvages an otherwise overly long and uninteresting track. Rossi's vocals seem too high pitched in places, but overall it works quite well.

An old 4 Bills stalwart, "Tobacco Road" (originally by John D Loudermilk), breaks the monotony. The Quo version shows clear input from Rhino and his experience of playing this with the Bills. There is good bass work from Rhino and appropriate piano this time. There's also a good lead break from Francis, but my mind's eye doesn't see him quite as raucous and sweaty as Johnny Warman performing the same song. Disappointingly, the track fades but this is still one of the better tracks on offer here.

"Centerfold" (originally by The J Geils Band) fits in sheepishly next. For "Rhino's Revenge" listeners, this is not too much of a shock but the more general Quo audience will wonder what's hit them when Rhino takes on lead vocal duties for this song. Bizarrely, it actually suits his voice pretty well and he quasi-talks his way through most of it. The track works surprisingly well and is not the disaster it inevitably sounds on paper.

A nice heavy intro heralds "All Day And All of the Night" (originally from The Kinks). This well-known song lends itself well to Quo treatment and there is an interesting effect on Rossi's vocal throughout. In typical 60s style, it's almost over before it's begun, but this is a good listen here and that driving riff bothers you from the first bar to the very last.

A bonus track on the UK edition, ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" changes the tack completely. This feels slower than the original and, as such, just feels a tad too slow. The harmonizing isn't in the same league as the original and, while there's nothing wrong with it, this one doesn't quite hit the spot (especially the lazy Rossi vocal) and only highlights the quality of the original.

The second re-recording, in the shape of old live favourite "Juniors Wailing", follows. The new effort is faithful to the original but for an extended break about two minutes in. The vocal work from Rick is good and Francis' lead is excellent here. The production has gone for a bluesy feel with a good use of piano, the overall effect works well. Comparison to the current live version is probably ill-placed, but it comes across well if not being the revelation we might have hoped for.

Next comes "Pump It Up" (orignally Elvis Costello). The arrangement here is original, but forgettable. The over-stated Rossi vocal quickly becomes tiresome and the zealous keyboards again stifle the song.

The CD concludes with three back-to-back re-recordings. First up is everyone's favourite Quo ditty, "Down The Dustpipe". Instrumentally this version is fine, with nice harmonica work from Mr Young. The vocals, however, seem too distant and quite muffled in the mix leading to a disappointing overall feel to the song. The original was so rough and ready and the cleanliness here has removed its soul. A fade finish completes the travesty.

Penultimately, "Whatever You Want" pays homage to its current live version - and that's no bad thing. Still sounding fresh, the only really downer on this track is the unnecessary keyboard reinforcement of guitar breaks (which is also sadly true of its live incarnation these days). Paxo's 1998 first cut at the song is maybe better overall, but this version is still pleasing to listen to and provides a welcome point of reference to the live version with Matt on percussion duties.

Only one song can complete this set - and that is "Rockin' All Over The World". To be frank, there are much better versions of this already in the wild (including the 'Top Of The Pops 2' stormer, even the "Running All Over The World" era re-recording). This one struggles to maintain momentum towards the end and inherits the same annoying keyboard-laden guitar-drowning outro of the contemporary live song.

Returning the CD to its case, you're rewarded with access to the bonus DVD and a wealth of live material to up the spirits is on offer here. If the CD maybe disappoints, then get ready for something more via the DVD. A simple production, the focus here is on delivering unabridged live Quo - and it works splendidly.

First up, three biggies from "The One and Only" TV special in the shape of "Caroline", "Roll Over Lay Down" and "Whatever You Want". These tracks are visually stunning with a great-looking set and enthusiastic audience. Quo's performance is not too shabby either, these all taking on that characteristic live heaviness that still seems so elusive on their recorded material. We move to the outdoors next, the Heitare Open Air Festival, in Zofingen, Switzerland (on 10th August 2003) to be exact. This well-attended European Summer show highlights the "4500 Times" / "Rain" combo and showcases an excellent bass break from Rhino during "Rain". "Solid Gold", by comparison, seems light and ill-placed and Rossi makes heavy work of the vocals here. The large crowd lap it up all the same though!

The "Top of the Pops Sessions" come next - "Paper Plane", "All Stand Up" and "Rockin' All Over The World". Although familiar, this is a welcome reminder of how good these performances were. With Matt new on drums, the storming "Paper Plane" and crowd-pleasing "Rockin" go down a treat, but the previously unseen "All Stand Up" is a top live performance of this song and stands out from this illustrious crowd.

To round off the DVD, a showing of the amusing "Jam Side Down" promo video as filmed aboard the Ark Royal for the 'Heavy Traffic' album launch.

As a set, this makes a worthy release. 'Riffs' as a CD has moments of grandeur and is only salvaged by the Quo re-recordings, whilst the cover versions make entertaining party music rather than out-and-out Quo VFM. The DVD is excellent, whetting the appetite for more of the same from the Quo vaults in the coming years.

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undated - Quo article in "Classic Rock" magazine

The November issue of Classic Rock magazine included a 4-page article, entitled "Boogie Wonderland" by Ian Fortnam. Essentially a review of the Lincoln Castle gig, it also included a small amount of backstage interview material with Rick and Francis. The overall feel of the article is positive and it comes with a number of colour photos from the Castle gig, as well as from the Silverstone and Newmarket gigs.

In addition to the article, the "Flashback" photo section included a classic black & white photo from Newcastle City Hall, taken in the early 70s by Ian Dickson. There was also a tour ad for "Riffs" and a promo for the Special Edition of Classic Rock magazine dedicated to Quo.

Revisit the November 2003 event list