Sound — 9
If there's anything that I can say about this album, is that it's constantly changing throughout. There's some true Status Quo class on this album, but even if I say that, there are points in the album that don't sounds 'right'. There are fantastic songs on the album like Beginning Of The End and Alright. Songs like them clearly hold that unmistakeable, catchy, duel-tele sound that only Quo seem to be able to harness. It seems amazing that after almost 40 years, Status Quo can still use that boogie-shuffle style to the extent that they do, and still make it work so well. Just listening to the songs that I mentioned -- plus others such as My Little Heartbreaker -- makes you overwhelmed with some awkward sense of happiness that, personally, I have never come across with any other band or artist. There are other songs on here that I have trouble accepting as Quo... Songs like Pennsylvania Blues Tonight; although it's a great song, it's just not Quo. It still has some great feeling about it, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't sound as great as some of the other tracks. I could also say the same for Tongue Tied, which seems to regress back to '80s Quo sound; a sound that hasn't seen the light of day since the beginning of the '90s. This could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your view of '80s Quo songs. Francis and Rick perform well on this album. Francis seems to use his guitar skill to it's full potential, throwing out these mind blowing solos and fills in the majority of the songs; something that The Party Ain't Over Yet seemed to lack, for me. Rick's rhythm guitar playing is as steady and constant as ever. Being one of the best rhythm guitar players in the country, he has a lot to live up to and he lives up to it extremely well with this record. Maybe Francis and Rick are getting too much of the limelight... Rhino seems to deliver a lot more interesting bass-lines and bass fills on this album than on most others. He even contributes two songs to the album (even though they were originally written for his sons' band). Andy Bown's keyboard playing seems a lot more distinguished on here too, as does his harmonica playing. To listen to the extent of his skills, check out I Ain't Wasting My Time (UK bonus track) or One By One (EU bonus track) -- if you don't have access to either of them songs, then just listen to Beginning Of The End, as his skills are extended towards rhythm guitar with Rick -- Mr. Bown truly is a talented man! As for Matt, every time I hear a new Quo recording now, his drumming seems to improve every time. He seems better timed now than ever -- keeping the whole band tight around him. One of the best percussionists that the band has had, in my opinion.
Lyrics — 9
It astounds me that Fran and Rick have been in the business for 40 years and they can both still belt out songs like it's nothing to them. Francis still shows no sign of his voice giving way. Rick amazes me more, having had a throat cancer scare not so long ago but still giving lead vocals on Alright, Gravy Train, Hold Me and the bonus track, One By One -- as well as singing beautiful harmonies on most of the other tracks. Even Rhino gives his vocals a chance on Bad News (a song that he wrote, respectfully). You can't beat the harmonies that these rockers get, though. Just listening to Beginning Of The End gives me the shivers, because the harmonies are so spot-on. That combination of Francis' lead vocals and Rick's, Rhino's and Andy's backing vocals is something that can't be heard anywhere else. The writing of the lyrics on this album is pretty good, with further work coming from Fran and Bob Young (Caroline, Paper Plane) and also two songs from Rhino, a song from Andy and one from Matt. There's even a song written by the whole band (for the UK only -- bonus track). The only fault that I can find is in Tongue Tied because Francis' vocals are a little out at times, and actually do begin to sound almost worn. It's very doubtful that Francis will ever be worn, though. Fran and Rick are made of steel!
Overall Impression — 9
Highly anticipated among fans and it should be as highly respected and appreciated. Maybe this could go down as one of Quo's Classics? Who knows? As I have established, the album is next-to-flawless in sound and vocals. So there's nothing much else to say other than What a recording! If you are a full-on, denim clad Quo fanatic, you must own this album. Even if you're just a closet Quo fan, you need this album!