Rossi and co return to the studio after losing Rick Parfitt. But does it stand up?
Amonth before he passed away in December 2016, Rick Parfitt, who was forced to sit out Status Quo’s proposed final electric shows due to failing health, graciously stated in an interview with Classic Rock that if the band should decide to continue without him in the long term, “it’ll be with my blessing”. With a rhythm guitar attack that sounded capable of slicing through granite, and charisma that could light up a venue with a flash of that grin, Parfitt is in many ways irreplaceable, and to some, a Status Quo line-up without him is unthinkable.
For those still listening, there’s the question of whether their new album, Backbone, risks undermining Quo’s renaissance in the years since 2002’s hardrocking Heavy Traffic began the restoration of a reputation which for some former hard-core Quo fans had been tarnished by medleys, covers albums and near-novelty songs like Burning Bridges. After the Frantic Four reunion and generally well-received Aquostic shows, the band looked set to bow out as respected elder statesmen. Have they blown it now by taking a step too far? Thankfully not.
Francis Rossi has said the band knew that any new material “had to be seriously good”, aware that they’re now “an easier target than ever”. And with contributions
from vintage-era songwriting partner Bob Young, with Backbone they sound like they’ve come out fighting. Waiting For A Woman is a deceptively laid-back opener with a fast-acting vocal melody, which, for this writer (braced for the worst) passed an essential litmus test for a Quo song by inspiring involuntary foot tapping. Cut Me Some Slack lands a heavier blow with an insistent riff and stomping swing beat in the vein of Roll Over Lay Down, a feel later reprised on Falling Off The Edge Of The World, and Get Out Of My Head’s full-pelt boogie. We’re not talking Frantic Four-era ferocity, but there’s a warm, overdriven edge to the guitars chugging under a consistent array of hooky choruses and guitar motifs, giving the Stonesy Liberty Lane and the 12-bar bounce of I See Your In Trouble a seamless blend of rock edge and pop smarts. They also score by keeping things concise, the 11-track running order weakened only significantly by the indistinct Backing Off.
Of course, Parfitt’s absence is conspicuous, and always will be. But for those still on board, Backbone is a strong, upbeat, feelgood Quo record, which adds to their legacy rather than defacing it. ■■■■■■■■■■