Back In Quo Country
Bob Young is a successful songwriter who has built his career in relative obscurity. For the past four decades, he has served as a primary songwriter and unofficial member of British rock band Status Quo, having composed many of the band’s biggest hits with frontman Francis Rossi. Though the band’s musical style is largely upbeat hard rock, Young’s always had a taste for country music, and in 1986, he released his lone solo album, In Quo Country. To celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, it’s been expanded to include more of his countrified takes on his back catalogue.
Surprisingly, the arrangements themselves don’t really differ that much from the more familiar Status Quo versions. Does this mean that songs like “Claudine,” “Down Down,” or “Shady Lady” were initially visualized as country rockers, or does it mean that the boogie-woogie glam rock sound isn’t that far removed from country rock in the first place? Perhaps—or perhaps it means that Young’s songwriting and Rossi’s interpretations with Status Quo is open-ended enough that a variation here and there ultimately is a question of taste and predilection. Of course, considering Rossi, the recently departed Rick Parfitt, and other members of the Status Quo family backed Young here, it’s perhaps not too surprising that part of the record doesn’t stray too far from the well-familiar sound.
But it’s the songs that don’t eschew the Quo-minded upbeat tempo that really impress. Young is a fine enough a vocalist, one wonders why he didn’t take a more active solo career. “Living On An Island” and “English Rose and Yankee Dan” are mellow country ballads with arrangements that nod toward contemporary American country, and when he sings in a lower range, Young sounds an awful lot like David Bowie. The only misstep—if you want to call it that—is his take on Charlie Daniels’ classic, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” It’s an otherwise fine, straightforward cover, but among Young’s original material, it feels oddly out of place.
That, however, is a minor quibble. Back In Quo Country is a fine album on its own, and serves to highlight this otherwise obscure songwriter’s talents. That he didn’t make more music on his own might be an excellent question, but this collection shows that his talents were not completely lost with his Status Quo work.