CD Review: Status Quo - Aquostic (Stripped Bare)

Veteran UK rockers release their first-ever all-acoustic album.
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After nearly 50 years as one of the UK's top hard rock acts and the triumphant reunion of the Frantic Four lineup in 2013 and 2014, Status Quo have little, if anything, to prove. In spite of these facts, the band continues to push the envelope musically and has released its first-ever all acoustic album, Aquostic (Stripped Bare), with a cover photo shot by Bryan Adams no less.

Aquostic finds the band reworking classic Quo songs as well as some deeper album cuts. The new arrangements include strings and accordions and focus on the band's strong vocal harmonies, presenting a very different listening experience to the group's usual hard rock fare. The CD opens with the band's psychedelic classic, "Pictures Of Matchstick Men." Strings replicate the ringing guitar parts of the original version and the song works surprisingly well acoustically, showcasing the group's harmonies and songwriting skills.

On the driving "Paper Plane," accordions mix with acoustic guitars, giving the song a roots rock feel. For fans who only know Quo from their meat and potatoes rock, these recordings will prove a revelation as the group takes the opportunity to reinvent many of these songs. "Reason For Living" adds a honky tonk piano to its bluesy bar band vibe and gritty vocals.

While the group's cover of John Fogerty's "Rockin' All Over The World" plays it safe with its faithful rendition, songs such as "Down Down" are radically different. Where the original version was a rollicking hard rock track, here it is given almost a zydeco feel. Where the song previously hit the listener in the head with a hammer, here it swings, making for a different, but equally effective, presentation.

The band focuses on their harmonies on the McCartney influenced "Na Na Na" and the folk rock of "And It's Better Now." Both songs have a real, late-1960s vibe to them and really showcase the band's musicianship.

While many fans wanted a reunion album from the Frantic Four, that isn't likely. While many acoustic albums just play the songs straight through, sticking to the original arrangements, Aquostic (Stripped Bare) takes chances musically. Here, Status Quo reinvents familiar songs into exciting new versions and shows they are still willing to explore their craft.