Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 29 Mar 2019
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I had to admit that I was surprised to see a new album from Suzi Quatro. No, it isn't an age thing; there are older and less capable musicians recording. It's just that I haven't seen her name in forever and presumed that she had retired years ago. Well, apparently not. In addition to this album, featuring her son on guitar in place of her ex-husband, she released an album with Andy Scott and Don Powell in 2017 and another in 2011. She's hardly prolific, with only fifteen studio albums since 1973, but many artists have released less.
I wasn't surprised to find that this is a good album, because she's been good since before society was ready for her to be, as a bass player and vocalist clad in leather. I was surprised to find that it's rooted in the blues and is rather varied. Songs like Going Home, Don't Do Me Wrong and Going Down Blues are out and out blues song and there's blues in pretty much everything else on offer here too, to varying degrees.
Don't panic, Quatro fans from the seventies. There's still material here that will remind you of the old days, even if it's not quite as cheesy or as poppy or as clapalong. Suzi's voice is lower too but it's matured nicely over four and a half decades. Holy crap, she was rocking Can the Can when I was two and she still sounds damn fine.
Macho Man, the single, has a real swagger in its rhythm and its vocals. It's longer and with more substance than a seventies single, as is I Can Teach You to Fly, a simple but effective horn-driven piece that could easily have been a hit back in the day, if only it didn't run four and a half minutes. There's a neat Marc Bolan tease throughout and I adore the cheeky outro on the organ.
Everything works on I Can Teach You to Fly and it's surely the catchiest song anywhere on the album, but I have to suggest that Love Isn't Fair challenges it. It's the other song with prominent unaccompanied horn sections but the vocal approach reminds of Boney M. That's hardly a name I expected to cite at Apocalypse Later, even if they are my guiltiest pleasure of all time. It's a unashamed Caribbean song in a similar way to how Blondie's The Tide is High was a Caribbean song. Are those steel drums in the background? I believe so.
I have to admit at this point that I don't believe I've ever heard an album by Suzi Quatro, at least not one that wasn't a compilation. I know a bunch of her singles but not what she did a little further out of the spotlight, so I don't know what musical territory she explored on her studio albums.
One obvious aspect that I hadn't heard before is her work on the bass guitar, the one she wore so prominently on top of her leather jumpsuit in all those old videos. It was never the point of the stamp your feet singles, but she's always been a musician as much as a vocalist and that's most obvious here on the track appropriately named Bass Line. It's a softer song with a slow kick to it and her playful bass underpins the whole thing.
"Walking down that bass line won't lead you astray," she sings. It certainly doesn't lead her astray on this album. It feels like she's having fun, which is fantastic to hear. And hey, maybe some talk show or other will notice this release, be as surprised to see it as I was and give her some much deserved airtime. Maybe then America will notice one of its daughters again, for more than playing the Fonz's girlfriend's sister on Happy Days.