(The title track)… would have hit Number One if released in 1974, of that there is simply no doubt. It couldn’t be more ‘Quatro’ if it crashed your party in a black leather catsuit. Marvellous stuff…
You know what you’re gonna get when a new album by Suzi Quatro drops, right? Concise, punchy, bikes-and-leather rock with big choruses and even bigger attitude? Well, yes, but in this case that’s by no means the whole story, as she releases this album recorded and partly influenced by the lockdown situation of the past twelve months. In truth, dig beneath the surface singles onto most Quatro albums and you’ll find curveballs to throw anyone expecting to come in and find an album full of Devil Gate Drives or Daytona Demons. Her last album, the excellent No Control had an obvious example of that with the almost prog-rock overtones of the wonderful Strings – one of her absolute career highlights to these ears. The 2006 ‘comeback’ album Back To The Drive had the delicate Free The Butterfly, but even going back as far as her debut album back in 1973 there was the edgy experimentalism of Skin Tight Skin.
So, the odd track out of the expected rock box comes as no surprise on a Quatro record, but it has to be said that four such departures out of a total of twelve is wholly unexpected. This was the intention going into the record, however, with Suzi being joined as a creative partnership by her son Richard, just as they were on the No Control album, but at least one of those left-field songs, Isolation Blues, comes straight from her own lockdown experience with a lyric which a whole lot of people will be able to identify with. A sparse blues, with added background noise from what sounds like a smoky bar, the song is stripped-back, simple yet perfectly judged,and a real highlight of the record. Just before Christmas a single was released called My Heart And Soul, and an extended version of that song is included here, and is probably the track which will most divide listeners. Essentially (and appropriately as Suzi hails from Detroit), the song is pure Motown soul ballad material, heartfelt with a very personal lyric. It’s extremely well done, and reaction to it will depend on the listener’s predeliction for that type of music, as it is totally at odds with anything one might have expected from Suzi, and either sticks out as an odd fit or enhances the album with its change of pace, depending on how you see it. Like much of the record, it’s a brave choice for sure, but not out of character for someone who has never wanted to follow the rules slavishly – as her late-’70s dabblings in more country-flavoured music will attest to just as one example.
The other two unexpected selections are both quite jazzy, augmented by cool, 3am jazz-club saxophone. Love’s Gone Bad is a pure late night lament made for a club at closing time with the remaining patrons getting one more whisky for the road, and once again it’s utterly authentic sounding. Immediately following that, in a surprising late-album pairing, is the penultimate track In The Dark, a soul-baring piano ballad with more sax accompaniment. With there being just one track to come after this smoky one-two, you know it’s going to come at you out of the traps, and boy, does it do just that! Motor City Riders is pure, unabashed anthemic Detroit party-rock with a chorus you could take to the bank, and it’s an absolute certainty that this one will have the roof raising in the live environment. Perfect album closing material.
Elsewhere there’s plenty of killer in-your-face rock around every turn, none more so than the title track, which would have hit Number One if released in 1974, of that there is simply no doubt. It couldn’t be more ‘Quatro’ if it crashed your party in a black leather catsuit. Marvellous stuff, and almost equalled by the following Betty Who and the cautionary tale of an aging rocker Hey Queenie. You Can’t Dream It ups the big chorus ante again, and there’s a cracking four-song opening just waiting for that first left-turn with the aforementioned My Heart And Soul. Alice Cooper circa early-’70s could have made a couple of those tracks his own, and higher praise for a Detroit rock album it would be hard to find. Get Outta Jail is another highlight, being a hugely fun ‘chain gang’ song about wanting to get out of, well, jail, for just one more gig – and of course it fits the lockdown metaphor like the proverbial glove. The chugging I Sold My Soul is as heavy as you want, and a short-sharp almost metallic blitz. The whole album is concise and punchy, with nothing wearing out its welcome (My Heart And Soul being the only track to exceed five minutes) and you can’t help but think that the singles charts in 2021 would be a far better place if they were still occupied by stuff like this.
Astonishingly, Suzi Quatro celebrates 57 years in music this year, and if you came at this album not knowing who it was you’d never guess at that particular vintage, so vital does the whole album sound. There might not be a track standing head and shoulders above the pack, in the way that Strings did on the No Control album, but as good as that collection was, as a consistent album from front to back, this one is probably better. And you know what? When I heard that last record I didn’t think I’d be saying those words – but I’m delighted to be surprised. A fine album!