I guess this review is difficult to write in the sense that 'The Vinyl Singles Collection 1990-1999', the fourth release in a planned five limited edition 7" vinyl box sets that encompass different eras of Status Quo's single releases, has only been provided for scrutiny in a triple CD format. Understandably so. It would be entirely unpractical, costly, and contrary to its limited nature, if press were provided, en masse, with the final product itself. I certainly wouldn't expect that! So, this review comes with the caveat that it's purely centred around the music and its digital rendering, rather than the authentically analogue sounds and undoubtedly glorious packaging within which all the singles are housed (photos of the box set and its contents do look rather nice, it must be said).
So then, the 1990-1999 era of Quo. One that marked an increase in vinyl's popularity as mass manufacturing of the format gave way for the ever-increasing preference of the compact disc at the start of the decade, which had already been cemented by rampant CD sales by the end of the 80s. As such, I gather that some of the songs included in this collection are actually making their vinyl debut; no doubt an added incentive for the Quo aficionado to snap up this box set while it's available.
But what of Quo's singles output from the era in question? Well, early in the decade, they were bestowed with the honour of a long-overdue, well deserved BRIT award in 1991 for 'Outstanding Contribution To The British Music Industry'. An irrefutable given, one could say, as the Quo had seemingly permeated every corner of popular culture by then, with their music used in films, adverts, TV shows, etc. And they were starting the new decade with a most successful 80s in the bag, an era where they experienced some of their biggest hits, as well as a legendary opening performance at 1985's Live Aid. Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt (the latter who sadly left us just two years ago), alongside bassist John "Rhino" Edwards, multi-instrumentalist Andy Brown, and sticksman Jeff Rich, which I believe to have been the longest standing lineup of the band (from 1985-2000), were on a roll.
Although the 90s were a less commercially successful period for the Quo quintet, at least in terms of their single releases (which almost certainly would've been down to changing trends and decreased radio airplay for the band), the evidence is here within this rather tasty collection of songs that the band were as strong as ever. While many of these tracks were not outright "hits" in their own right, the quality was still there. And it wasn't all commercial doom and gloom as their opening single of the decade, 1990's 'The Anniversary Waltz - Part One', hit number two in the official UK chart, and 'Part Two' reached the top twenty - their seamlessly transitioned cover pieces were evidently popular with the masses.
A rare moment of calmer, non-rock Quo appears in the form of 'Restless', which is billed as "Orchestral Version", in a very likeable cover of Jennifer Warnes' 1979 song, 'I'm Restless'. Their collaboration with The Beach Boys on said band's 1964 hit, 'Fun, Fun, Fun', is also included, and more than lives up to the track's name. Fleetwood Mac's 'Don't Stop' also receives the Quo treatment in their 1996 version of the song. As does their take on the nineteenth century traditional song, 'All Around My Hat' (another delightful quirk in Quo's back catalogue), which also features Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span, the band who originally popularised the song in the 70s.
Many older Quo tracks also rear their heads here, of course - notably in what's just billed as 'Medley' and within the two 'Roadhouse Medley' tracks that feature (albeit these are the same two tracks, with one being a five minute radio edit, and the other has a near-eight minute playing time). Then there's a fantastic live version of 'Dirty Water' (from a 1989 show at the Birmingham NEC, I gather), and their big 1979 hit, 'Whatever You Want'. I guess the latter received some sort of 90s re-release to cash in on renewed mass popularity of the track's use in an Argos advertising campaign.
This collection might feel like there's a predominance of covers and medleys at times, but it's all first class stuff. And original compositions like 'The Way It Goes' are classic Quo through and through, proving they still had the compositional prowess in the 90s to produce hit fodder... even if it did only just sneak into the UK Top 40 at number 39. Same for 'Twenty Wild Horses', although this only peaked at number 53.
So, final verdict? Brilliant and fun! There are no other words! Some fantastic singles - covers, medleys and original compositions - and a good number of select B-sides. Sound-wise, it's all great, too... and I bet it sounds even better on vinyl. I'm guessing the timing of the release just under a month prior to Christmas is no coincidence, and many a Quo completest will be unwrapping the box set come the 25th December.
Vinyl Box Set
THE VINYL SINGLES COLLECTION 1990-1999
Review by Mark Holmes
30th November 2018
1) The Anniversary Waltz Part One; 2) The Power of Rock; 3) The Anniversary Waltz Part Two; 4) Dirty Water; 5) Can't Give You More; 6) Dead in the Water; 7) Fakin' the Blues; 8) Heavy Daze; 9) Rock 'TIl You Drop; 10) Medley; 11) Roadhouse Medley (Anniversary Waltz Part 25) (Radio Edit); 12) Roadhouse Medley (Anniversary Waltz Part 25); 13) I Didn't Mean It; 14) Whatever You Want; 15) Sherri Don't Fail Me Now!; 16) Beautiful; 17) Restless (Orchestral Version); 18) And I Do; 19) When You Walk in the Room (Short Version); 20) Tilting at the Mill ... [+ 12 more]
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"This collection might feel like there's a predominance of covers and medleys at times, but it's all first class stuff."