The Frantic Four avalanche continues with this box set based around a reissue of their classic double album, first released in 1977, upon which the whole reunion tour was built...
Forty-six quid (the opening price tag on a well-known tax-avoiding website) seems a lot of money – even for three albums… That is, in effect, what you get here: the legendary Live! (recorded at the Glasgow Apollo, its 93-plus minutes spilt over 2 discs) plus two more CDs featuring Tokyo Quo (also released in 1977 although, before a limited run on vinyl for Record Store Day 2014, only in Japan) and Sydney ’74 (recorded where and when its title suggests – but only previously available as a bootleg). But if you’ve waited all this time to get Live! on CD alongside your dog-eared vinyl copy then you’ve had plenty of time to save up. (Note: this remaster restores the original vinyl running order, unlike the previous release that followed the setlist.) Besides, there’s a fair amount of extra boogie bang for your buck in this box including a revealing 36-page booklet written by Classic Rock’s Dave Ling and featuring a host of rarely seen photos provided by “fifth member” Bob Young – and a reprint of the 1976 tour programme.
Prepare to feel a little short-changed by Tokyo Quo… Like all other discs its comes in a nicely designed cardboard slipcase but the nine-song, 42-and-a-half-minute running order is simply a truncated version of the Glasgow set. It was recorded on the Blue For You tour in November 1976 (just three weeks after Live!) at Tokyo’s Sun Plaza Hall – a smaller venue than the more famous Budokan and populated by an audience several pints less raucous than the mob in the Apollo. By the end of last number Bye Bye Johnny the response has gone up several notches from when the band were introduced, but although its sound quality is equal to Live!, the atmosphere isn’t.
Sydney ’74 – on the other hand – is the sound of a band and audience out for a good time, all of the time There is one drawback: the source recording. It’s a mixing desk tape, and – judging by the gap in the audio that splits Roadhouse Blues into two parts – it might have been a C90 cassette! (If only turning it over in the drum solo was an option – we could have lived without that…). Modern technology has allowed it to be cleaned up, but it still sounds a bit like a bootleg and the mix, though improved come second number Backwater, isn’t great on opener Junior’s Wailing. But overriding all of those limitations, this is an absolutely <corking> show… It was recorded at Sydney’s Horden Pavilion on November 20, 1974, on a four-date tour promoting the newly-released Quo. The band had been to Australia a year earlier as support to Slade but these were their first headline dates. Clocking in at a shade over 62 minutes it is the sound of an outfit very much on the way up. It’s a joy to hear them do Claudie (from Hello!) and Railroad (from Dog Of Two Head – and dusted down for the recent reunion tours). Elsewhere big hitters Roll Over Lay Down, Big Fat Mama, Caroline and Bye Bye Johnny are all present and correct and the energy levels are up there with Glasgow two years later. So with Rossi in full-on Del-Boy mode with his patter and the band playing like boogie hooligans, who cares about a few crackles and bit of tape hiss?
The original balcony-wobbling Live! album is STILL the cat’s cajones… It’s easily the best thing here and almost certainly the best they ever were. Notwithstanding all the dewy-eyed nostalgia of the Frantic Four reunion dates, almost 40 years on this remains one of the all-time great live albums underlining what old farts have been saying for years: despite the supposed limitations of their 12-bar style, no one rocked harder than Quo in their prime. If you’ve grown up since “Spud” (John Coghlan) and “Nuff” (Alan Lancaster) left then the closest you’ll have come to it is a night out with Thunder.
All in all, then, perhaps £46 isn’t such a bad investment… Even if it arrives on the same day as The Frantic Four’s Final Fling (recorded live in Dublin earlier this year)… And even if you already have Live! on CD… Remember: you can never have too many versions of a classic. It’s the best insurance in case of fire, flood or thievin’ bastards.