This review is, rightly, being published on International Women’s Day…if I can indulge you for a moment, I would like to play tribute to the immense contribution that women have made to the world of music and blues/rock in particular. It would be a very different and paler world if we hadn’t had the likes of Mamie Smith, who was the first female blues artist to be recorded in 1920; Sister Rosetta Tharpe on her white Gibson SG; Bessie Smith who came to prominence in 1929 all the way through to today’s stars: Layla Zoe, the Larkin Poe sisters, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Erja Lyytinen, Sari Schorr…and that is a only a very few of the remarkable female artists that are doing music proud.
Between then and now, we also had some pioneering women who set rock (and the charts) alight in the 70s: one of the prime movers then and, happily, still is the delightful Suzi Quatro. With her leather-clad, take no prisoners attitude she rocked with the best of them even if the RAKish (see what I did there?!) singles confined her own compositional skills, here was a talent to savour.
Well, the good news is that we get to celebrate that talent anew as, hot on the heels of her 2019, triumphant bluesy rocky album (No Control) comes a new one with the same attributes…but better. How The Devil In Me came about –
Suzi’s own words, “Starting spring 2020, almost one hundred of my shows were cancelled and Richard (Tuckey, Suzi’s son) would also have been on tour with his band had not all concerts been cancelled or postponed. So I said to him: ‘We should make the most of our free time, write new material and allow ourselves to be inspired by the things that are currently going on in the world.’ I already knew that Richard and I make a brilliant team, after all ‘No Control’ had been a major success and a very special recording for us. Although I would never have thought that we’d be able to surpass it. But everybody who’s heard ‘The Devil In Me’ and all the people who had worked on the previous album have told us: ‘This album is even stronger!’”
The journey begins with the current single and title track, The Devil In Me; the solid riff and catchy chorus may hark back to those hits of yore but it is bang up to date and is a class and classic blues rock song with a great bass line (natch) and some slinky slide too. Hey Queenie is next and continues the blues rock base with another catchy as a catchy thing riff (and a cowbell!) with sort of Alice Cooper, Detroit feel and, oh bliss, a bass solo (sort of) that shows how deft her digits are and her vocals are spot on too, plus we get some nice guitar on the outro. Betty Who? has a, some would say, Zep like riff but we all know that it was borrowed from the blues and in Suzi and Richard’s hands it develops into a slice of quality melodic rock; the piano led bridge is a nice touch too, before more neat guitar behind the closing choruses. You Can’t Dream It is rock with a (mild) punk edge but quality melodic vocals and yet another fine bass line that, mercifully, stands out nicely in the mix. My Heart And Soul slows the pace dramatically as we get a more soulful ballad that mentions the X word…Xmas that is! Thankfully it doesn’t spoil a solid song with piano, strings and horns providing a diversion from the weight of the earlier tracks. Get Outta Jail is back to blues rock as the intro uses a field song structure before the rock riff bites and melds the rock and gospel in a truly inspired way. Do Ya Dance puts some funk into the rock by way of the rapid fire riff and horny backing; a proper party song all the way with plenty of opportunity to join in. The genius that is the writing partnership is epitomised on the blues laden, jazzy masterpiece, Isolation Blues. It may be a standard(dish) structure, but it is damn good and the best song about the accursed covid situation to date…and (hurray!) a guitar solo of taste that is way too short! I Sold My Soul is back to rapid rock that suggests Batman may appear from the shadows…listen and you’ll hear what I mean. There’s some masterful Hammond scattered through this irresistible song. Love’s Gone Bad is slow and soulful with lyrics to match; throw in some horns, piano and backing vocals and you end up with something like heavy jazz! Strange as that may sound, it works very well. In The Dark stays in ballad land with more heart aching lyrics backed by piano, sax and the ever-present brilliant bass. Final track, Motor City Riders, is a quality close as we are back to good old rock ’n’ roll with the exuberance and flair we expect and almost as if Suzi was back starring in Happy Days.
This is an album that screams quality from the first note to the last; I particularly enjoyed listening to Suzi’s exceptional bass work throughout and only wish there had been a few (read lot) more guitar solos as Richard’s talent on the six stringer would have been welcome to my guitar freak/geek earholes…ah well, there is still so much to enjoy in this multi-faceted collection of songs, it should more than satisfy her existing fans and will certainly recruit some new fans too.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – A Wonderful, varied and bluesy, rocky excursion by a lady who knows.
1. The Devil In Me
2. Hey Queenie
3. Betty Who?
4. You Can’t Dream It
5. My Heart And Soul
6. Get Outta Jail
7. Do Ya Dance
8. Isolation Blues
9. I Sold My Soul
10. Love’s Gone Bad
11. In The Dark
12. Motor City Riders
Released on March 26th through SPV/Sledgehammer and available as a CD DigiPak or 2 LP in Gatefold with bonus tracks (Desperado & Can I Be Your Girl)
Suzi Q Live – check out her website as shows are re-scheduled – a UK date for your diaries
20th April 2022 – ROYAL ALBERT HALL – Tickets on sale now.
(As is often the case, iTunes threw up a forgotten gem…the brilliantly named SwampNobs with the un-PC Fat Man’s Lament from 2003.)