Francis Rossi has never been one to take a vow of silence. He’s always struck you as a man who said what he thought. Recently, in interviews, he’s taken a swipe at the Frantic 4 Reunion from a few years back when all the original Status Quo members got back together.
I was at one of the shows. The emotion in the crowd was palpable – even to those, who like me had our first brush with the band watching Going Live on a Saturday morning and buying the “Ol’ Blue Jeans” single just after.
Rossi, though, was less complimentary. “Well, the fans enjoyed it…..” was his rather pointed response when asked about it recently in Classic Rock.
Viewed in that context, then, “We Talk Too Much” becomes just a little more important than it might be. Because the feeling here is that if he doesn’t always enjoy the obligations that come with being in one of Britain’s most enduring – and underrated – musical institutions, then it’s a safe bet that he was all over this.
“We Talk Too Much” is best described as “country-flavoured” rather than the outright country and western record that it was billed as. There are some proper country moments, to be fair, “Waiting For Jesus” perhaps most notably, but there are also plenty of moments that sound, well, like the Quo in truth, as well as the odd surprise.
And as important as the enjoyment here, is the “we”. The record is a series of duets with Hannah Rickard, a folk singer that worked with Rossi on the “Aquostic” record and credit to them for making all the songs original too – it would have been easy to chuck some covers in here, most would, but not here.
Instead, there is a series of confident, classy and thoroughly enjoyable tracks – that have been crafted from the heart.
The opener “I’ll Take You Home” is typical. Catchy as hell, and with its roots in the country roads, but there’s enough here to carry the Status Quo fans along too. “I’ve Tried Letting It Go” is arguably even better. There is something of the Traveling Willburys in the slide guitar intro.
A feature in that one, as elsewhere actually is the way Rickard and Rossi’s voices meld superbly, and on the excellent “Oughta Know By Now” and “But I’ve Just Said Goodbye” – arguably the most Quo thing here, as it were, the pair handle the more rocking stuff just as well.
Elsewhere, there is more shades to this record than you might expect. The guitar lines on “I’m Only Happy” are an indication that everyone was fully invested in everything here, while there is a real Beatles touch to “Rearrange” – at least at the start anyway.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is also the best thing here. The (near) title track, “I Talk Too Much” is a glammed up thing that Jeff Lynne would surely cast envious glances at, but as if to show all the extremes here, they follow it with “Heartbreaker”, an outright folk cut.
Mournful isn’t something that has come easy to Rossi in his career – whether playing the part of the cheerful, chirpy geezer or not – but country needs some reflection, and it gets it on “Good Times, Bad Times” on which Rickard’s vocals are something special.
“Sinking In Blue” is a boogie for the honky-tonk, which hides its dark lyrics around a shiny, happy tune, while there’s nothing else to say about “Maybe Tomorrow” other than it is living for right now and it still has a naughty glint in its eye.
That, really, is “We Talk Too Much”. Firstly, if Rossi sounds reinvigorated here, that’s probably because he is, but secondly – and more important – is it’s a mighty fine record. Way better than you might have expected when you first read about it, maybe. But then, why would you ever doubt Francis Rossi?