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John Coghlan’s Diesel: Flexible Friends

Much though I’ve enjoyed every era of their output, there’s part of me that’s always felt that Status Quo lost their heart the day drummer John Coghlan decided to jump on his own paper plane and head for pastures new. However, long before his departure, the drummer already had itchy feet, filling his down time between tours with his own live side-project, Diesel; an ever changing all star cast of musicians who would get together, usually in the legendary Marquee Club in London, to run through a selection of rock n’ roll standards. The on-off outfit started in 1976 and would continue on after Coghlan ended his time with the Quo. However, the show that Diesel performed that possibly made the loudest impact was that in The Marquee on June 9th 1985. With Coghlan’s old band set to open Live Aid across the world just four days later with drummer Pete Kircher behind the kit, Quo bassist Alan Lancaster had flown to the UK from his home in Australia and alongside guitarist Rick Parfitt would join their old drummer and his chums for the encore of what proved to be a hugely memorable night. To be fair, describing Quo songwriter and harmonica man Bob Young, SNAFU/Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody, future Fish keyboard player Mickey Simmonds, Roxy Music/Ian Gillan Band bassist John Gustafson and Savoy Brown singer Jackie Lynton as ‘chums’ does them a massive disservice, with the talent and stage time at Diesel’s disposal beyond question.

Captured for posterity, this show now becomes officially available for the first time as part of a three disc box set also containing Diesel’s one, only and much delayed album, Flexible Friends. The studio album was, in 1985, still a long way off, so it was the above line-up which enthralled a partisan crowd with barnstorming versions of “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Tulsa Time”, “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Let It Rock”. Along the way Lynton proved an affable frontman, interacting with the crowd as he offered up the loose and lewd “Jack’s Ad Lib”, “Marquee Blues” and “Hedgehog Song”, while we also get the Young and Moody penned “Make No Excuses”. However, and good though it is, don’t get too excited by the ‘Diesel’ composition “Slow And Easy”, with it turning out to have nothing to do with the Whitesnake song of the same name that Moody would play on around the same time. It’s all great fun, if all decidedly dodgy in terms of sound quality; with what’s presented being no better than bootleg standard.

However the vibe goes a long way to make up for the aural shortcomings and while the main thirteen song set is hugely entertaining, just like the assembled throng, it’s the encores we’re really holding out for, Rick Parfitt and Alan Lancaster introduced to shouts and songs from the crowd celebrating the Quo. A storming run through of “Johnny B Goode/Whole Lotta Shakin’” kicks things into gear and from there we get Quo related fare until the lights go up, cover versions of “Bye Bye Johnny”, “Roadhouse Blues” and “A Mess Of Blues” hammered out in fine style. While the lengthy version of the Quo classic “Caroline” begins as Bob Young reworked it on his country tinged album In Quo Country, before segueing into the twelve bars of solid gold we all know and love. Yes, to call the sound quality across the two discs this performance takes up ropey, would be kind and yes, in all honesty this is just a set of rock n’ roll standards, but the level of musicianship and enthusiasm with which it all takes place makes this two disc set much more fun than it really has any right to be.

By 1991 the line-up of the band had altered significantly, Coghlan joined by Young, Pretty Things vocalist Phil May, award winning blues guitarist Ray Minhinnett, Spooky Tooth bassist Chrissie Stewart and Hilly Biggs, keyboard player in Sam Brown’s band. Casting their net a little wider Diesel played a few shows in Sweden, which led to local record label Vastfront offering them the opportunity to record an album. Largely financed by the band themselves, the six-piece set about putting Flexible Friends together in Gothenburg, but with the recordings complete, the label went under and the album sat on the shelves until now. Something that proves to have been a real waste when you consider just what a strong collection of commercial blues rock it is. Most notable to Quo fans is the inclusion of the Young written Quo cuts “Mean Girl” and “Living On An Island” which the harmonica man sings and gives a pleasant country twist to. “Chained To Love”, which Young also co-wrote with Micky Moody, was also intended for Quo but was never recorded and with his wailing harmonica and the deep bluesy feel at its core, it’s hard to fathom why not. Possessing a stinging Minhinnett guitar solo, if anything it maybe suggests that his fret-work is a little underused elsewhere on an album that, in the same way Quo did at the time, focuses a little more on the lighter side of things. Still, “Turn Me Loose”, “No Moon Shines” and “Ain’t Got No Money” do put the foot down a little heavier, whereas “A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Every Day)” attempts to be a deep bluesy ballad without ever really convincing. By way of bonus tracks we get single edit versions of album tracks “River Of Tears” and “No Moon Shines”, although as with the album itself neither were actually released.

I’ve found scoring this set to be quite a challenge. As a long standing Quo fan the significance of the live show and simply having the opportunity to hear Flexible Friends after the best part of three decades, makes this release hugely exciting. However, in honesty, the sound issues of the live material and the ‘of its day’ feel of the studio work means that for more casual observers, it may all be a little bit of a let down. So in the end, feel free to add or remove half a star depending on which side of fence you sit on.


Track Listing
DISC ONE: FLEXIBLE FRIENDS
1. TURN ME LOOSE
2. RIVER OF TEARS
3. MEAN GIRL
4. NO MOON SHINES
5. CHAINED TO LOVE
6. LIVING ON AN ISLAND
7. A LOVE LIKE YOURS (DON’T COME KNOCKING EVERY DAY)
8. AIN’T GOT NO MONEY
9. CRY TO ME
10. BABY WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO
BONUS TRACKS
11. RIVER OF TEARS (SINGLE VERSION)
12. NO MOON SHINES (SINGLE VERSION)


DISC TWO: LIVE AT THE MARQUEE PART 1
1. DONE SOMEBODY WRONG
2. BAD BOY
3. I SAW HER STANDING THERE
4. TULSA TIME
5. BLOW ME AWAY
6. GOOD GOLLY MISS MOLLY
7. SLOW AND EASY
8. LOSING GROUND
9. JACK’S AD LIB
10. MARQUEE BLUES
11. MAKE NO EXCUSES
12. HEDGEHOG SONG
13. LET IT ROCK


DISC THREE:LIVE AT THE MARQUEE PART 2
1. JOHNNY B GOODE / WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’
2. BYE BYE JOHNNY
3. ROADHOUSE BLUES
4. CAROLINE
5. A MESS OF BLUES

Added: June 24th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Flexible Friends @ Cherry Red
Hits: 113
Language: english

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