When her 15th studio album debuted in the fall of 2011, many fans responded with sentiments like, “This is the Suzi Quatro album I’ve been waiting for.” These opinions likely draw from the fact that Quatro not only shows off a wide range of musical styles on In the Spotlight, but that she’s teamed up again with producer/songwriter Mike Chapman, who had been instrumental in her success back in the ‘70s.
Without question Chapman contributed much to Quatro’s latest release, both in his work in the control booth and in his new compositions. For the most part Spotlight isn’t one of Chapman’s more sophisticated projects, unlike his work with Blondie, Sweet, or The Knack. That’s because Quatro’s strength is as a raw, rough-edged rocker. She can belt out a pop ballad with the best of them, but her style has always been more akin to performers she inspired like Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, and The Runaways. So, musical complexity or multi-layered instrumentation doesn’t normally provide the best setting for Quatro, her bass, or her leather-clad image.
This isn’t to say the 11 tracks on Spotlight are all stripped-down jams. For example, the collection kicks off with the driving “Girl Like Me,” which signals that nods to glam-rock will be a recurring motif throughout the album. The beat slows down a tad for the pop-sounding “Whatever Love Is,” a song about a girl uncertain about “real security” or eternity; she’s in the moment, in love right now—whatever that means. Supported by synthesizer and orchestral lines, “In The Spotlight” slows the pace down even further for a very old-fashioned love song. Then, it’s back to business.
The choice of covers sheds light on what Quatro (and ostensibly Chapman) are listening to these days. Goldfrapp’s “Strict Machine” was selected as a single, and rightfully so. As its lyrics state, it’s “wonderful electric.” Quatro’s take on Rhianna’s “Breaking Dishes” has a very contemporary flavor, demonstrating that Quatro can outdo her musical descendents; in this case, by miles. The Yeah Yeah’s “Turn Into” is another standout, driven by acoustic and electric guitars that should appeal to any rock aficionado no matter the genres of your taste. Then, for glam lovers, there’s Chapman’s nod to lesbian fans, “Rosie Rose” and Juliette and the Licks’ “Hot Kiss.” Both are samples of the type of music Quatro pioneered back in the day. Now she’s taking new melodies back to their source—namely, Suzi Quatro.
Shifting to a very different direction, horns and reggae rhythm spice up Quatro’s own “Hurt With You,” the most luscious of the offerings. Then, going way, way back, “Hard Headed Woman” is Quatro’s cover of the Elvis Presley nugget. Speaking of Elvis, the bonus track, “Singing With Angels,” is what makes this set something of a collector’s item. Produced by Sweet’s Andy Scott (who produced her 2006 Back to the Drive album), Suzi wrote this ode to the King featuring Elvis’s original guitarist, James Burton, and backing vocalists, The Jordanaires. Have fun identifying all the Presley song titles incorporated into the lyrics.
In The Spotlight isn’t a break-out album nor a sign of a change in musical direction for Quatro. Rather, it’s an excellent mix of all the ingredients she’s built her reputation on for over 40 years. It’s also an ideal package to introduce newcomers to Quatro’s breed of rock and roll. Fans already have their copy—but this release deserves a wider reach. And don’t forget to turn it up—loud.