Woe betide the psychedelic groover who picked up the third album by Status Quo, dreaming of further picturesque matchstick messages! A mere three hits in a long three years had completely exhausted the bandmembers' patience with the whimsy of yore, and their ears had long since turned in other directions. It was the age, after all, of Canned Heat's relentless boogie and Black Sabbath's blistered blues, and when the Quo's first new single of 1970, the lazy throb of "Down the Dustpipe," proved that the record-buying public wasn't averse to a bit more down-home rocking, their future course was set. Ma Kelly's Greasy Spoon allies one of the most evocative titles in rock album history to one of the most familiar sights in a rock band's iconography, the cheap roadside café -- crusty ketchup, leafy tea, an overflowing ashtray, and Ma Kelly herself, cigarette clenched between unsmiling lips and a face that has seen it all and didn't like any of it. Neither do the album's contents disturb her glowering visage. From the opening trundle of "Spinning Wheel Blues" and onto the closing, lurching medley of "Is It Really Me"/"Gotta Go Home," the most underrated disc in Status Quo's entire early catalog eschewed the slightest nod in the direction of the band's past -- even "Dustpipe" didn't make the cut. (It has since been incorporated among the four bonus tracks appending the album's 1998 remastering as have "In My Chair", "Gerdundula" and an alternate version of "Junior's Wailing") But six years on, when recording their live album, the Quo were still dipping back to "Junior's Wailing," the midpoint in the greasy spoon experience, and an expressively rocking archetype for all they would later accomplish. The dark shuffle of "Lazy Poker Blues," too, unleashed specters that the band would be referencing in future days, including the boogie piano that made 1974's "Break the Rules" seem such a blast from the past. Compared to the albums that would follow, Ma Kelly is revealed as little more than a tentative blueprint for the Quo's new direction. At the time, however, it was a spellbinding shock, perhaps the last one that the Quo ever delivered. You should remember that when you play it.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson