Bachman Turner Overdrive - 'Classic Album Set' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 17, 2016    
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Eight albums taken in one hit is a bit of a trial, but visited over a few days, breezy, basic but brilliant in parts and very enjoyable.

There is a lot to be said for the advice to under promise and over deliver, that way it's well within your talents and there are no disappointments. Doesn't work in sales of course, but it worked for Bachman Turner Overdrive.

Formed from the ashes of The Guess Who, Randy, Tim and Robbie Bachman with Fred Turner produced easy on the ear albums with enough crunch for bikers who wanted a little Canadian charm. This eight album box-set, lovingly recreated with a gorgeous book of notes and pics, shows their easy nature and rolling groove that pleases, as well as the development when Randy Bachman had left and the band tried something new, with mixed results.

The self-titled debut shows them trying to find their sound, sometimes a little ordinary, but often containing all those elements they wrangled into a popular sound; ringing guitars, sweet screaming solos, Glammy stuff, cowbells etc. But by the time of 'II' in 1974, which peaked at Number 4 in the States, there was the acoustic/electric feel on the building 'Let It Ride' and the Barroom, Funky, Country-inflected ragged party tune 'Takin Care Of Business', scoring hits and the blue collar appeal was working with its laidback fun.

By the time of their most popular album, the follow-up 'Not Fragile', Tim Bachman had departed, replaced by Blair Thornton, the title perhaps a riposte to Yes' 'Fragile' – yes, we have 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet', an afterthought for an album with no hits and perhaps cruelly written about his stuttering brother, but there is also the more monolithic and dramatic fare of the title track and great easy listening on Marc Bolan-esque 'Blue Moanin'', propulsive 'Givin' It Away' and rolling 'Rock Is My Life'.

Momentum continued with the two releases in 1975. 'Four Wheel Drive' and 'Head On' were comparative hits. The former including 'Hey You', sounding like the big hit in the verse but very summer-like, along with a sexy bass in tracks like 'Flat Broke Love' and the sassy 'Quick Change Artist'. The latter contained the wonderful lounge-like 'Lookin' Out For #1', different vocal choices working well and pushing new sounds into the tracks, along with some Folk on 'Average Man', balladic gentleness in 'Woncha Take Me For A While' and Funky bongos on 'Away From Home'.

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It's here that the problems started. Follow-up 'Freeways' didn't do good business and the music, mostly written by Randy Bachman, was a different kettle of fish, obvious in the very Disco glitter of 'Can We All Come Together' and some Vaudeville horns on 'Just For You', plus a nice calm Country title cut to finish; bit of a downer it might have been seen as, but the change in feel is welcome, adding some energy and really chasing the feel of '77. Randy Bachman was to leave after this release, asking for time to record a solo disc and not receiving it, but the others carried on, shortening the name to BTO, and produced albums which might be overlooked but are lovely to hear.

John Clench (ex-April Wine) filled the Bachman shoes and 'Street Action' was supposedly a return to old sounds; it was fun and uncomplicated stuff, blue collar Country Rock ('I'm In Love), languid guitar and Santana solo ('A Long Time For A Little While') and a sax among the smudgy Blues of 'Madison Avenue' all make this a prime slice of fun. The last album in the set, 'Rock 'N' Roll Nights' from 1978, is a grab-bag of influences and although really fun, is not really a Bachman Turner Overdrive album; what we have is a bit of New Wave Knack nonsense in 'Heaven Tonight', a Sleazier, even chart possibility on 'Wastin' Time', Toto piano for the syrupy 'Amelia Earhart' and even a Sweet Faces ragged ballad in 'End Of The Line' – it is all a fine listen, just without a coherent whole.

Eight albums taken in one hit is a bit of a trial, but visited over a few days, breezy, basic but brilliant in parts and very enjoyable; as they say, they're ordinary people with their names in lights, perhaps the basis of their appeal. If you only the visit the big hit, you really ain't seen nothin' yet...

Steve Swift

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