Randy Bachman is one of those guys we all know, whether we know him, or not. His guitar, voice, and songs have been heard by countless millions of rock 'n' roll fans for coming on 50 years. First, he wrote four million selling singles with The Guess Who, then he went on to win four Juno Awards and sell millions of records with the seventies concert favorites, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He's sold over 40 million records. He's been satirized by Homer Simpson, covered by Lenny Kravitz, and his surname was even adapted as a nom de plume by author Stephen King (Richard Bachman). Yeah, that Randy Bachman (pronounced Back-man).
If you don't know the name, you know the songs - American Woman, Takin' Care Of Business, These Eyes, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, No Sugar Tonight, Let It Ride, Laughing, and others are all etched in your musical memories, and Bachman has followed in the footsteps of such songwriting heavyweights as Ray Davies and Greg Lake to present his history in storyteller form with his new DVD/CD package, Vinyl Tap Tour - Every Song Tells A Story.
The storyteller concept may have been an off-shoot of MTV's Unplugged series, and it may well have been started by Ray Davies, the famed frontman of The Kinks, when Ray could no longer get his brother/nemesis Dave to go out on the road with him. Bachman attributes the inspiration directly from seeing and meeting Davies, and it's worth noting that throughout much of his career, Bachman had a similar relationship with his songwriting partner in The Guess Who, Burton Cummings.
Cummings isn't along for this ride, so Bachman goes a great route and instead of facing his hometown audience ("It's all about Winnipeg!") alone with just an acoustic guitar and a microphone, he has the good sense to bring along three guys who can play expertly, and maybe more importantly, they all sing wonderfully - their harmonies are spot on, and Randy parses out some sections, and lead vocals to the band, who bring them to life in fine fashion. Together, they cover the musical bases very well, and if I had a point of contention with this excellent document, it would be that I wish they had had a chance to stretch out a bit, but I get the point that it's about the songs and the stories, so I won't nitpick.
Bachman is as good as it gets, both as a songwriter and as a storyteller. Every hit gets a great story, and his casual, friendly delivery suggests that had he not been such a great musician he could well have been a raconteur along the lines of Garrison Keillor, another guy who knows something about prairies. Bachman mixes great history lessons of the times (almost getting shanghaied at the American border during the height of the Viet Nam War, visiting Haight Ashbury for the first time) with entertaining tales of how great rock 'n' roll songs get written.
He's also a brilliant guitarist. If you watch and listen closely, you'll see how he makes the magic, and produces some of the most iconic music in the lexicon of rock. His rhythm guitar playing is sublime - he reminds me of perhaps a Canadian Nile Rodgers - when you hear his subtle strumming, you realize the brilliance as he voice leads the melodies gently with ascending and descending notes within chords, and his use of suspensions and passing notes are great musical lessons. You learn about all you need to know about songwriting by studying this great piece of entertainment and history, what a deal. Like Rodgers, fellow Winnipeg native Neil Young, and Keith Richards, the minute Bachman plays a chord, you know who's playing. The truest mark of a great guitarist. Of course, there's also a healthy dose of iconic lead playing, and some of the finest signature parts and solos on the planet.
I'm an unabashed fan here. I make no apologies about loving this type of document, and I think you'll agree with me on this one. Bachman presents a wonderful evening of entertainment that displays his tremendous skills as a musician, he tells a great story (or fifteen), and he let's the spotlight shine on the excellent musicians with whom he's sharing the stage. This is a great way to spend an evening for under twenty bucks without leaving your favorite couch, or chair. It's out on August 19th via the Independent Label Services Group. Buy this one, you'll love it.
1. Prairie Town
2. Shakin' All Over
3. These Eyes
5. No Sugar Tonight
6. No Time
7. American Woman
8. Roll On Down The Highway
9. Let It Ride
10. You Ain't Seen Nuthin' Yet
11. Takin' Care Of Business
12. Hey You
14. Looking Out For #1