The Best of B.T.O. (So Far)
So, if Bachman & Cummings were the Lennon & McCartney of Canada, were B.T.O. the Wings of Winnipeg? Distinctly not: even if Randy Bachman were the "brains" behind this outfit (and one hesitates to use "brains" with a group this dumb), there is a distinct presence of Turner's personality in the group as well. Sadly, neither guy is very interesting.
Bachman's once-intriguing compositional style decayed into cliché by the time B.T.O. got rolling: the jazziness became the arid lounge music of "Lookin' Out for Number One," and the intricate chording descended into brutal hard rock. Turner's got nothing but dumb riffs, basically.
The band itself are quite capable musicians. Robbie Bachman's drumming is actually quite intricate for this material, from the rolling snare line in "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" to the syncopated ride cymbal on "Blue Collar." But he bashes nicely when it's called for, as in "Takin' Care of Business" and lots of others. Turner has a powerful powerful voice - like John Fogerty on top of a mountain - and lays down some competent bass licks with a great tone, played on a Rickenbacker of all guitars (heavy metal on a Rickenbacker? Only in B.T.O.) The guitarists, Bachman and Blair Thornton, have interchangeable styles, although Thornton maybe wails a little more. Neither does anything interesting, nor are they terrible.
So, what's wrong with this record? Screeching vocals over a four-note riff ("Roll on Down the Highway"). The world's most courteous mugger ("Give Me Your Money Please") with another brazen dull tune. No less than four songs about the music industry, all extolling the virtues of Mr. Bachman. It's all so dumb, so grating, so blaring. And Randy Bachman sounds like a dope when he sings.
Only "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" saves us from the tripe, with its self-mocking lyric (surely Randy Bachman, stud muffin of the prairies, doesn't have to settle for "any love is good love", right?) and nice blend of crunchy and flowing lead guitar. Save your money and get it on a "Great Hits of the 70's" TV offer instead.
(By the way, the "So Far" is strictly wishful thinking. This has everything that ever hit the charts, and more.)
From Jessica (aka Mrs. Steve and Abe): If they're a 3, how come I am made to listen to "Takin' Care of Business" every time it comes on the radio??
STEVE AND ABE RESPOND: Abe says, "Pwhuh." Steve says: "Sure, call me a hypocrite, but remember our motto: Just because you're a hypocrite doesn't mean you're wrong. Thanks for writing!"
From Tony Souza: Oh man, good ol' BTO -- one of the most musically lumbering bands to come out of the '70s. A guilty pleasure, although every criticism is true. This is rock at its dumbest. Bachman wrote one of the most lyrically cringe-inducing songs ever -- "Rock is My Life, This is My Song" -- thankfully not on this record (it was on Not Fragile). That song is just one of many that he wrote or co-wrote that will make you just shake your head. Despite everything that's wrong about this band, I still like them (although I don't listen to them too much anymore). And I have no idea why. Maybe because I was young when I first heard "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" and didn't know any better? I don't know. I do feel that one of the reasons might be that despite Bachman's talent for writing some of the most inane lyrics in rock history, he is a damn fine guitarist. He has an economical style of lead playing that I like and Robbie Bachman's drumming is better-than-average. One thing that does make me feel a little bit better is that snobby rock critic Robert Christgeau gave BTO records a grade of B in his '70s record guide that I used to have (bet he's embarrassed about those grades now huh?). Your assessment about this band is correct.
STEVE AND ABE RESPOND: Abe says, "Uhmuhmuhmuh." Steve says: "Tony, I too find BTO a guilty pleasure. I indeed know of "Rock is My Life, This is My Song" (I used to have a bunch of BTO albums, too), and there's something about that riff in the chorus and the unison vocal chanting that makes my head bang involuntarily. I felt compelled to give this rating, but I would never deny a fan the right to say, "BTO Rocks!" with all sincerity. ("BTO Rules!" would be a matter of dispute, however.) As I reviewed this record the same day as the Guess Who, I think the score was lowered by comparison to Randy's great work in collaboration with Burton Cummings. Thanks for writing!"
From Cole Bozman: "Heavy metal on a Rickenbacker" -- ahem, Motorhead? Metallica (Cliff Burton era)? Metal on a Hofner, now that I'd like to see.
From UkeyBear: Got nothing better to do than slag BTO for being the biggest band to ever come out of Canada? To sell more records at that time than any boy band, Brittany or Rap garbage? You call Fred Turner dull and uninteresting? Give your heads a good shake cause you really blow as critics. Bullshit............Bullshit..............
STEVE AND ABE RESPOND: Abe says, "Bwuu." Steve says: "I'm not criticized them because they sold records. That would be a criticism of their audience. And of course they sold more records than Britney Spears (whom I assume you refer to). She wasn't even born yet. Thanks for writing!"
From Mark Lemieux: What a pathetic review of BTO. Does everything have to be deep and meaningful to be good? It's fun hard driving good time music, you twit! Go listen to some Mozart and afterwards soak your head in the toilet where it came from!
From Douglas Carr: Hey You!
Sadly, I read the words about the band and music I love so much...
Who did ever tell us that rock & roll should be serious?
I'd rather listen to it as a reason to "get out of the grey ordinary
lives" that most of us live. I only see "Rock is my life" nothing but an honor to those who actually go out and live for what they believe. Isn't that what these guys did?! Still, these songs sound larger than life and should be treated with the respect they deserve...
That thing that happens when we want to shake our heads to music
doesn't need to be described in words… If it's one word then let it be "magical..." Let the recordings speak for themselves...
When I grew up I didn't know the word "criticism." It was simply a matter of "like it or not". I still use that as a perfect guiding line in life…
Then again, when it comes to music, everyone has an opinion!!