Randy Bachman: Every Song Tells A Story, (Ranbach Music, 2002)

Randy Bachman is a Canadian institution. He has been to the top of the charts with three different bands, and released albums with a couple more. He is a big bearded bear of a man (although I hear he has recently dropped a few pounds) who knows his importance in the scheme of things; he is supremely confident and has the talent to back him up. In the last couple of years he has been revisiting his own legend. He toured with the Guess Who to rave reviews, starred in a CBC documentary, and released a double live CD which was on every Canuck's Christmas list in 2001! With his new band he recorded an album (The Randy Bachman Songbook) of his most popular songs from the Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive, which came out just after the Guess Who tour finished; and this Christmas he re-did the songs with the same band, in a live show that has now been issued on DVD.

Every Song Tells A Story is sort of Randy Bachman unplugged. But there's nothing acoustic about Bachman's oeuvre. Even in these subdued renditions these songs rock. The video was compiled from two shows Randy and his band played in Vancouver last April. I had an opportunity to attend, but was on the opposite side of the country. The people who did attend look like they had a great time.

The show starts with Bachman's last hit. Recorded originally in two versions with Neil Young on guitar and vocals, "Prairie Town" is a history of Bachman, the Guess Who, Neil & the Squires, and the development of a rock scene in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's a wonderful place to start. Then Bachman turns back the clock to cover the Guess Who days, and BTO, in depth. The new band is excellent. Colin Arthur Wiebe plays keyboards, guitar and sings most of the lead parts that were originally done by Burton Cummings. Mick Dalle-Vee plays bass, Roge Belanger drums, and everyone sings. They are tight but maintain a spontaneous approach to the music. Between songs Bachman tells the story of the song's origin, or fills the audience in on legend and history. He published an autobiography two years ago, and has combined all this retrospection into a fascinating stage show. Every Song Tells A Story indeed.

The show was broadcast on national TV in Canada, and has been released on CD as well as DVD and VHS. Bachman and his band are preparing to tour using the same format. Bachman is a masterful guitarist, and only a competent singer. Most lead vocals were sung by others in his bands; Chad Allen, Burton Cummings, Fred Turner. But on guitar he has few equals. He's a Canadian treasure. Here he plays an acoustic guitar with a pickup, and he squeezes every bit of sound and feeling out of it. The influence of the great Lenny Breau, who lived nearby in Winnipeg and offered lessons to the young Bachman, is felt in his jazzy solos on "Undun" and "Lookin' Out For #1."

"Let It Ride," "Four Wheel Drive," "Hey You," "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," and others represent the BTO years, while an equal number of Guess Who classics receive the new treatment. "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature," "These Eyes," "No Time," and their international breakthrough hit "American Woman" feel contemporary and fresh.

The DVD contains the "Prairie Town" videos with Neil Young and Margo Timmins guesting, and photographs of Winnipeg to provide 2 hours of viewing, but the big surprise is a garage version of the Guess Who's first big single "Shakin' All Over" which plays out over the credits. Every Song Tells A Story tells more than a dozen tales of life in the music business, on the road, in the studio, and on stage. It's fun, it's loose, it's Canadian, and it rocks.

 

[David Kidney]

Find out more about Randy Bachman here