Friday Music (829421-10482-7)
Rock is, indeed, Randy Bachman’s life, and Anthology paints a remarkable portrait of a blue-collar songsmith who’s always been, and always will be, a man of the people.
From his days in The Guess Who to Bachman-Turner Overdrive to a not-so-high profile solo career, Bachman has turned a deaf ear to musical trends and trudged onward with a fistful of anthems for the common man and an underrated ability to craft hooks made of bedrock that are impossible to dislodge from your brain.
Not exactly a greatest-hits collection, Anthology is more of an odds-and-sods collection of revamped versions of Bachman hits, some interesting collaborations with Scandinavian garage-rockers The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Neil Young and Cowboy Junkie Margo Timmons, and a variety of rarities. With the glaring exception of a jazzy reading of “Looking Out For Number One,” Bachman doesn’t mess with the formula that’s made him a reluctant icon.
Predictable, yet still stirring, runs through “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” and “Takin’ Care of Business” reveal nothing new, but somehow, they still manage to raise the hairs on your neck. There’s no denying the strength and diesel-powered drive of the BTO classics, even after hearing them for the millionth time. They can still move the most jaded hipsters, even if they’d never admit it.
The real gems here, though, are the live version of “Rock Is My Life,” a sledgehammer of a song bulked up by the clean sonic push of Bachman’s backing band, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and the acoustic, bittersweet folk-pop of “Prairie Town.”
Undoubtedly autobiographical, with Timmons and Young lending a helping hand, “Prairie Town” is simple in its execution, but that only makes Bachman’s story of his small-town, Canadian upbringing and his introduction to music that much more compelling.
Echoes of early-era Beatles and other ’60s British Invasion acts, like The Pretty Things and The Kinks, are found in the original 45 version of The Guess Who’s “Shakin’ All Over” that kicks off the collection.
Next comes a purely toned reworking of “No Sugar Tonight,” with a stomping chorus that still kicks like a mule and an eye-opening guitar solo that shows Bachman’s range and smooth delivery on the instrument. More evidence of Bachman’s increasingly sophisticated guitar chops comes from Jazz Thing tracks “Dead Cool” and “Rose Colored Glasses.”
It’s the diversity here that wins the day, along with the understated charm of Bachman’s songwriting. The man’s never gotten the credit he’s due; perhaps Anthology will change all that.