The Bachman-Turner Overdrive developed a formula for commercial success during the 1970s. They fused a hard rock sound with catchy pop melodies that was perfect for both Top 40 and AOR radio. Despite undergoing a number of personnel changes, break-ups, and reunions, they sold tens of millions of albums and singles, remaining a consistent concert attraction for many years.
Randy Bachman and Fred Turner have reunited as Bachman & Turner (no “overdrive” due to legal complications). They released an eponymous studio album in 2010 and during November of that year performed at the famous Roseland Ballroom in New York City as part of their North American tour. That November 16th concert has now been released as the two-CD set Live At The Roseland Ballroom, NYC.
Bassist Turner and guitarist Bachman are joined by drummer Marc LaFrance, guitarist Brent Howard Knudsen, and guitarist Mick Dalla-Vee. While the two principals handle the lead vocals, the remaining band members are all excellent background singers, which allows for tight harmonies.
The selection of material ranges from BTO hits, some well-known album cuts, and even a couple of Guess Who songs. The sound is crisp and the band is tight. If I have one criticism, it’s that the performance is too perfect. I cannot find one off note or mistake in any of the 20 tracks. I am going to take their word that it is a live performance, but the audience reaction is largely limited to before and after the songs. I don’t know if any studio techniques were used to hone the audience reaction or the music, but if it is one straight performance, they were perfect. The concert will also be issued on Blu-ray and DVD June 26, 2012.
The album is a nice journey through their career. “Let It Ride,” “Takin’ Care Of Business,” “Roll On Down the Highway,” “Hey You,” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” were all catchy hit singles and here they return just about note for note. At times they really rock hard. “Four Wheel Drive,” “Not Fragile,” and “Sledgehammer” are all guitar based tracks that are different from their hit material. The harmonies and melodies are left behind as they move their sound over to pure, hard-driving rock.
The concert highlights are the two Guess Who songs. Randy Bachman provides the lead vocal for the iconic “American Woman.” The real surprise was their cover of “Shakin’ All Over” (originally by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates), which is given a hard-rocking workout.
Bachman & Turner do not reinvent themselves, but rather take their listeners on a journey back in time. What they do they do very well–their brand of rock and roll–is always worth the price of admission.