I like to think that I was a rock guy back in high school, but I listened to a lot of pop. And it was the 80s, so the new wave was happening. And some funk. And we listened to a lot of Lionel Richie when our high-school-boy hearts were broken. Also, I wasn’t much of an album guy as a kid. I had a few. But, with a couple of exceptions, the albums I had didn’t exactly rock. And BTO was just a bit before my time.
Given all that, I tried for a couple weeks to get into this album which I picked up at a garage sale a while back. I couldn’t seem to do it. Then I discovered the problem. You’re going to think I’m making this up or quoting a 1970s t-shirt or paraphrasing Dr. Johnny Fever, but it’s true. It wasn’t loud enough. When I put this album on and cranked it, it was a beautiful thing. The first cut comes on like Spinal Tap. It’s that earnest driving unrepentant rock that Spinal Tap parodied so well. Not only is nearly every track on this album is a great rock song (there are a couple that are just ok), but each one is unique and rocks in its own way. “Rock is My Life” is a talky messagey ballad about living the rock and roll life. “Roll on Down the Highway” is a rambling moving-on-down-the-road song with a hook that sounds like it was borrowed from the Archies. “Freewheelin'” is a bluesy freestyle rock jam. “Giving it All Away” is fun. And even the hit “Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” is not the best song on the record, but is still good.
The reason I pulled BTO out to listen to and write about is that I needed a break from the jazz and blues. The Bachman brothers and their friend Turner and Thornton certainly provide that. Here’s a couple for you to sample. And don’t forget–turn it up!
The other unexpected and happily received Christmas gift I got this year was the 2014 ep by my favorite L.A. based band ViseVersa. I should say that one of the reasons that I love this band is that I had the drummer in class for several years. Hers was the class that had to put up with me for at least four years as I followed them from junior high to high school. She was also one of my yearbook babies. So I like her a lot. Oh, and she tutored my boy In drums for a short time, and now she’s a rock star, so, you know, no big deal.
Anyway, this album. Four tracks. Four great funky rock songs. I’m hearing straight ahead driving rock like the Hives and such, but it’s also funky. Zeke’s dirty guitar reminds me of Hendrix or Lenny Kravits. I’m not educated enough to analyze all the influences. “Great funky rock songs” aught to be enough.
Three of the four songs are about what three-fourths of all rock songs are about, trying to get some loving. The third is a stick-it-to-the-man political number where the drummer delivers some sweet speed rap. All four songs rock hard while providing an opportunity for the musicians to noodle a bit as well. I like that. A great example of this is the last song on the ep, Next One. That’s also their first video.