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    1. · Premium Member
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      Driving Music: Bachman-Turner Overdrive

      News and such - last updated 2015


      Introduction to Bachman-Turner Overdrive

      How many people still remember Bachman-Turner Overdrive? Okay, how about the songs "Takin' care of business," "Let it roll on down the highway," and "You ain't seen nothin' yet"? Thought so.

      BTO had a bunch of gold records in a very short time, but they did not last long enough (for personal reasons) to put an indelible stamp into the world's consciousness. Worse, when they came back in the 1980s, they turned down a multimillion dollar offer from a promoter to manage their own act; the music industry snubbed them, and they ended up playing to much smaller houses than they should have. The band underwent personnel changes until half of it was new. Then, at almost the same time, the "old" band formed to play with Ringo Starr's nationwide tour. It was messy, and the names of their new records didn't help. "Bachman-Turner Overdrive" had completely different songs from the 1974 record, but the name, confusingly, was the same. Their PR sheet actually quoted from a college newspaper - at that, one which has become an adult magazine.

      The band was good. Their music was more sophisticated than most would credit, partly because most never heard it in full stereo on good equipment, but mostly because they could never please critics. When they kept to a fairly uniform style (Four Wheel Drive, Not Fragile), they were called commercial and repetitive. When they deviated, they were criticized even more, and that in an era of truly pretentious bands - Jethro Tull, Styx, and the like.

      Another reviewer noted BTO's blue collar attitude and emphasis, and it's certainly true that if they were auto-oriented they were also good workmen. They worked hard at their trade, and their music had a surprising polish especially when compared to contemporary hard rock bands. Most of their mid-life songs are fast and energetic. Their trademark sound was strongest and most consistent on Not Fragile and Four Wheel Drive, with traces on BTO, BTO II, and Freeways; it was completely gone by the time Rock N Roll Nights came out.

      They played good music in their comeback. They had energy, they had great new songs, they had no publicity and they just couldn't do it on their own. Times had changed. Simply touring and being good weren't enough without commercial backing and bucks for the DJs. So they disappeared back into obscurity. Randy Bachman got together with Neil Young and they did a couple of solo albums, but they never really got any airplay. At least they had a little fun and we got a little good music.

      Brave Belt

      Bachman-Turner Overdrive started out as Brave Belt, producing two albums which have nothing in common, and are in turn barely related to Bachman-Turner Overdrive; C.F. "Fred" Turner replaced Chad Allen after Brave Belt I.

      Heavily influenced by Chad Allen, Brave Belt I is more folk than rock. It's rare and not really worth the amount of time I spent searching for it over 15 years, except in that I am no longer curious about it. Some early Guess Who has more in common with Brave Belt I than II; Chad Allen himself had been part of the Guess Who in the early days. In both cases, according to Randy Bachman's autobiography, he just left.

      With its CCR influence, Fred Turner vocals, and stronger guitars, Brave Belt II was heavy country rock but with a taste of the future BTO sound. It featured multiple vocalists, as well as the dual guitars that were to make the band famous. Its lack of commercial success was not surprising, though it became widely available when re-released in 1975.

      Ironhorse and Union

      After BTO, which survived for two albums after Randy Bachman, came a band named Ironhorse for two albums and Union for another. (BTO album reviews and notes). Ironhorse was good enough for fame and heavy airplay, but probaby due to poor relationships with music company executives, the band ended up forgotten. With the addition of Fred Turner and the name change to Union, the "not BTO" band reached a peak.

      Late BTO

      Since those days, the band has arisen many times in many different forms, to the point where there were two BTOs playing at once - Bachman-Turner Overdrive with Randy Bachman, who owns the trademark to the full name, and BTO with Fred Turner. BTO's last album, Trial by Fire, doesn't have Randy Bachman, but it does have Fred Turner, and its recording quality shows 20 years of audio advances.

      The band re-formed briefly in the mid-1980s, touring relatively small venues with varying personnel. Tim Bachman was present for a time, and Burton Cummings of the Guess Who came to some concerns so that they were half BTO and half Guess Who. Presumably they stopped touring when the big time failed to materialize. The original band members appear to be financially set for life, so they have no need to tour.

      Some modern-day BTO sightings

      • "The Simpsons" - harassed by Homer to playing just their hits at a local fair.
      • "New Waterford Girl" - movie soundtrack
      • Office Depot commercials - TCB (mid-2000s)
      Bachman-Turner Overdrive links


      BTO Rocks, Rob Bachman's page, is dead now.

      Randy Bachman's autobiography concentrates on the Guess Who but there's some interesting stuff on BTO as well, including the development of the band from Brave Belt I onwards. Worth $16.

      randybachman.com - this site seems to have suddenly acquired a great deal of information but be warned, he decided to turn to jazz and country. Then he did Heavy Blues. You may or may not like his recent stuff, fortunately you can preview on the iTunes store.

      Buy BTO albums. - and to read reviews of each album, including the ones you can't get (Ironhorse, Union, Rock n Roll Nights, Street Action, Randy Bachman Solo Record). Your purchases will help to support this site.


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    1. · Premium Member
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      Bachman-Turner Overdrive Records and CDs (Discography)

      BTO original music

      Bachman-Turner Overdrive (Mercury)

      By clicking on the record links, you will be transported to Amazon.com. Also see the Interview, History, and Introduction.

      The original BTO album, originally recorded as Brave Belt III - a name which never caught on. Its CCR influence is clearly evident. Sometimes hard to tell it's the same group that did Not Fragile (or, for that matter, Brave Belt I), though the slow and fairly pointless "Down and Out Man" does seem to be a throwback, and we're wondering how "Little Gandy Dancer" made the cut. It's worth getting after you've already collected all their other studio titles - it was popular but it has not travelled that well. The single "Blue Collar" did well but I bet you've never heard it (not what you'd associate with BTO but a good tune). Blue Collar is actually pretty cool if you have the bass for it. Thank You For The Feeling is played at just about every live concert but here you can find all the words!
      Bachman-Turner Overdrive II

      An excellent CD overall. Interesting variety of styles; it's evident that they were experimenting. The hallmark BTO sound begins to come together. Takin' Care of Business launches the band into the big time. Some strange but catchy tunes - Tramp and I Don't Have to Hide are original and seem more like the old Brave Belt than BTO.
      Not Fragile

      Arguably their best albums, this is pure BTO from their mid-70s heyday. The lead song, Not Fragile, was written in response to another musician's comment that rock and roll was fragile; the song itself is musically sophisticated underneath the heavy guitars. It's their most consistent record with a clear style and sound underlying all tracks. If you were to buy a single album, this is the one I'd recommend. - $9
      Not Fragile - Alternate Listing - Released in 1998, in Dolby 5.1 surround-sound! That's why it's so expensive ($20 at Amazon).
      Four Wheel Drive

      Arguably one of their best two albums, this is pure BTO from their mid-70s heyday, with a clear, consistent sound.
      Head On

      This album is said to have been made from the rejects of Not Fragile and Four Wheel Drive. Yet, it is quite a good record, and we'd recommend it if you could find it. There are many vinyl copies, thanks partly to the band's fame at the time and partly to the poster integrated into the album cover, and we know it was reproduced on CD.

      Head On has been reissued by Repertoire Records! Seems to have been remastered too but we can't say for sure.
      Freeways

      This is the album which really caused the critics some consternation as BTO completely left its Not Fragile path. A good album not immediately recognizable as being from BTO, and the last before the band started to break up. It was almost entirely written by Randy Bachman, and has little of the heavy-duty sound of earlier records; in fact it better resembles his solo "Survivor" and his later band Ironhorse. The title track sounds downright tinny compared with pretty much anything from Not Fragile. The treble is up, the bass is down, the guitars are conventional, and the sound is so different you'd hardly know it was released before Bachman left.
      One can quickly understand why many fans were upset, not to mention the group members. Most of the band members felt they had run out of steam at this point, and the record was only released because Randy Bachman controlled that aspect of the business; the others would not have produced it. We still like it but you should know it's not the BTO you expect.

      This record has reportedly been re-released but is not available on Amazon.
      Rock n Roll Nights and Street Action

      These were released on record in the late 1970s and again on CD by Polygram around 1990. Produced after Randy Bachman left, they were strangely more reminisicent of REO Speedwagon than BTO's earlier efforts. They also bear a strange musical resemblance to Freeways, perhaps mixed with Brave Belt II and some contemporary jazz. These albums were definitely strange considering their source. The surprise is that they made two of them.
      BTO Comeback CDs

      Bachman-Turner Overdrive (Sun)

      The first new BTO studio CD from the new BTO. It's great. It rocks big time. Randy Bachman seems to have reached further back for a couple of retro tracks, but it's clearly new stuff, and the price is a bargain. Get it while you can.
      BTO Live! Live! Live! / All Time Greatest Hits - Live

      What do you get when you re-interpret the classics? BTO Live! Live! Live! with a totally different drumming style and the rest of the band back after ten years. Good renditions of the old songs - lots of energy (in fact, more energy than in their past Live from Japan and Flour Hour albums), different but that's probably good after a decade away - as well as two new ones. Fragile Man we didn't need to wait for but Bad News Travels Fast was worth getting the CD. This was released very briefly by Curb Records and is now available for a mere $6 from Amazon! Bargain priced.
      Trial by Fire / Greatest and Latest

      Randy Bachman is once again absent, as Fred Turner recreates BTO and proves that Turner is more important than Bachman in performance. Turner's throat is fully up to speed, and he uses it to advantage. This is a very generous CD with more tracks than you would normally expect, including several new and worthy songs. Trial by Fire, the title track, is particularly good, but all the new songs use Fred Turner's talents well. The Randy Bachman replacement singer manages to do most of Randy's parts quite well. The older songs are done in a different style so they sound fresh.

      This is a must have for BTO fans. And it's bargain priced. Very good...
      BTO anthologies, remasters, collections, and live recordings

      The Anthology

      This is the "boxed set." It contains an interesting variety of music, not what I would call the obvious choices, despite the presence of most of the hits associated with BTO in their heyday. It goes from the first BTO release through the final (1970s) Freeways album, and contains some previously hidden material, some of which should probably have stayed that way. If you're not a huge BTO fan, it's a good set, but I'd get all the original CDs and two of the new recordings, and pass up the boxed set.
      BTO Live! Live! Live! / All Time Greatest Hits - Live

      Originally called BTO Live! Live! Live! So if you already have it on record, you already have it. It's not the original BTO, and it takes time to get used to the new drumming, but it's a really good CD with two brand new songs (brand new in 1990, at least). It's my favorite live BTO recording.
      King Biscuit Flour Hour

      This used to be a great feature - a different concert every week, and it lasted for years. However, be warned - A. Gosse wrote, "The concert is good (except for the live version of YASNY which is from Bob's Garage 1993 and only has Randy Bachman [RB] of the original members) but the sound quality is worse than a worn out cassette tape - you can't even hear some of the lyrics. There are many releases of the album available though - if you are going to pick up a copy out of curiosity, get "Live" because it is the cheapest (although it doesn't have the interview with RB)." The King Biscuit releases (all with roughly the same material) include:

      Others - anthologies are generally just different collections of the same ol' stuff. We'd invest in the original albums; there weren't that many.

      • Gold ("a two disc set with really good song selection")
      • BTO Live in Japan - "Thank you for the feeling" in Japanese! Well, partly. Standard live show otherwise. Only available in vinyl. Personal note: I special-ordered this in 1983 and there's a reason why it wasn't released as a CD. Spend your time searching out Ironhorse and Union instead.
      • Best of Bachman-Turner Overdrive Live - the standard live show
      • Best of BTO: Remastered Hits
      • BTO's Greatest (1987)
      Brave Belt

      Brave Belt I was unrecognizable as the precursor to Brave Belt II. Mainly a collaboration between Chad Allen and Randy Bachman, it is more folk than rock; more Gordon Lightfoot than CCR. It's a rare album which I was fortunate enough to acquire recently, but I suspect most BTO enthusiasts, even those who like Brave Belt II, would not care much for it. In short, if you were to ask me whether it was worth the amount of time I spent searching for it over 15 years, I'd have to say it was not, except in that I am no longer curious about it, and I have finally filled the other side of my Brave Belt cassette.

      With its CCR influence, Fred Turner vocals, and stronger guitars, Brave Belt II was country rock more than anything else. It is an interesting album in its variety and style; it featured multiple vocalists on most tracks, as well as the dual guitars that were to make the band famous. Its commercial lack of success was hardly surprising, though it became widely available when re-released in 1975.

      You can now, incredibly, get both Brave Belt I and Brave Belt II on the same CD.

      Ironhorse and Union

      When Randy Bachman left, or was kicked out, of BTO, he started a band named Ironhorse. Their first album is actually surprisingly good, despite the fact that the lead singer, Tom Sparks, and the other members were essentially unknowns at the time. We particularly recommend "Jump back in the light" and "Stateline blues," both of which are reminiscient of later Bachman efforts in Merge and Any Road. (One was written by Randy Bachman, the other by Tom Sparks). "Old fashioned" is a worked over BTO tune, and comes closest to sounding like something from Not Fragile.

      What happened to Tom Sparks, I wonder? Seems a shame to have lost him.

      The second Ironhorse album, Everything is Grey, features songs by Randy Bachman and Frank Ludwig for the most part, though one Tom Sparks song is included. Frank Ludwig took over lead vocals, since Tom Sparks had left the band. One interestingly mis-lyriced song was later re-worded and re-released as "Overworked and underpaid."

      Ironhorse was good enough for fame and heavy airplay, but by the luck of the draw, or the quality of the relationship with music company executives, the band ended up forgotten. Of course, Scotti Brothers is hardly a brand name. (Warning: there is a new band named Ironhorse with at least two albums on amazon. It's not related.)

      Union was essentially Ironhorse plus Fred Turner, and minus Ron Foos. No doubt their only album, On Strike, is the best of the three, and could easily have passed for a BTO record - more so, indeed, than actual BTO records Freeways, Rock n Roll Nights, or Street Action. On the other hand, it could also have passed for a solo Bachman record such as Merge. Turner's voice was, not surprisingly, in fine form for this record. Our personal favorite: "Texas Cannonball."

      Get the Ironhorse and Union albums if you can, but keep in mind that I searched for ten years before finding them! (Note: if you can get permission to reproduce them from Scotti Brothers Records, let me know!).

      Randy Bachman solo

      Axe (later sold as the "Randy Bachman Solo Album") is completely devoid of lyrics, an interesting turn of events, and is more folk than rock. Not worth looking for except out of curiosity, but if you see it, pick it up. Randy Bachman was pretty proud of it - some interesting guitar moves, sans amplifiers. You can now buy it under a different name straight from the Randy Bachman home page.

      Survivor is from a long way back; the music is more country than rock, and it's clearly autobiographical but well-done autobiographical. Worth having.

      Merge and Any Road are heavy-duty rockin' CDs, and I strongly recommend both. These CDs are both surprisingly heavy-duty considering Bachman's previous solo efforts.

      Every song tells a story provides both music and Randy Bachman introducing a variety of songs. It's a long CD but one has to wonder why we needed to buy it when he should have put all this into his autobiography? Released by True North.

      JazzThing is a light jazz CD which has absolutely nothing in common, sound-wise, with BTO, but, as A. Gosse wrote, many fans seem to have enjoyed it. Personally, I wasn't thrilled. Released in 2004. JazzThing 2 was released in 2007. A later live jazz CD is also available.

      Randy Bachman is currently devoting his efforts to jazz and writing country songs.



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