Lee Speaks About Music… #185

BTO 1 & 2 – Bachman-Turner Overdrive



Well, this is another fine example of what Michael J. Dutton is doing with his Vocalion series and he has chosen another couple of fine albums to remaster and presented them together on a Hybrid SACD giving you superb value for the buck. Two albums for the price of one and not only that they also come with the original Quadrophonic mixes which I am sure will delight many Surround FREAK! enthusiasts like myself. We saw the same thing done with Deodato’s first two albums I reviewed not so long ago and you do get sheer quality at a very respectable and bargain price to which is really GREAT! to find and why I have a lot of admiration for this record company of his.

This time he is introducing us to the world of Bachman-Turner Overdrive or BTO which is the abbreviation most commonly used when talking about this fine Canadian band who very much like to ROCK! things out in their own style. There is no doubt they do have their own distinctive style and originality and this is a band I got into back in the 70’s not so long after the release of their third album Not Fragile which is perhaps regarded as their finest album and no doubt many will remember the hit single released from that album “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” that catapulted their success and made people take more notice of the band.

BTO are a band that really progressed as they went along with each album and I actually brought all their albums right up until the point that they decided to knock it all on the head around 1984. My first real introduction to the band apart from hearing that widely known hit single of theirs was with their first couple of albums and I do remember getting them from one of these music catalogues known as Britania Records and I am pretty sure I only brought the albums because they were either half price or were free when you purchase so many albums from the catalogue. I used to take care of my own business regarding how I went about building up my record collection back in those days and BTO were certainly taking care of their own business by the time they released their second album so to speak.

I would not say that BTO were one of the GREATEST! rock bands but there was a certain amount of soul that went into their own particular rock style that said enough to me to like them and give them credit where it was due. They have certainly done enough for me to want to buy all their albums and unlike most bands, they did manage to stick to their own original style that they started out with which was something I admire them for. Before I go any further about this fine Canadian band let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The SACD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case which is perhaps a bit outdated these days in relation to Digpaks but nevertheless, it keeps the disc well protected. It comes with an 8-page booklet that provides you with some useful informative information in an essay written by David Zimmerman. It also comes with the usual linear and credits and a couple of pictures. I purchased my copy from the Dutton Vocalion website for £11.99 they do charge an extra £2 for postage and packing but even at £13.99 inclusive of postage it’s still excellent value.  

The artwork for BTO’s debut album was designed by the bands drummer Rob Bachman and the inside of the cover was done by Joe Kotleba. It also used photos taken by Tom Zamiar & Ed Caraeff and both albums were done under the Art Direction of Jim Ladwig. One of the downsides in a package like this where two albums come together is that you do not get to see much of the cover design due to both albums covers being put together.

The bands second album was designed by John Youssi with the use of photographs taken by Dave Roels. I quite like Rob Bachman’s cog design the better of the two and it was also utilised for the bands logo. It was also sculptured by Parviz Sadighian.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive In Brief History…

Bachman-Turner Overdrive was initially put together by singer/guitarist Randy Bachman after he left the psychedelic pop-rock band The Guess Who to form the band Brave Belt with singer/keyboardist Chad Allan who was also a former member of the previous band and had left a few years earlier. He also decided to rope in a couple of his brothers and make it a family affair Robbie Bachman (drums) and Gary Bachman who was merely acting as the bands manager at the time back in Winnipeg, Canada 1971.

Brave Belt

The band got a record deal with Reprise Records and even though their self-titled debut album never sold that well their record label still wanted them to go on tour. As the band never had a bassist Randy played bass on their debut album and it was Neil Young who recommended C. F. “Fred” Turner to them and he not only joined the band for the tour but also became a full-time member of the band and also became their lead singer. It was also Young who got them the deal with Reprise.

It was after the making of the bands second album and during the tour of it that Allan left the band and another of Randy’s brothers Tim Bachman was brought in as a second guitarist although their record label was far from impressed and dropped them. Brave Belt was going nowhere and the only minor success came from the single release of “Crazy Arms, Crazy Eyes” from their 1971 debut album which was penned by Randy and it managed to break into the top 40 of the Canadian charts and peaked at number 35.

Although dropped from the Reprise label, the Brave Belt II lineup of (C. F. Turner with Randy, Tim and Robbie Bachman) never gave up and recorded new demo songs for what was going to be Brave Belt’s third album. They also got a new manager and it was the manager that convinced them to change their name to which they eventually settled on the name Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

It was also this current lineup of the band that went on to make their first two albums that we have here, although much of the bands success really came from the second incarnation of the band when guitarist Blair Thornton replaced  Tim Bachman and the rest is history. Well, almost and we shall learn more about the bands history in my review of both albums we have here.

The Albums In Review…

There are a few similarities between this Vocalion release of Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the Deodato release and it’s not just down to them being relatively short enough albums to fit two of them onto one SACD. The other similarities are that they both made two albums in the same year 1973 and surprisingly both albums got to have Quadrophonic mixes although they certainly were not mixed or released in 1973. However, they did surface on LP in Japan in 1975 and are extremely hard to get hold of these days. We shall learn more about how the Quad mixes came to be later but once again thanks to Michael J. Dutton we can now get to hear them in Quad to which he has remastered and released these two albums in January this year.

Because I have two albums to get through I shall briefly run through the album tracks rather than go into more detail like I do in most of my reviews, but try and keep a focus on the main points and features and include more of the bands history along the way. So let’s now jump straight into it their debut album.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Much of how Bachman-Turner Overdrive came about was really down to three people and a bit of luck was also needed for it to happen. Firstly it was their new manager Bruce Allen who not only suggested they change their name but had a company that booked almost every live venue in the city. He also went on to shepherd the careers of Canadian superstars Bryan Adams, Loverboy and Anne Murray. The bands bass player C.F. Turner was the one who came up with the new name and the word “Overdrive” was inspired by a trucker magazine of the same name he spotted in a diner during a tour stop. Randy Bachman was very much the driving force behind the band and the guy who pumped in the money from the estimated 90,000 dollars he had made from the royalties that came from the time he was with The Guess Who.

The Guess Who

Unlike Brave Belt that was really one of Randy Bachman’s failures and cost him more money paying the other members of the band and struggled to get enough or a decent gig to pay for it all. The Guess Who had much more success and Randy left the band at the most pivotal point after their album American Woman reached number 9 in the American Billboard charts. The single release of the same name from the album done even better and hit the number one spot in America. The album was their most successful album and stayed 55 weeks on the charts and went Gold status in sales.

I have just found out that Dutton Vocalion has reissued both the 1970 albums American Woman and Share the Land on a single Hybrid SACD and they too were given the Quad treatment. I shall be adding that to my collection later and Michael J. Dutton really is doing a GRAND! job at reviving such GREAT! music from the past and presenting it in quality at a bargain price.

Having emptied his own bank account to finance another set of recordings things were not going well trying to get a record label to take them on and they were turned down by A&M, Epic, Atlantic, Columbia, Asylum you name it. But this is where the bit of luck came in. They eventually landed a deal with Mercury Records one which Randy proclaimed as a pure stroke of luck. It was in April 1973, Charlie Fach of Mercury Records returned to his office after a trip to France to find a stack of unplayed demo tapes waiting on his desk. Wanting to start completely fresh, he took a trash can and slid all the tapes into it except one which missed the can and fell onto the floor.

As luck would have it was Randy’s and Fach happened to noticed Randy’s name on the can and remembered talking to him the previous year and had told him that if he ever put a demo together to send it to him. The other stroke of luck was that Mercury had just lost Uriah Heep and Rod Stewart to other record labels so they were looking for new acts to fill their books so to speak.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s debut album was released on the 17th of May 1973. The album contains 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 51 seconds the album was originally titled Brave Belt III and it was the bands new record label that insisted they changed it. Although the album was not that well-received upon its release and it did not churn out a hit single it did pick up sales from the release of their second and third album and was certified Gold in the following year 1974.

The band recorded the album at RCA Studios in Toronto, Canada between 1972/73 and virtually every artist in Canada and from many other countries used the studio including the likes of Rush, Bob Seger, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Elvis Presley, Steely Dan, Joe Walsh and many, many more.

The album was produced by Randy Bachman and he had recording engineers Dave Slagter and Mark Smith at his helm. The Studio operated under the name from 1954 – 1979 and was sold onto McClear Place Studios. These days like most studios they no longer exist and the building that once stood at 225 Mutual Street was unfortunately demolished.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Randy Bachman. (Tracks 4,5 & 7) Written by Randy Bachman. (Tracks 1,3 & 8) Written by CF. Turner. (Track 2) Written by Randy Bachman, Rob Bachman & Kirk Kelly. (Track 6) Written by Tim Bachman & Randy Bachman. Recorded at RCA Studios Toronto, Canada sometime between 1972/73. Recording Engineers Dave Slagter and Mark Smith. Mastered by Tom “Curly” Ruff. Cover Design & Band Logo by Rob Bachman. Inner Cover Design by Joe Kotleba. Cover Sculpture by Parviz Sadighian. Art Direction by Jim Ladwig. Photography by Ed Caraeff & Tom Zamiar. Original Quadrophonic Mix by Mark Smith in 1974 at Sound City Studios, Los Angeles, USA. Remastered Stereo & Quadrophonic Mixes by Michael J. Dutton in 2021.

Randy Bachman: Lead Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 5 & 7) – Backing Vocals.
Tim Bachman: Rhythm Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 5 & 6) – Backing Vocals.
CF. Turner: Bass Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 & 8) – Backing Vocals.
Robbie Bachman: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians.
Barry Keane: Congos (Track 3).

There is no doubt Bachman-Turner Overdrive had their own approach to rock music and even incorporated some jazzy touches to it, even the way their guitars were driven had their own unique sound that made them stand out from other rock bands. CF. Turner’s soulful voice with a gravelly edge also played its role in distinguishing them from other acts and Randy Bachman’s guitar skills were no mean feat.

Although the album never produced a hit single it was not for the want of not trying and two of the tracks from the album were released as singles. The first of which was the albums opening track “Gimme Your Money Please” which managed to reach number 45 in the Canadian charts. Although to gain further recognition they were really looking for something to spread them further afield which is something the 3rd track on the album “Blue Collar” did. Unfortunately, it only made number 68 in the American Billboard charts but done better in their own country reaching number 21. As the song was over 6 minutes it was edited down 4 minutes for the single release.

Blue Collar” is the standout track on the album and the only track on this album that incorporates some of the more familiar jazz attributes that the band went on to do a bit more often as they progressed along. The song’s title and lyrical content refer to a class of workers who couldn’t wear white collar shirts to work due to the type of labour which would soil a white shirt. It was also commonly used in referring to job positions.

Strangely enough, the second-longest song on the album “Hold Back The Water” was used for the B-Side and was edited down to near enough half of its original length this is my second favourite track on the album and like the A-Side features some superb guitar work from Randy Bachman. The first three songs on the album are my personal highlights from it though both “Little Gandy Dancer” and “Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble” are quite good songs and the first of them was used for the B-Side of “Gimme Your Money Please“. The remaining tracks “Stayed Awake All Night“. “Down and Out Man” and “Thank You for the Feelin” are perhaps the mediocre side of the album though nevertheless they still have the ability to rock out in their own formidable style.

Overall, Bachman-Truner Overdrive’s debut album is a half-decent album that has the ability to drive along in a satisfying enough way, it’s even an album you could stick on in your car whilst cruising along and take some pleasure from doing so. There is nothing remotely bad here and thanks to Michael J. Dutton you can get even more pleasure out of it with the Quadrophonic mIx. My personal highlights of the album are as follows: “Gimme Your Money Please“. “Hold Back The Water“. “Blue Collar“. “Little Gandy Dancer” and “Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble“.

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Gimme Your Money Please. 4:43. 2. Hold Back The Water. 5:08. 3. Blue Collar. 6:11. 4. Little Gandy Dancer. 4:24. 5. Stayed Awake All Night. 4:09. 6. Down and Out Man. 3:14. 7. Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble. 4:55. 8. Thank You for the Feelin. 4:07.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive II

It was not long after the release of their debut album that the band were back in the studio to record their second album it was not unusual for many bands back in those days to churn out more than one album in a year. The band travelled to the States to record the material for their second album and the recording took place at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seatle, Washington during the months of September and October 1973. The album once again consisted of 8 tracks and was spread over an overall playing time of 39 minutes and was released at the end of the year in December 1973.

Kaye-Smith Studios

Kaye-Smith Studios or Enterprises was originally founded by Lester Smith and actor Danny Kaye who decided on a joint adventure of setting up a recording studio for film and music production. It was set up in 1973 and during the 70’s it was utilised by local advertisers for television commercials and many musicians such as Steve Miller, Johnny Mathis, The O’Jays, The Beach Boys, Elton John, Heart and many more. 

In 1979 the studio changed hands to Steve and Debbie Lawson and was re-launched as Steve Lawson Productions, then in 1991 Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band Heart brought the studio and renamed it Bad Animals after their 1987 album of the same name. They had the studio up until 1997 and many more artists recorded their albums at the studios including the likes of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Queensrÿche, Foo Fighters, Aerosmith and so on. The sisters sold it back the Lawson’s to which they renamed Studio X. 

In October 2017, the studio was purchased for $21.6 million by Skanska, which plans to build a 346-unit multifamily tower with ground-floor retail in the building. Studio X decided to move its location in October 2018 and was managed by Reed Ruddy. In the same year Alice In Chains recorded their album Rainier Fog at the new location and that was the last album recorded at the studio.

Musicians & Credits…

Bachman-Turner Overdrive II

Produced by Randy Bachman. (Tracks 2 & 8) Written by Randy Bachman. (Tracks 3 & 5) Written by CF. Turner. (Track 7) Written by Tim Bachman. (Track 4) by Randy Bachman & CF. Turner. (Track 1) By Randy Bachman & Tim Bachman, (Track 6) by Randy Bachman & Rob Bachman. Recorded at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle, Washington, USA sometime between September & October 1973. Recording Engineer Buzz Richmond. Assistant Engineer Mark Stirling. Mastered by Tom “Curly” Ruff. Cover Design by John Youssi. Art Direction by Jim Ladwig. Photography by Dave Roels. Original Quadrophonic Mix by Mark Smith in 1974 at Sound City Studios, Los Angeles, USA. Remastered Stereo & Quadrophonic Mixes by Michael J. Dutton in 2021.

Randy Bachman: Lead Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 2, 6 & 8) – Backing Vocals.
Tim Bachman: Rhythm Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 1 & 7) – Backing Vocals.
CF. Turner: Bass Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 3, 4 & 5) – Backing Vocals.
Robbie Bachman: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians.
Norman Durkee: Piano (Track 8).

The material that was written for the bands second album continues in much of the same vein as their debut album only the couple of singles that were released from the album did do much better. “Let It Ride” for example managed to peak at number 23 in the American Billboard charts and became their first song to break it into the top 40. It also reached number 3 in the Canadian charts but it was “Takin’ Care of Business” that was to become one of BTO’s most enduring and well-known songs peaking at number 12 in the American Billboard charts and managed to stay inside the top 100 for 20 weeks which was longer than any other BTO single. Likewise, it also hit number 3 in the Canadian charts.

The song became more or less the bands anthem and it was a song that Randy had worked on back in his days with The Guess Who. The song originally had the working title of “White Collar Worker” it was whilst he was driving into Vancouver, British Columbia for a gig and listening to the radio when he heard local DJ Daryl B’s catchphrase “We’re takin’ care of business” that made him change the title and the lyrics. The song features Norman Durkee on piano who was recording commercials at the time in the next studio when sound engineer Buzz Richmond asked him if he would throw some piano on the song.

It is one of the better songs on the album though I personally don’t think it’s as good as “Blue Collar” from their debut album. Although there is another song on this album that is done in the same vein as that song with its jazzy textures and that is “Welcome Home” which is my personal favourite track on this album. This is where the band can be a bit more adventurous and diverse in relation to many other rock bands and that is what I like about this band. It’s also another song that was penned entirely by Randy.

Other fine songs on the album are the opening track “Blown” which features some GREAT! slide playing by Randy and it’s brought out even more so on the Quad mix. “Tramp” is an excellent display of songwriting and they are well in the swing of things on this one. “Stonegates“, “Give It Time” and “I Don’t Have to Hide” are perhaps on the more mediocre side of things but you can still easily rock along to them.

Overall, BTO’s second album is very much on equal par with their debut album and there is nothing remotely bad along its path. I don’t think any of these albums are on par with what was to come from the band but both albums are worthy of having in your collection. My personal highlights from the album are “Welcome Home“,”Blown“, “Takin’ Care of Business” and “Tramp“. 

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Blown. 4:20. 2. Welcome Home. 5:32. 3. Stonegates. 5:36. 4. Let It Ride. 4:25. 5. Give It Time. 5:41. 6. Tramp. 4:05. 7. I Don’t Have to Hide. 4:24. 8. Takin’ Care of Business. 4:54.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Summary & Conclusion…

Bachman-Truner Overdrive are a band that brings along another flavour to rock music by doing things their own way, their albums did get better as they went along but there is still enough on their first two albums to make them worthy of getting and their music still stands out well today. With the two albums you are getting 76 minutes, 22 seconds of good music and considering you are getting two albums for the price of one you are getting amazing value for the buck all thanks to Michael Dutton who has once again remastered both the stereo and quad mixes from the original multitrack tapes.

Speaking of the Quad mix it was not until Autumn in the following year of 1974 that both of these albums were mixed in Quadrophonic along with their third album Not Fragile to which were done at Sound City Studios and engineered by Mark Smith. It was down to the studio having just been fitted with new quadrophonic equipment that he was able to do the quad mixes for all three of their albums and he was the first engineer at the studios to use the new quad facilities and do quad mixes.

Sound City Studios was set up back in 1969 by Joe Gottfried and Tom Skeeter and after a rough start, the studio became known as one of the most successful in popular music. Throughout the late twentieth century, the studio became known for its signature sound, especially in recording drums and live performances of rock bands. The premises it was set up in was previously a production factory of the English musical instrument manufacturer Vox.

Many artists such as Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Slayer, Rage Against the Machine and much more have recorded at the studio. The studio was originally set up with a state of the art recording console made by the English electronics engineer Rupert Neve which cost some $75,175 to which only 4 were made. The first song recorded on the console was performed by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks who was making their only album together at the time which led to an invitation for them to join Fleetwood Mac.

Neve 8028 Recording Console

The studio closed in 2011 and much of the gear was sold off. The vintage Neve 8028 Recording Console was purchased by Dave Grohl, former Nirvana drummer and current frontman of The Foo Fighters, who installed it in his Studio 606 in Northridge, California. In 2017 a partnership was formed between Sandy Skeeter (daughter of founder Tom Skeeter) and Olivier Chastan in order to reopen the studio. Sound City is now the home of two of just 11 surviving Helios Type 69 consoles and continues to use classic analogue recording techniques in many of its productions. While the control rooms received some upgrades, including Pro Tools, the main studio remains exactly as it was built in 1969.

They say a fool and his money are easily departed? However, you would be a fool not to part with your money in this case because this is as cheap as chips and the beauty about this release is that you can now hear the album in another light and get more of an immersive experience with the Quadrophonic mix.

Four-Wheel Quad Overdrive…

The Package Rating. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating. 10/10.
The Quad Mix Rating. 10/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating. 10/10.

2 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Music… #185

  1. This was a great read, Lee, though I am not that interested in this band. My favourite story was, when you told how that Mercury A&R threw the tapes into a dustbin and one tape missed it accidentally. I thought about how many Demos of mine were thrown into a dustbin to free the desktop of an A&R. However I hardly remembered on B.T.O., though I have for sure listened to them in the past. So I took the chance and listened to a few songs like “Blue collar” and “Gimme your money please” and I think one other was called “Down, down”. After listening to the band’s material I understand, why they never made it to the first line of Rock. Though the instrumental work is fine, the songwriting is not that strong. I agree, that they are influenced by Jazz, especially when I hear the groove and the octave-lines of the guitar in “Blue collar”, but a song like “Gimme your money, please” can just be labelled as “Mainstream-Rock” or M.O.R. (Middle of the road), nice, but nothing outstanding or special.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think they were mainstream and middle of the road as you said and like I mentioned in my introduction they were not one of the greatest rock bands. To be honest their first couple of albums are not on par with the albums that followed it and they did get much better as they went on. Though I would say it was only the songwriting that got better and they were still M.O.R. and be a bit more diverse with their music especially with the Jazzy flourishes they added to their songs like they did on “Blue Collar” for example.

      Actually one of my all-time favourite songs of theirs came from their 7th studio album Street Action in 1978 after Randy Bachman had just left the band. The song is called “Madison Avenue” and I think that is a classic. I quite liked the band and some of their songs have always stuck in my head especially “Rock Is My Life, and This Is My Song” and “Second Hand” from their third album Not Fragile.

      To be honest it’s been quite a while since I played any of their albums but I like what Michael J. Dutton is doing by reviving these old recordings and presenting them with the original Quad mix as well. I would buy all their albums again if they were given the same treatment although I cannot see that happening because Sony can be right bastards and will only let so many albums by one artist be put on SACD.

      As far as I know of Genesis are the only band that has all their albums released on the format and I don’t know how they got away with it. Not even Elton John has had that privilege from Sony. Back in 2004, Greg Penny was in the process of doing 5.1 mixes for Elton’s back catalogue and was only allowed to release 6 of them. He had done another 5 albums but Sony would not let them be released.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s