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10 Mar 2017

Max Webster “Hangover” 1976 Canada Hard Prog







Max Webster “Hangover” 1976 Canada Hard Prog
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Toronto's Max Webster blended metal, prog, and rock elements into a genre-defying blend that won the group a cult following in the mid- to late '70s. Formed in 1973, the band's sound focused on the contrast between vocalist/guitarist Kim Mitchell's aggressive attack and vocalist/keyboardist Terry Watkinson's more melodic approach, with drummer Gary McCracken and bassist Mike Tilka providing a propulsive backdrop. Additional lyricist Pye Dubois was considered the band's fifth member, adding extra theatrical flourishes to Max Webster's concerts. 
by Heather Phares 

Max Webster was an unusual beast as bands go. They seemed to try for a sound that bordered on anthemic arena rock and progressive rock. However, the textures of the music made it feel like they just barely missed. The group had a sound that was quite quirky and off-kilter, while still trying for those more accessible rock sounds. This disc, their debut, certainly shows off all of those textures. 

The material ranges from hard-edged straightforward metal to rock ballads and fun, almost punky, territory. The final track on the album, "Lily," is an extended progressive rock jam that is the strongest piece on the disc. That cut seems to embody sounds of such groups as Yes and Rush, but still with a touch of Max Webster's weirdness. If you are looking for an intriguing take on the arena rock/prog territory, give these guys a chance, but remember that their sound is definitely on the quirky side. 
by Gary Hill.............

Max Webster were a Canadian band perhaps best known for their Rush connection's - both bands came from Toronto, they toured together and shared the same record producer; Terry Brown. Unfortunately Max Webster wouldn't achieve the success of their fellow Canadian's despite releasing a string of very strong albums.
Their eponymous debut released in 1976 is a fine album with great musicianship, particularly the guitar playing from vocalist/frontman Kim Mitchell. Though their music had progressive overtones they weren't a prog band per se, though the clever arrangements and touches of quirkiness set them apart from the average heavy rock band at the time. Alongside the heavy rock they also displayed a keen ear for a strong melody which they would exploit more on future releases. Tracks like Toronto Tontos show the wackier side of the band - surely they had been listening to Frank Zappa while Blowing The Blues show them at their more melodic. Coming Off The Moon and Only Your Nose Knows captures them at their rocking best. They save perhaps the best for last. Lily is not only the longest track at just short of eight minutes but also the most progressive, the extra length giving them the opportunity to stretch out with some great playing and strong dynamics.

An excellent debut then which is as good as anything they released though follow up High Class In Borrowed Shoes is widely regarded as their all time best.....by Nightfly ..........

MAX WEBSTER's sophomore album was produced by themselves and Terry Brown. Hugh Syme did the front cover illustration, but the picture of the band is what leaves the biggest impression, drawing a lot of laughs from anyone who has seen it. Nice platform shoes Kim ! I can't believe I actually wore platforms in grade 9. Did I just say that out loud ? Believe me, all pictures have been destroyed. I was reading in the liner notes where the band thanks RUSH and crew, but also Chum FM and Ric Ringer which brings back memories of that radio station when they played good music. Now you go to Q107 where Kim Mitchell happens to be a DJ now if you want some good Classic rock. Mitchell and Pye Dubois created all the songs here except for "Rain Child" which was done by keyboardist Watkinson, he also sings lead on it.
"High Class In Borrowed Shoes" is an uptempo rocker with Kim's unmistakable guitar runnung roughshod all over the place. "Diamonds Diamonds" is a slower tune with clever lyrics while harmonies and keys stand out. "Gravity" is my favourite. Humerous lyrics encouraging us to "Get a little savagery in your life" instead of playing it safe. Love the guitar late in this one. "Words To Words" features some guest piano and synths from Doug Riley.This is a ballad with acoustic guitar and light drums also helping out. "America's Veins" is one i'm not a big fan of. Riffs and vocals with attitude start the show and we get a keyboard solo before 2 minutes. Riffs come and go.

"Oh War !" opens with outbursts of drums until it kicks in with a steady rhythm with vocals. Guitar 2 1/2 minutes in is great. Kim drops the f-bomb on the chorus each time. "On The Road" is a top 3 track for me,there's something uplifting about this one and I like the lyrics. "Rain Child" is my least favourite although there is some good guitar at times. "In Context Of The Moon" has a darker, heavier sound to it at times early on. I like the floating organ 2 1/2 minutes in during the instrumental break.The guitar comes in screaming and then it turns kind of jazzy. Great sound.

I think MAX WEBSTER's first 4 albums are classics, I would rate this as my fourth favourite. It's hard not to think of spring when listening to this band's music.......by Mellotron Storm .........

elcome to the planet which is Max Webster! The zaniness really strarts here. Everything they tried to accomplish on their first self titled album meets the consistency/quality factor. Not a bummer in the lot. Every track makes a statement. It's worth mentioning that Max Webster is a band unto themselves, not unlike the Planet Gong. If you enjoy quality '70s rock, you can't go wrong with _High Class In Borrowed Shoes_. Who else would self-depricate themselves like this on an album cover like Max Webster? Maybe Procol Harum, but Max Webster is clearly a band for the converted. Side One is the spacy side, _Diamonds Diamonds_, _Gravity_, Words To Words_...lyrically bizarre thanks to the fifth unofficial member, lyricist - Pye Dubois(the same guy that wrote the lyrics to Rush's _Tom Sawyer_). Side 2 starts off with _America's Veins_, a heavy rocker with lyrical content observing the American dream in the '70s from the other side of the Canada/USA border. Then there's _Oh War!_, a must for every prog.rock fan worth their salt. Probably the most difinitive use of a keyboard since ELP's _Lucky Man_, yet you've never heard it on the radio. Just when you thought Keith Emerson, Mike Ratledge(of Soft Machine) or Dave Stewart(of National Health/Hatfield & The North) could come up with the most persuasive keyboard sounds, in comes Terry Watckinson to kick the door down. It hits you like a brick wall much like the guitar solo from Robert Fripp on Brian Eno's _Distributed Being_(from Eno's Nerve Net_ 1992) for those familiar with such a track. It's as though someone tapped Terry Watckinson on the shoulder and yelled: SOLO! Yep, the keyboard solo comes right out of nowhere. A real delight. Disclaimer: the f-bomb is dropped only once in this song. _On The Road_ is the definitive Max Webster ballad and _Rain Child_ has a 4/4 time drum intro that could only sound _progressive_ from the snare and kick drum of one Gary McCracken. _In Context The Moon_ concludes the album but begins the Moon-trilogy of the following album, then concludes on the album _A Million Vacations_ with the instrumental SUN VOICES/MOON VOICES. This is the beginning of three 5 star albums in a row from the Max Machine. This is where the curious prog.rock fan should begin...... by Gooner ........

This group was simply known as Toronto's best-kept secret, and it was not for trying to reveal this group to international status. Sadly, when they did reach it, their career was all but over. Hailing from a small city Sarnia, north of Toronto, this group started out as a quartet that evolved from two high school groups Yeomen and Grass Company. By searching well into bassist Mike Tilka's previous band, he also played with Daryl Struemer (first JL Ponty, then Genesis).

During the second half of the 70's, they would release a quartet of superb albums, much in the spirit of the times, using a progressive rock that can be reminded of early Queen crossing with inventive pop writings and a slight glam-rock visual touch (in the Sparks or Roxy music tone). Albums like High Class In Borrowed Shoes or Mutiny Up My Sleeve were full of extremely clever and well-crafted tracks, so inventive, that even if they were not really as progressive as their label-mate Rush, that they were, at least in spirit, very prog rock.

After a slightly quieter A Million Vacation album, they released a live album, Magnetic Air, which broke the string of excellent releases. At the start of the 80's, the group was falling apart, but Kim Mitchell forged on ahead and recorded Universal Juveniles; which attracted them international notice on the strength of the track that was recorded with Rush - "Battle Scar". Sadly, this did not stop the band from imploding, leaving leader and main-songwriter Kim Mitchell to pursue a solo career, which will be rather more straight ahead and commercial. ..........

Sarnia in the 1960's saw a young, ambitious Kim Mitchell sweating it out in various line-ups of the same band starting with the name The Grass Company, The Quotations, Big Al's Band and finally ZOOOM, who wound up in Toronto where cover-tunes ruled and original material went unnoticed. Eventually all the members but Mitchell returned to Sarnia. He was starving but getting work doing studio sessions, beer commercials, and playing the hotel and airport lounge circuit. He set off to the Greek island of Rhodes backing up a Greek Tom Jones. Six months later Mitchell invited poet and childhood buddy Pye Dubois (real name: Paul Woods) to Greece to co-write some songs; they decided to make it a band project and set about recruiting a line-up

The 1972 line-up consisted of Mitchell, Kersey (The Bluesmen Revue), Tilka (an Indiana, USA, emigre), and Watkinson (already a veteran of the Canadian music scene with The Yeomen and all its namesake permutations). Tilka was in a band called Family At Macs and they did a song "Webster". It was decided to pick a name configuration that would recall other fictitious band names of not-real people like Jethro Tull or Alice Cooper. The name Max Webster was born.

By 1974 their live act was getting bites from management, production and record companies and in 1975 they signed with the Ray Danniels/Vic Wilson's SRO Productions as their management company. Danniels had set up an independent label imprint for SRO band Rush called Moon Records and then set up Taurus Records to handle other artists on the roster including Liverpool, Mendelson Joe and Max Webster.

The band's debut single was "Blowing The Blues" in 1975 through Taurus's distribution deal with London Records. Though the record gained little attention, a full self-titled album [aka 'The Blockheads Album'] was recorded and released that year under producer Terry Brown (Rush, Klaatu).

SRO would amalgamate both Moon and Taurus Records under the new name Anthem Records and Max Webster's contract was carried along with it. The first album was re-issued in Canada in 1976 and stateside on the back of Anthem's US distributor Mercury Records in 1977. The LP was issued with new artwork and renamed 'Hangover'.

1977's 'High Class In Borrowed Shoes' was also produced by Terry Brown. However, during the recording of 'Mutiny Up My Sleeve' (1978) he left over a dispute concerning the album's musical direction . By this point Sarnia's Gary McCracken (ex-Zing Dingo) had assumed the drum chores after Kersey had quit to co-found The Hunt after a falling out with Kim Mitchell. Meanwhile, former Zooom member Myles had taken over bass duties for Tilka, who would turn to business aspects at SRO/Anthem.

Yet, even with the changes, the band maintained its stance as a strong live draw, so much so that Rush asked them to open their 1977 tour. Slowly, Max Webster began to establish a massive cult following and acceptance, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by 'A Million Vacations' producer John de Nottebeck. With that album he made the band more radio friendly and they finally cracked the charts with the Watkinson led single "Let Go The Line" in 1979 and followed by the band's biggest commercial hit, the McCracken led title track. 'Live Magnetic Air' was also released that year but Watkinson left anyway to pursue a solo career. He eventually formed the band Antlers with Tilka in the early 1990's.

Despite a fabled team-up of Max Webster and Rush on the song "Battlescar", 1980's 'Universal Juveniles' had a noticeable absence of that trademark Watkinson keyboard sound and the band was falling apart from constant touring in towns where feverish fans were unable to purchase the band's records - especially stateside. The lack of promotion and poor management organization is sited as the cause for Kim Mitchell's resignation during a tour with Rush in April 1981. With this the band split up but they had actually been close to hitting the big time, so Anthem capitalized with a posthumous greatest hits package called 'Diamonds, Diamonds'.

Mitchell went on to a very successful solo career, but the continued cult status of Max Webster, particularly in Ontario, prompted Mitchell, Watkinson, McCracken, and Tilka to reunite in 1990. Their first performance was a short set at the Toronto Music Awards that year to 3000 hysterical fans who refused to pay attention to the awards given out after their set, continuing to chant "Max! Max! Max!" for the rest of the night. Anthem capitalized on the new-found Max fervour by releasing another best of package that year. Delighted with this response, the four musicians continued to do one-off dates around Ontario as Max Webster well into the late 1990's with Kim Mitchell Band bassist Peter Fredette filling in for Tilka.

In 2007, Mitchell, Tilka, McCracken and Watkinson reunited yet again for Toronto radio station Q107's 30th Anniversary bash along with David Wilcox, Goddo, Sass Jordan and Alannah Myles. The event was filmed but has yet to be released.

Kim Mitchell is the drive-time host on Q107-FM in Toronto. He still performs solo gigs in Southern Ontario; Gary McCracken still lives in Sarnia and owns a very successful music store/school. Aside from playing in ZZ Top tribute band Tres Hombres in the 80s & 90s, he has released several eclectic solo albums; Terry Watkinson performs with Mike Tilka in the band Antlers and occasionally joins Frank Soda live. Watkinson has been successful as a painter and displays his works in galleries around Ontario;...Canoe jam Canadian pop engyclopedia..........

Max Webster
*Kim Mitchell - Guitars, Lead Vocals
*Paul Kersey - Drums, Percussion
*Mike Tilka - Bass, Vocals
*Terry Watkinson - Keyboards, Vocals
*Pye Dubois - Lyrics

Tracklist
A1 Hangover 4:36
A2 Here Among The Cats 3:07
A3 Blowing The Blues Away 3:33
A4 Summer Turning Blue 3:05
A5 Toronto Tontos 3:40
B1 Coming Off The Moon 3:38
B2 Only Your Nose Knows 4:16
B3 Summer's Up 2:45
B4 Lily 7:42

Singles
1975 Blowing Away The Blues/Hangover (Taurus/London) TR-006
1977 Words To Words/In The Context of the Moon (Anthem) ANS-003
1977 Diamonds, Diamonds/Rain Child (Anthem) ANS-005
1979 Let Go The Line/Moon Voices (Anthem) ANS-012
1979 A Million Vacations/Rascal Houdil (Anthem) ANS-013
1979 Paradise Skies [live - 3:12]/Paradise Skies [3:15] (Anthem) ANS-014
1979 Paradise Skies//Party/Let Your Man Fly (Capitol UK) 12YCL-16079
1979 Night Flights//Hangover/High Class In Borrowed Shoes (Capitol - UK) CL-16104
1980 Check/Blue River Liquor Shine (Anthem) ANS-027
1980 Battlescar/Hot Shots (Anthem) ANS-037
1980 Battlescar [12' sampler] (Mercury - US) MK-159
1980 Check/Drive And Desire [12"] (Mercury - US) MK-163

Albums
1975 Max Webster (Taurus/London) TR-101
1976 Max Webster (Anthem) ANR-1-1006
1977 High Class In Borrowed Shoes (Anthem/Mercury) ANR-1007
1977 Hangover (Mercury - US) SRM-1-1131
1978 Mutiny Up My Sleeve (Anthem) ANR-1012
1979 A Million Vacations (Anthem) ANR-1018
1979 Live Magnetic Air (Anthem) ANR-1019
1980 Universal Juveniles (Anthem) ANR-1027
1980 Battlescar [12' sampler] (Mercury - US) MK-159
1980 Check/Drive And Desire [12"] (Mercury - US) MK-163
1981 Diamonds Diamonds (Anthem) ANR-1033
1989 The Best Of Max Webster - Featuring Kim Mitchell (Anthem) ANMD-1058
2006 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Max Webster (Anthem/Universal) UNI-143772

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..