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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Max Webster

Max Webster

Review by Gary Hill

Max Webster is one of those bands that had a really devoted following, but were never anything close to a household name. Probably their biggest claim to fame was that they had connections to Rush and both bands come from Toronto. Webster’s sound, though was quirky. They had serious rock and roll chops, but the vocals were a bit odd (yeah and Geddy Lee’s are mainstream – ha), and the music seemed to swerve here and that. They had a definite desire to incorporate their sense of humor into their music. There’s no question that this isn’t music for everyone. Those of us who have caught the Max Webster bug, though, really like this stuff. This was their debut disc and it’s perhaps less mature than some of their later albums, but is quite strong nonetheless. If you want to check these guys out there’s probably no better place to start than the beginning.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hangover
Noisy textures lead off and then percussion joins. The noise ends as the main guitar riff hits. This is a bit odd and rather stripped down. It’s fairly fast paced and moves out into a hard edged chorus that reminds me a lot of The Tubes. They move this out into a jam later that’s intentionally noisy, just like intro – hey, when you’ve got a hangover don’t you love loud noises?
Here Among the Cats
This comes straight out of the last number and is a quirky rocker that’s quite fun. It rocks out very hard and is a highlight of the disc. 
Blowing the Blues Away
They give us a mellower rocker with this one. It’s got a bit of a bluesy texture to it, but also feels like some kind of Island music to a certain extent. This is lighthearted and fun, but not one of the harder rocking numbers on show. It’s also not one of the best tracks. That said, it’s still pretty cool. 
Summer Turning Blue
If you can picture a building rock epic in three and a half minutes, then you’ve got this cut. It starts very mellow and classical in nature and they work through several changes and alterations. This is about as close to progressive rock as Max Webster ever got. It’s a great piece of music and by itself would be worth the price of admission here. 
Toronto Tontos
Starting with a weird vocal in French, this moves out into a killer tongue in cheek jam. This has a retro texture and moves through some real odd changes. This is also very prog oriented, but more along the lines of Rock In Opposition. It has a whole slew of odd bits thrown in here and there. It’s obvious this isn’t meant to be serious. It’s also obvious that it’s fun. I love the “no cigarettes, no matches…” bit complete with fake French accent. 
Coming Off the Moon
They bring this one in with a smoking hard rock texture. This has more of a mature and serious feeling to it. It’s obvious that this one has less humor in it. There are some cool bits in the vocal arrangement and we get some nearly metal guitar soloing on this. It’s one of my favorite songs on the set. 
Only Your Nose Knows
This has a more pure pop rock approach. It’s still a little quirky but it has some of the tastiest guitar work on the whole disc. It’s also pretty catchy. There’s a fast paced jam in this that’s a bit Beatles-like at times. 
Summer's Out
With more of a smooth mellow rock texture, this seems to me almost like a proggy Pablo Cruise song. There are hints of Frank Zappa in the mix (but you could probably say that about pretty much every song here). 
Lily
Here’s the final progressive rock oriented jam on show here. It’s also obvious that they saved the best for last. At over seven and a half minutes it’s also the longest piece on show here. This has some very incredible musical passages on it. It’s also the only track where you might make out some hints of Rush-type music. Granted they are short-lived and few. Whatever you think of the rest of the group’s catalog, this song is very definitely progressive rock. It’s also an incredible piece of music and if it were the only good track here would make this a disc worth having. The killer closing jam is stellar.
 
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