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Max Webster - Mutiny Up My Sleeve  CD (album) cover


Max Webster


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3.97 | 27 ratings

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3 stars Max Webster's third album, released in 1978 in Canada and a year later in the U.S. it seems. I knew of the band because of the movie "Rush - Beyond the Lighted Stage" and I knew of Kim Mitchell because of a couple of hit songs he had in the mid-eighties. But I felt no compulsion to buy a Max album until I was searching for Canadian prog of the seventies (yes, kind of a rare bird, I know) and saw Max Webster labeled as prog. Referring to the reviews on PA, it seemed this was the album for being introduced to Max Webster.

Now before I even heard a single note, I read the notes on the back of the 24 bit audio remastered CD and I got the impression that Max Webster was a wild and crazy hard rock band blending progressive rock in their music. I knew the album was co-produced by Terry Brown and that the band often toured with Rush. So, my expectations were getting pretty high. The album, however, did not adequately satisfy either the hard rock anticipations or the prog ones.

After a few listens now, I cannot escape the conclusion that this is a late seventies rock album with some hard rock and a little prog. It's a diverse album to be sure. No two songs sound like they were inspired by the same experience, and the band make a fine concoction of party rock with passionate and heart-felt numbers, with bluesy grit, with powerful music approaching anthemic. Oh, not to forget the humour as well! But this are the praises. For what this album is about, I will do the old track by track play by play.

"Lip Service" is an excellent and fun hard rocker. The lyrics, "He should be down under, pushing up wheat for the hungry" and "Only your right hand knows you're left handed" underscore the humour of the band. For a hard rock album, this is a great opener.

"Astonish Me" starts of like a piano ballad but soon transforms into a mellow song with a powerful chorus. The instrumental section teases with a promise of prog but seems reluctant to follow through. My impression of this song is that it is really typical of the late seventies. If you heard this on the radio for the first time and were asked to guess the year of release, you'd likely miss by no further than a year off. I also feel the synthesizer is barely keeping steady. It's like watching a tightrope walker who keeps looking like he's about to lose balance.

"Let Your Man Fly" is a typical guitar/piano/organ rock and roll song.

"Water Me Down" sounds like a crazy rock and roll band is trying to do a serious ballad. It doesn't come across as a candidate for a classic, but I can imagine it getting requested at some Ontario high school dance in the late seventies.

"Distressed" is another true blue late seventies tune. The chorus makes me think of Survivor ("Eye of the Tiger"), not like that song but like they could have done this in '78. Or maybe I'm thinking of The Little River Band, or REO Speedwagon or someone else. The instrumental part actually flirts with stepping into prog territory and it looks positive. But then it's over and the chorus returns.

"The Party" is a wild and fun song with the band exhibiting humour and hard rock. It sounds like they made off with a rocker roller penned by Gil Moore for Triumph and made it more fun. There's a part in the guitar solo that sounds a lot like Steve Morse's playing style. Well done!

"Waterline" sounds like it could have come from a Don Henley solo album.

"Hawaii" starts with seagulls and tinkling sea shells. There's a yawn and then someone (Kim Mitchell I presume) proclaims with an Ontario accent, "The headaches are gone and it's morning for this song." The tone and timbre of the voice makes me think that this is making fun of the narration in Rush's "The Necromancer". And then a simple piano piece accompanied by acoustic guitar and percussion carries on and it's like we have finally come to the first real prog-sounding track on the album. It's not daring like classic prog but a pleasant surprise.

And then we reach what for some must be the real highlight of the album: "Beyond the Moon". This is where the band are both at their heaviest and at their most progressive. It begins with some speedy Spanish guitar and shouts of encouragement before quickly switching to a heavy rock number. Before long, the music eases back and drops down low in volume, going for atmosphere and mood. At 6:33, this is the longest song on the album and it does cover its territory well. If I had heard only this song I would have snapped up the album without any hesitation. They saved the best for last.

There's one negative impression that I feel each time I have listened to this album. It's basically that Max Webster sound here like second tier Canadian talent. No, not Kim Mitchell. The band and this album. Second tier is not a bad thing. It's not second rate. What I mean is that to me there is a feeling like this is a Canadian band who could do the best for themselves in Canada but were not suited for world domination. They don't sound world class to me. The CD booklet describes how Terry Brown didn't feel the songs were truly coming together in the studio even though Mitchell insisted they band was playing the best they could. Bassist Mike Tilka was fired early on but was snapped up by Ray Daniels Management and sent over to manage the band that had just fired him. When Terry Brown walked out on the production, Tilka was asked to take over. So, the fired bass player became the new manager and producer.

The CD booklet says that this album was the end of the beginning, and possibly for Kim Mitchell, the beginning of the end. The fun that had gone into the first two albums was now met with music industry frustrations. As for me, I may yet seek out one more Max Webster album, but I will check out the songs first before I click the order button.

FragileKings | 3/5 |


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