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Max Webster - High Class In Borrowed Shoes CD (album) cover

HIGH CLASS IN BORROWED SHOES

Max Webster

 

Prog Related

4.13 | 20 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A sophomore album from beyond the moon.

Max Webster are somewhat of a strange band as they never lived up to the potential shown by all five of their studio albums. Even with shredder super-ego (and I mean that in a good way: a good stage persona) Kim Mitchell at the helm the band never managed to hit mainstream success outside of Canada until their final album which would have them break up directly afterwards, and even then the success could be mainly contributed to the fact that Geddy Lee would appear on the pseudo-hit Battle Scar. Rush and Max Webster enjoyed a certain amount of kinship in the 70s when they were two hard rock efforts out of Toronto Canada, Webster often being seen as Rush's little brother. Indeed, if Rush had a sense of humor in their music and a lower pitched singer the two would be nearly inseparable!

What we have, as with all of their studio albums, is a combination of top notch musicianship and concise songwriting. Webster's tie into the prog world isn't always totally obvious, although it's especially noticeable on their first three albums which walk the narrow line between Prog-Related and Crossover Progressive music. This album especially shows the band using their trademark keyboard sounds, their trademark moon tunes (which are all very progressive in nature with interesting time signatures and changes) and a multitude of other marks which earn them a prog banner which they flaunt only lightly before rocking out entirely.

Like their debut album, this is charged blues-rock at its best, especially when it mixes in the progressive tenancies. The best songs off this peculiar album are among the best in Webster's catalog, and can even easily compete with the best of Rush's. Take for example the absolutely sublime Gravity which shows Mitchell using the most odd of his vocal patterns along with an amazing and somewhat subtle keyboard arrangement by Watkinson. There's a well placed breakdown in the middle that shows the band temporarily wandering into psych before plummeting back into intelligent hard rock. Another song which succeeds in the same vein is Oh War!, a midpaced thinker which uses some slick riffs to make for a nice song of rebellion with a huge progressive lean. In Context Of The Moon carries on the band's tradition of having a ''moon'' track on each album, and this time it's the lengthiest. At nearly 6-minutes this one is hardly a progressive epic, but when you hear it you'll be surprised just how much these crazy Canadians are able to fit in that amount of time. Highly melodic and very impressive throughout the entire pseudo-epic, and hardly anyone can argue that this is art-rock at its very best.

Some of the songs are strait ahead rockers, and these are still pure gold. Anyone who knows Webster knows that even the most straightforward songs on their albums are still complex and incredibly memorable. The opening tune and title track, High Class In Borrowed Shoes flaunts everything that was great about their very bluesy self titled debut while adding a spice of near metal which makes for a mind blowing start to the fray. America's Veins is the other pure rocker on the album, and while this one may not be as ''high brow'' as some of the other tunes (if that could ever have been said about Webster) it still makes for a killer tune - and is especially excellent on their sole live album Magnetic Air.

Slower, more balladic songs on the album are brief, but effective. Diamonds, Diamonds is a reflective and slick song which is not so much a ballad as it is just slow, but its harmonized vocals in combination with simplistically complex arrangements make for a nice two minutes. Words To Words is probably the softest song on the album, but with well used keyboards sprinkled in for effect the song hardly ever grows old.

While this is a band which deserves way more credit than they ever got the least that anyone can do is check out any one of their very impressive albums. These guys had a ''classic'' streak going on for their first 4 albums, and this sophomore is no exception. Highly recommended for those who like a little more rock in their prog this one is going to get a 4 out of 5. An excellent addition to any prog collection, and very easily accessible as well - there's no trick to these guys. After all, they're just Max Webster, here to thin the thickness of your skin.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |

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