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


Max Webster

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars As that crazy title might hint, Webster is not about to get wise with their second album and this is for our enjoyment (well mine anyway, you suckers ;-) and with this album they crossed a levels upward: they not only confirmed their superb debut, but they got national acceptance and adopted their famous logo which they will keep until the end. By this time drummer McCracken had joined them and the classic line-up was aligned. Just like their debut album, this album is produced by Terry Brown who is known by Rusheads as being their producer also.

If their debut brought a flurry of memorable tracks, this second album was to better that effortlessly. Right off the bat with the title track, they score big with a full-out party track glorifying the rock travesty and if not progressive, you will still be impressed by the construction of the RnR track. After a rather quiet Diamonds (lovely but a bit out of place on such a good times album), Gravity comes bringing down to earth and bounce you off into the atmosphere. One of their best moments, this track is a real gem that every proghead simply MUST discover. From the repeated KB chord to the ever-changing beat, Webster pulls a real tour de force and even Queen or 10 CC can go back to the drawing table to redesign the progressive pop anthem. A rather pretty but pointless (especially after the lovely Diamonds) Words leads to the full blown rocker America's Veins, which of course was bound to please every young partier in the country. Today some thirty years later, I can say that this is one of the very few tracks, which I regard not as highly as all of their other classics, although still something that most bands would kill for, but just another "thingie" from Webster.

The second side starts with another stunning anthem (well the label warns you ;-) the pacific oh War! A true classic, one that is sadly and shamefully overlooked, this track is in a bizarre way rather basic, but so well constructed, that it is naturally poignant. A rather bland on The Road and the better Watkinson-penned (and sung) Rain Child represents the other facets of Max's personality. Another classic closes off the album, the second of their track to mention their pretended origins, In Context Of The Moon. With this track, Webster comes close to many different genres (even a bit of jazz rock if you can believe it) and the many cimates developed in the tracks is pure joy for even the most demanding proghead looking for fun-filled rock.

As much as there are so many absolute classics on this album, it might be slightly more uneven than the debut, but this is a minimal gripe of mine as is coming another superb album the following year. Still very much a classic album

Report this review (#76877)
Posted Tuesday, May 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is a minor classic, a prog/arena rock hybrid that veers all over the musical map. Kim Mitchell went on to make some uninteresting but fun mainstream rock in the 80s and is now a DJ. Many Canadians don't even know he was in this band. He is actually one of rock's most underrated guitar heros and comes across almost as a Canuck Bill Nelson on this album, with brilliant solos abounding. In fact, Sunburst Finish era Be Bop Deluxe is a fair ballpark approximation of what Max Webster was like in their heyday, an indefinable mix of 70s influences leaning towards hard rock and glam as well as prog. Pye Dubois provides some bizarre lyrics that save some of the more mainstream tunes from being maudlin. The hard prog stylings of In Context of the Moon, Oh War and Americs's Veins will appeal to many's the Rush fan, and Diamonds, Diamonds is a nice ballad that is a staple of Canadian classic rock radio, along with the energetic title track. This is some very high quality 70s rock, and guitar virtuoso aficionados would do well to pick it up to check out Mitchell's playing.
Report this review (#85486)
Posted Wednesday, August 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
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.

Report this review (#194894)
Posted Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Welcome 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.
Report this review (#200520)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 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.

Report this review (#201915)
Posted Friday, February 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars High Class In Borrowed Shoes, the second album from Canadian's Max Webster followed pretty much the template laid down on their debut. I.e. heavy rock with prog touches and strong melodies. It's an excellent follow up, equal at least to their debut and is widely regarded by many fans to be their finest hour.

Where it perhaps differs slightly from their eponymous debut is more of an emphasis on the melodies at the expense of some of the quirkiness that album displayed. The band at this stage, no doubt with a watchful eye on their fellow Canadian's Rush (whom they toured with), were hoping to replicate some of the sales they were starting to achieve. Thankfully this is not at the expense of their trademark intricate and clever arrangements though the occasional song such as Word To Word almost enters pop territory. There's plenty of great heavy rock though - the album opening title track is a killer as is America's Veins. Oh War! Is a strong slow rocker with a driving groove and Rain Child has a great hook making it another highlight. Like their debut they save the best until last. In Context Of The Moon is based around a powerful and simple riff but has much more up its sleeve as is twists and turns through a series of changes with plenty of clever touches to keep the prog fan happy.

Another excellent album from Max Webster then and probably the best place to start for those wanting to discover this highly talented and under appreciated band.

Report this review (#810594)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2012 | Review Permalink

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