Randy Bachman has spent too long in litigation, too long reuniting with sundry lineups of his former groups, too long arguing about copyrights and band names and so on. Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells a Story, an amiable, conversational concert recording, makes the case for his often-ignored legacy in ways all of that sound and fury never could.
The singer-songwriter-guitarist was, of course, a guiding force in not one but two once-celebrated bands — the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. With the former, he wrote or co-wrote the Billboard No. 1 hits “American Woman/No Sugar Tonight,” the No. 5 hit “No Time,” the No. 6 hit “These Eyes” and the No. 10 hit “Laughing” — all in a quick creative outburst with frontman Burton Cummings between 1968-70.
Each is included in the early going of this new live set and, though no one can completely reproduce the emotional jolt of Cummings’ familiar vocals, they come alive again through Bachman’s confidential approach. Their No. 22 collaboration “Undun” is also included as a bonus feature.
Bachman departed, however, at the height of the Guess Who’s fame, leaving Cummings to become the face of the band — and his former collaborator to start anew. Over the previous year, the Guess Who had moved from pop-rock and jazzier inclinations toward a harder-edged sound — and the subsequent Bachman-Turner Overdrive followed suit, emerging as a heartland-rock collaboration with the growling Fred Turner that would send Bachman right back to the top of the charts.
Everything the band released from 1973’s “Blue Collar” to 1975’s “Hey You” — six singles in all — went to the Top 25, while the stutteringly fun “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” hurtled all the way to a Billboard No. 1 position. Most are faithfully reiterated on this DVD/CD set too, with 1976’s “Lookin’ Out For No. 1” joining “Undun” as an extra.
The concern, on first glance, might be one of rote familiarity. But Bachman’s concert — captured by Farpoint Films in his hometown of Winnipeg — quickly dispenses with such worries.
Nothing here could possibly replace the ageless originals, even those (like BTO’s No. 12 staple “Takin’ Care of Business”) where Bachman was the featured vocalist. But, that’s not the point — as is made clear via a newer composition that opens Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells a Story. “Prairie Town” works as a kind of nostalgia-filled travelogue, setting the stage for this more personal journey through Bachman’s music. The joy is in gaining new insights into a catalog that, until now, has been as ubiquitous as it is perhaps misunderstood.
In fact, as he relates this winding narrative, both in song and in his own words, it becomes ever more obvious just what Randy Bachman has been fighting for all of these years. With Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells a Story, he’s finally found the right platform to make clear those towering contributions.