The Stampeders

Backstage Pass

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This live album, recorded in front of 13,000 fans at the Ontario Place Forum on June 13, 1973, will shock a lot of listeners -- the show reportedly even surprised the band at the time as the largest single audience in front of which they'd ever played. More to the point, it presents a band with a split personality. Stampeders were best known in the United States for their folk-rock/pop single "Sweet City Woman," which, though a pleasant and catchy enough song, would hardly seem to be the basis on which to draw 13,000 people together in one place to see them do anything in concert. The reality, as demonstrated on this record, is a bit more complex -- part of the time, Stampeders were a much harder rock & roll band than that single indicated and had been building their reputation at home for ten years, culminating with this show. They were closer musically to the late-'60s/early-'70s Guess Who or, perhaps even more so, Mountain. The sound throughout this show is filled with rippling, powerful leads from guitarist Rich Dodson (sporting a double-necked axe) and long and aggressive basslines from Ron King. These guys played hard and could sing well, and they're reasonably compelling on the melodic hard rock sounds of "Marigold" or "Devil You" -- actually, much more so than with "Sweet City Woman," which is present on the CD as a bonus track and almost sounds out of place in their set; an extended audience singalong passes for a finish to the song, which it sounds like the band had long since tired of singing and playing. Absent that bit of awkwardness, the show is smooth and loud, including a nicely lean run-through of "Blue Suede Shoes" which works better than some of their more ambitious originals such as "In the Shadows." Drummer Kim Berly's "Rocky Mountain Home" represents the kind of vaguely folkish number that recalls Dodson's "Sweet City Woman," and it works far better in concert than the hit does. The CD is double the length of the original MWC Records LP.

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