Randy Bachman

Merge

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"Made in Canada" is the closing and crowning achievement of Bachman's latest Merge -- the revitalized follow-up to 1993's Any Road. Ironically, a collaboration with Neil Young was also Any Road's highlight, and "Made in Canada" sounds like the fully-mature follow-up to that disc's "Prairie Town." Young's inspired, live-off-the-floor knife-slashes here (which Bachman himself compares to "Hendrix burning his guitar at Monterey") equal any string-bending he's done to date. The pair thunders on for eight minutes before Young closes out with a minute of metal machine feedback.

Lyrically, Bachman delivers his standard blue-collar, meatand-potatoes stuff -- no poetry, but charming/disarming in its honest, Prairies-perspective patriotism: "Made in Canada where the mountains touch the sky/The prairies stretch from coast to coast/And the sights can make you high/There's something different 'bout a northern sky/When the prairie thunder rolls on by." What more could you ask from a national anthem? Also up there with Bachman's best work is the elegant "Anthem: For the Young." With it's epic, Mott the Hoople -meets-Procol Harum pacing, it would be interesting to hear Ian Hunter himself tackle this one. Most of Merge gets eclipsed by these two kicker tracks, although the whole is infinitely more inspired and fullyformed than Any Road. "Bad News Travels Fast" and most notably "I Play the Fool for You" pay stinging tribute to Bachman's hard rockin' BTO salad days; unfortunately, his limited solo vocal instrument can be a sometimes wearisome companion over 60 minutes, and one longs in vain for a higher-octane Fred Turner guest appearance. Bachman's son Tally carries on the BTO family sideman tradition, proving himself every bit as capable as uncle Robbie on drums throughout, and adding a Celtic accordion flavor to "Nothin's Gonna Bring You Down."

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