Sometimes you feel like a nut…sometimes you don’t. It would’ve made a good slogan for Canada’s Max Webster, copyright laws notwithstanding. This four-piece-plus-one, fronted by guitarist/singer Kim Mitchell, didn’t seem to know WHAT they wanted to be. Their brand of hooky hard rock veered off into progressive and even avant-garde directions at times, aided (and sometimes undone) by the “wacky” lyrics of fifth Beatle Pye Dubois, which aimed for zen absurdity but often settled for bad free verse…sort of like Zappa for the learning-impaired. Luckily, more often than not the music is strong enough to carry the show along: all band members are accomplished players, and the songs rattle with conviction, featuring enough strong melodies and soloing to keep the listener attentive & appreciative. Delete-bin regulars all through the early-to-mid 80s on this side of the border, Mitchell and Co. had much more success up in The Great White North, and why not? Compared to most Canuck bands of the time (Loverboy, Triumph, Santers, etc), Max Webster musically towered over the whole sad lot of ‘em, with only Rush superceding them in fan support and ticket sales. LIVE MAGNETIC AIR, recorded I believe in 1980, features a spirited set of ten of their best songs, both straightforward rockers (“Gravity”, “Lip Service”) as well as more progressive work like the Tullish “In Context of the Moon” and their signature track, “Paradise Skies”, both of which feature sterling playing by drummer Gary McCracken and keyboard man Terry Watkinson. I prefer their studio stuff (the mix here is a little samey throughout), but this is solid craftsmanship regardless. By the way, Kim Mitchell (who left to go solo in 1981) finally parted ways with longtime confederate Dubois, only to record the worst, most desultory “rock” of his career. There may have been more than wackiness in Pye’s arsenal after all.
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After waiting for years, I can’t believe the mighty Max Machine is FINALLY available on CD. Kim Mitchell is one of the most underated and unknown guitar/vocalist around. Listen to this live CD and experience all the wacky twist’s and turn’s that Max Webster was famous for. Then save your money, because you’ll want to buy All of the Max Webser/Kim Mitchell CD’s available.