After charting 120 gold/platinum albums and singles and selling 40 million records as a founding member of two legendary rock bands (The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive), you might think Randy Bachman would be content to stick with the tried and true formula fans have come to know over his 40-plus year career.
In fact, he’s doing the exact opposite.
Bachman was with friend Neil Young, a master of reinvention, at the Nashville Musician’s Hall of Fame induction last year. When Bachman told him that he just landed a new record deal, Young shared some wisdom with his fellow Canadian.
"Neil Young looked me sternly in eye and said, ‘Don’t do the same old Randy Bachman stuff and say it’s a new album,'' Bachman recalled. "'Try to find a hidden personality or one that hasn’t been there in a while.’ I thought that was a really great idea, to reinvent myself like Neil does on a regular basis – get some new collaborators, a new band and write some new music."
Bachman decided to go back to the basics, looking to the halcyon days of the early British blues explosion when bands like Cream, The Who and Led Zeppelin molded and twisted American blues standards into a new hard rock sound: heavy blues.
"I really wanted this record to go back to the essence of rock and roll: Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, the blues foundation, the germination of rock n roll," Bachman said.
The result is Bachman’s homage to those blues rock legends "Heavy Blues," 11 tracks of simple, straight ahead, blistering blues-based rock.
The album, released in the U.S. by Linus Entertainment on Wednesday, April 15, features Bachman, a pair of new "sidemen" (actually, sidewomen) and a slew of guest soloists including Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph and the late Jeff Healey.
Bachman is launching an extensive tour in support of "Heavy Blues," and the very first show is right here in Milwaukee on Wednesday, April 1 at 8 p.m. at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino’s Northern Lights Theater.
In keeping with the reinvention theme, Bachman assembled a brand new power trio featuring two classically-trained female musicians who both have played in multiple bands – bassist Anna Ruddick and drummer Dale Anne Brendon – to back him on the album and this tour. "They are both fantastic players," said Bachman. And while the trio only started playing together at the "Heavy Blues" recording sessions, Bachman said the chemistry was instant.
"We recorded 12 songs in five days; it was pretty amazing," Bachman recalled. "We did each song in two or three takes. I instructed the girls to push me, to attack their instruments, and they did. Everything magically came together."
"It is a total risk, but I had nothing to lose and everything to gain," said Bachman. "We nailed it. We were like kids in a candy story, ‘cause we all wanted to eat the same candy, and it tasted great. I think it’s a great album and can’t wait to play it live mixed in with my other hits, which I’ll always honor and perform."
"Heavy Blues" was produced by uber-producer Kevin Shirley, who has worked with rockers such as AC/DC, Rush and Iron Maiden but also recently struck gold with a pair of fantastic blues records with Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart.
"Kevin Shirley owed me a favor and squeezed me in; he gave me two of the three weeks he wasn’t booked in the next two years," Bachman noted.
Bachman said the choice to use Shirley rather than produce the album himself fit well with his goal to produce something different, something beyond his recent work.
"Kevin, as a producer, pushed me beyond my "stop" sign, down roads I never would have gone," Bachman said. "Neil Young had also said to me that when you produce yourself, you do your vocal, your guitar and say, ‘I’m great.’ Have dinner and go to bed. When someone else is producing you, they say, ‘That ain’t so good. You did something better while you were warming up.’ They push you further to amaze yourself and do something new.
"I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out," he continued. "Kevin got some really good vocals out of me – I did things in different keys and had to go for it."
Bachman is excited about introducing his new material and new band to fans both new and old, and he expects to play three to five tracks off the new album alongside 12 to 15 bonafide classic rock hits – including "American Woman," "No Sugar Tonight," "Takin’ Care of Business," "You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet" and more.
"We’re working some of the new stuff in to dovetail with some of the hits; 'Ton of Bricks' leads into 'American Woman,' and 'The Edge' fits perfectly with 'You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.' It’s a great mix of classic rock hits and some new blues – a nice new handshake. We think people will dig it."