Released: August 1974
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 50
Certified Gold: 8/23/74
Imagine Black Sabbath without the instrumental dynamism and lyrical vision; imagine Led Zeppelin without pyrotechnics: What you're imagining is the Bachman-Turner Overdrive -- a lowest common-denominator rock band that's found immense commercial success in a stylistic limbo between heavy-metal and MOR rock. They rely heavily on the basics to convey their musical message, but unlike 99% of their competition, BTO give the impression that the basics are about all they have to offer.
Not Fragile breaks no new ground, but BTO's first two albums had already demonstrated that such a concept is of little concern to this band. BTO prefer to rely on an already familiar formula -- grab a chunky guitar riff, have all four instruments pound it into the ground in unison, add guitar solos and you've got a song. Lyrics are used, but not so much sung as shouted over the instrumental din. It's a very simplistic operation, but what BTO lack in imagination, subtlety, technique, structural dynamics, flash et al., they more than compensate with lots of volume.
Of the album's nine songs, "Not Fragile" possesses the most effective basic riff (and is therefore the best song). Other highlights include the onomatopoetic "Sledgehammer," in which Randy Bachman compares an ex-girlfriend to the title object, and "Free Wheelin'," an instrumental that sounds like all the other songs except that it has no vocals.
But it's hard not to like this album and BTO. For like the early Stooges albums, the group's records are commendable for their no-nonsense directness: BTO hasn't much to say, but they don't bore the listener by trying to find cutesy ways to belabor the fact. While their concrete instrumental moves and simplistic themes remind me of a high school band that's attained basic proficiency only through years of incessant practice, the end product of BTO's labors sounds great when it's turned up loud. And that's a lot more than can be said for some of the offerings of BTO's more talented brethren.
- Gordon Fletcher, Rolling Stone, 10-24-74.
There is nothing in the playing of rock like getting the fundamentals right, especially the beat, as the Rolling Stones proved. But in the singing of rock the fundamentals count for lot less than a hotshot personality, as the Rolling Stones also proved. Randy Bachman left the Guess Who, with its fine and successful singing by Burton Cummings and its so-so luck with the fundamentals, in order to found this band, which, as he says, is "totally into a basic type of 'beat' rock-and-roll." It would seem simpler to improve the rhythm section of the Guess Who -- unless, of course, personalities were involved there, as they no doubt were. Bachman apparently wanted to sing more, and his new partner, C. F. Turner, seems willing to let the vocals be split 60-40 in favor of Randy. So we have a band here that does the basic things very well; it is difficult to imagine the importance of the beat in rock until you've heard a band that is really tight. But we also find a band here with no positive identifying marks on its singers, and that's a problem. The material, no surprisingly, is solid, no-nonsense stuff, reminiscent of the early Guess Who tunes Bachman helped write -- nothing very profound is attempted, but, again, the work on the basics is scrupulous, and "Roll Down the Highway" is downright captivating. The guitar solos, by Randy and Blair Thompson, may eventually define a style by which the band can be identified -- I've always thought Bachman's way of slurring high notes was pretty stylish -- but it would be easier on all of us if the vocals were doing that.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 1/75.
With their third LP, Bachman-Turner have evolved into what is quite possibly the best of current North American crop of pounding, wall of sound bands. The BTO formula is one of simplicity combined with excellence, as the band concentrates first and foremost on pure rock with no frills. Yet the group possesses such fine guitarists in Randy Bachman and Blair Thornton, such excellent writers in Bachman and C.F. Turner and such marvelously unrestrained singing in Bachman and Turner that their simplicity becomes a basic guide to what current rock is all about. BTO have broken through to the Top 40 crowd and they've had the FM'ers since they began, and this set of nine hard driving, easy to listen to, pure rock is easily the best thing they've come up with yet. Best cuts: "Rock Is My Life And This Is My Song," "Free Wheelin'," "Sledgehammer," "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."
- Billboard, 1974.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive owes its identity -- and its platinum LP -- to Randy Bachman's lyrics: Top 40 rockers about hard work and trying to make good that usually talk to you and leave you singing. Unfortunately, Not Fragile won't. A couple of cuts do hit that B.T.O. push-button AM single sound -- so you may find yourself humming a little and having what passes these days for a good time -- but the album is mainly rock 'n' roll at its undistinguished best. Which is to say that it sounds in various places a little bit like any rock group you'd care to name -- practically a summary of the form. So if your Ten Years After is out on loan, and Creedence is lost in the stacks, turn up B.T.O. and hum away.
- Playboy, 12-74.
These vulgar Americans, have they no culture of their own? The Who, plodding slightly, is here rotated to reveal... guess who? Black Sabbath, that's who, without the horseshit necromancy. And I love every stolen riff, if not every original one. B
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Featuring the #1 "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," this is the band's best noncompilation album. * * * *
- Donna DiChario, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
A strong record which features the still-popular hits "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" and "Roll On Down the Highway." * * * *
- William Hanson, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
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