Max Webster - The band to break in 1977
By J. J. LindenToronto-based Anthem recording group Max Webster, not so long ago a seemingly permanent fixture in the Ontario barroom and high school scene, have suddenly shifted into high gear with a new album release and major concert tours with such names as A&M;'s Styx and fellow Anthem group Rush, plus a triple encore headline date at Toronto's Massey Hall. The group's ascent toward top headliner status has been culminated to this point by their choice by a poll of some of Canada's major critics as the act to break internationally in 1977.
The climb toward the top began essentially, in May of 1976 with the release of their first album, titled after their name, on Taurus Records, a label owned by their management firm, Toronto-based SRO Productions.
Max Webster began their major concert career as special guests on the Rush's three-day spectacle at Toronto's Massey Hall, a series which was marked by the recording of Rush's double live gold album 'All The World's A Stage'.
In January of 1977, the group's career received another major boost when they signed an international recording deal for the world, except Canada, with Mercury Records. Following the deal, Mercury released the debut album in the U.S., repackaged and retitled Hangover. With the U.S. release, SRO decided to begin touring the band in the U.S.
Max Webster then embarked on the first of two major concert tours of the U.S. Midwest and Northeast as special guests with Rush, who were beginning to break big in the U.S. The tours, roughly 30 stops each, saw Max met by appreciative audiences at most of the dates, including major halls and arenas in cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis.
Anthem's Tom Berry feels the tours were a major factor in the group's development as a tight, confident onstage act, inasmuch as their performance was fine-honed by the pressure of opening in front of large packed houses completely unfamiliar with their material.
Berry's feeleing has been profoundly borne out on two occasions to date. Following the first tour, the group returned to Toronto for their first ever concert headline, a double show March 26 at the New Yorker Theatre.
After the second tour with Rush, the band returned to Toronto foar a Massey Hall headline debut June 9 which showed even more growth, as they completely captivated the large audience and earned a triple encore.
The Massey Hall concert was marked by material from the group's second album, the first new album on the Anthem label titled 'High Class In Borrowed Shoes'. The album was released in May, simultaneously with its U.S. release on Mercury. Sales and airplay figures already show both album and band breaking nationally.
Immediately following the Toronto concert, the group embarked on a third major special guest tour, this time behind A&M; recording group Styx on an 11-stop major western Canada tour. Again they were met with considerable support, enhanced even more by a week's outing at Vancouver's Bodyshop immediately afterward, the week of June 27.
The Max Webster stage show is a highly energetic display of sound and cation, ranging from the heaviest metal to gentle ballads, and even featuring the occasional acoustic solo by front man Kim Mitchell. The band consists of Mitchell on guitars and lead vocals, bassist Mike Tilka, keyboard player Terry Watkinson and drummer Gary McCracken. Tilka and Watkinson add supporting vocals, as do the Maxettes, a pair of female vocalists who occasionally appear with the group.
A fifth, non-performing member of the band is lyricist Pye Dubois, a former psychotherapist at the Clarke Institute in Toronto, lends a touch of insanity to the group's image with his unusual lyrics.
For Max Webster, the future holds continuing growth and career development. SRO reports plans in the making for a northern Ontario headline tour in August, including a concert stop in Ottawa, where the group have had considerable success with their albums and previous engagements. The dates will mark the group's first headline concert tour ever, and will be opened by another Anthem group, A Foot In Cold Water, who also opened for the Massey Hall date.