Head On focuses on no less than three apologies by leader Randy Bachman for his group’s very existence. Even more oddly, Bachman’s defense rests on moralistic rather than artistic grounds. According to “Average Man,” “Stay Alive” and “Lookin’ Out for #1,” it’s the work ethic that has propelled BTO to the top of the heap.
“Average Man” delineates Bachman’s somewhat paranoid outlook:
They stop and stare at our houses and cars
They settle for less, we reach for the stars
They’re wishing, not working, and that’s not the way
For what comes too easy is soon thrown away
The other two mini-lectures restate the idea in slightly different musical terms: “Lookin’ Out for #1” as light cocktail jazz and “Stay Alive” with three-chord rock & roll.
Bassist C. F. Turner continues to churn out roughhouse blues and boogie with little apparent worry. Not surprisingly, his songs are the most successful on the album, particularly “Take It like a Man” (cowritten with Blair Thornton), which features an unexpected, incongruous and delightful guest appearance by pianist Little Richard. Luckily, Bachman’s work-ethic worries don’t affect his own instrumental work. The group’s non-aggressive power riffs and the neatly arranged interplay between co-lead guitarists Bachman and Blair Thornton remain solid. BTO ought to ignore the less-than-burning question of its place in the universe and get back to taking care of business.