YOU PICKED IT! – Max Webster – ‘Universal Juveniles’ – Album Review

Alright…You Picked It! And here it is. The one you picked was Max Webster – ‘Universal Juveniles’.  The votes were as follows:

  1. Max Webster – 5 votes
  2. Vandenberg was close behind with 4 votes
  3. Robert Palmer – 3 votes
  4. TLC – 2 votes
  5. David Lee Roth had 2 sort of votes. They both thought it sucked ass and it would be great for me to write a bad review, but they both preferred Max.

Thanks to all for participating.  The August choices will be up on Saturday!

MAX WEBSTER – ‘UNIVERSAL JUVENILES’

I obtained this record when my brother-in-law, Jimmy, let me have his collection as it was just sitting in storage.  The prize of that collection was definitely all the Rush albums.  This album was also in there and I will be honest with you, I had no idea who Max Webster was.  Well, first it isn’t a person, it is a band name with no one named Max Webster in the band. Yeah, I had no idea.

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This got me to wonder, who was in the band and so I found that out…

  • Kim Mitchell – guitar and lead vocals
  • Gary McCracken – Drums
  • Dave Myles – Bass

The band also includes Pye Dubois, but he only helps write the lyrics and doesn’t play on stage.  I think outside of Elton John having Bernie Taupin, this is a very rare thing.  There was also another fun fact I learned and that was out of all 5 of the Max Webster albums, this is the only one that doesn’t have “moon” in one of the song titles.  Wow!! Mind Blown!!  Someone actually is tracking that fact.

The vinyl jacket came with some really cool illustrations and I love the different fonts and creativity used around the lyrics.  This is a cool piece and kept my attention. Might be my favorite part of the album…no, it is.

The album opens very promising with some of Kim Mitchell’s finger magic on the guitar riffs on the song “In the World of Giants”, but quickly loses me on the vocals.  I think his vocals are an acquired taste and not one I’m likely to acquire.  I can tell pretty quickly that this won’t be something for me.  Musically, the guys are pretty awesome as the guitar work is cool and there is some nice piano work by Dough Riley.  A different singer might help because lyrically and vocally it is lacking. There is no real hook to grab you and the choruses aren’t that memorable enough to keep singing after the song is over

“Check” is next and a lot more fun than the opener, but still the vocal issues.  This one is a little more tolerable and I will keep it as the music is a blast and this is a good time song.  “April in Toledo” is another rocking track and the chorus reminds me of Toto for some reason, but that can’t save this hot mess.  It is clunky and a little all over the place.  And don’t get me started on “Juveniles Don’t Stop”.  Another song that musically sounds fantastic, but I can’t get past the vocals. Too bad Autotune wasn’t a thing back then.  I know I am being a bit harsh, but damn!!  At this point, I wish this was strictly an instrumental album.

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Now it isn’t all bad, there are a few saving graces to this album and the first is “Battle Scar”.  “Battle Scar” is saved by Rush playing on the song and with lead vocals being shared by the great Geddy Lee.  Yes, throw in Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson and this is a top notch song.  I think this might be the only reason my brother-in-law had this in his collection. It would be my only reason.  Now I just want to listen to Rush, do I have to finish this album?  Okay, I will finish it.

As I’ve mentioned before, the vocals are horrendous at times and that is especially true on “Chalkers”.  Nothing more I need to say on that.  “Drive and Desire” is another saving grace. “Drive and Desire” has vocals that aren’t so bad.  He is just singing and not trying to do too much like I feel he is doing on the other tracks. The chorus has some punch and the guitar work on this one is the best on the album.  The drum-fills are also the best and I am really digging this one and it gets better with each listen and that isn’t happening on the rest of the album.

The last decent song on the album is “Blue River Liquor Shine”.  The song starts off with some rough lyrics, but gets better with the harmonies on the chorus and the backing vocals.  I still have issues with them, but the song wins me over in the end as the whole package is where it is at.  It is actually a well written song with some fancy guitar work and overall a joy.

Now we get to “What Do You Do With The Urge” and after numerous listens, I couldn’t tell you anything about this song that is how not memorable it is.   And lastly, the mix of “Cry Out For Your Life” is the pits.  The fade in & outs at the end sound like a two year old did the mix.  It is horrid.

Track Listing:

  1. In the World of Giants – Delete
  2. Check – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  3. April in Toledo – Delete
  4. Juveniles Don’t Stop – Delete
  5. Battle Scar – Keeper
  6. Chalkers – Delete
  7. Drive and Desire – Keeper
  8. Blue River Liquor Shine – Keeper
  9. What Do You Do With the Urge – Delete
  10. Cry Out Your Life – Delete

Track Score is only 3 1/2 out of 10 Tracks for a Score of 35%.  Yeah this might be the lowest track score I’ve given in quite awhile.  I hope my Canadian readers don’t get offended, but I am not sure what they see in Max Webster.  Maybe this isn’t the album to start with, but there was nothing to enjoy other than some fine guitar playing that gets overshadowed by the horrendous vocals and production.  This is not one I will listen to again for any reason other than maybe the Geddy Lee/Rush track, I mean, come on, Geddy Lee and Rush. For all I have said above, this gets a 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars which I think is generous.  Sorry, not my cup of tea.  Again, Instrumental album…4.0 Stars easily.  With vocals…uh…no!

27 thoughts on “YOU PICKED IT! – Max Webster – ‘Universal Juveniles’ – Album Review

  1. I like the Webster stuff but I prefer Mitchell’s solo output more. Max is an acquired taste as its quirky and such.
    You gave it a shot John and that’s all anyone can really ask in a review.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As we Canadians say, “Le sigh.”

    OK, truth be told, I didn’t like Max when I first heard them. It was their self titled debut. T-Rev raved about it! But I didn’t get it, at all. Hated it in fact. Thought T-Rev was stoned or something. Five years later, I was given for my birthday all the Max Webster CDs. Suddenly it all clicked.

    So I suggest you schedule this for re-review in 2025!

    I should point out this is the only Max album without keyboardist Terry Watkinson, who usually sang 2-3 songs per album including some major hits like Let Go the Line.

    I will leave you with a song that Kim wrote late in the Max era, but was not recorded by Max because nobody in that band could sing high enough. Kim recorded it on his first solo LP with Peter Fredette singing the chorus. You are just going to love “All We Are”. Sounds like the Cars.

    Liked by 1 person

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