The Guess Who made their name in 1964 as the mysterious group that covered Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over”. Originally called ‘Chad Allen and the Expressions’, Quality Records decided that by removing the name of the artist it would increase interest in the band. By hinting that the members were an amalgamation of artists from British invasion bands the ploy earned The Guess Who national fame.
This collection spans the numerous personnel switches from 1968 – 1974, and has been credited as the “clearest audio restoration” and most well produced collection of The Guess Who’s classic produced. It is actually extremely well produced considering the quality of the original recordings.
The Bachman Years –
The first six tracks of the collection date from the period in which Randy Bachman (later of Bachman - Turner Overdrive) was Lead guitarist. Bachman and Burton Cummings potent lyricism combined to create the ballad’s of These Eyes, Laughing, Undun and the heavier No Time and No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature. Cummings mellow keyboard styles set a great Jazz ambience for the first three tracks, and his vocals rarely receive the credit they deserve. In Undun Cummings vocals are particularly outstanding. Whereas Cummings steals all the plaudits from the first three tracks, Bachman’s lead guitar on No Time and No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature deserves a special mention. Combining great rock riffs to the smooth jazz vibes added an extra dimension to these tracks and provides the perfect sound to ‘mellow out’ too. The famous American Woman needs no descriptions; it was ironically the track which helped the band crack America. Initially started off as a jam session it illustrates each band member’s ability on their given instruments. If you haven’t heard the original song, it really is a must and a lot better than the Lenny Kravitz cover.
Winter/Leskiw era –
Once Bachman left, it was a tall order to pick a replacement, so in stepped Kurt Winters and Greg Leskiw. The following seven tracks depict the brief period of this lineup. Winters took up the lyrical void that was left by Bachman, and wrote Track 7 - Hand Me Down World as well as co-writing Rain Dance,Hang on to Your Life and Heartbroken Bopper. These tracks lost the Jazz essence were prominent in earlier tracks, but what Winter and indeed Leskiw brought to the band was an element of Blues Rock popular at that time. Comparisons can be drawn with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac sound. No track can illustrate that shift more than Cummings’ Share the Land. Winter’s solo’s in this song, Heartbroken Bopper, and Hang on to Your Life are nothing short of exceptional. Cummings’ vocals hit the usual high standards, and accompany the rock driven guitar riffs perfectly to form a formidable partnership. Albert Flasher and Rain Dance bring back Cummings keyboard as a central component of the songs, and are two rhythm and blues orientated tracks. My favourite track Heartbroken Bopper really is a masterpiece of a song. Starting off with some distorted feedback, before diving into yet more blues rock riffage, accompanied by Cummings gruff sounding vocals and a spellbinding Winters solo. It is the star of the collection.
Period of Mass Change –
1972 saw rhythm guitarist Leskiw leave the band along with Bassist Jim Kale, to be replaced with Donnie McDougall and Bill Wallace. The final four tracks with the exception of the final track come from this line up. Despite the few snippets of guitar soloing of Kurt Winters the protest song of Guns, Guns, Guns is fairly unremarkable. Cummings adds a good bit of a piano background, and despite the serious nature of the song against the Hunting of Canadian wildlife it is a fairly weak track. Follow Your Daughter Home is an interesting bit of experimentation the former Jazz/Rock, Blues-Rock band takes a stab at Reggae. Despite the potential pitfalls of this song, and slightly repetitive lyrical content it is a fairly upbeat and fun little number. Star Baby and Clap for the Wolfman are two more upbeat tracks the latter featuring legendary DJ Wolfman Jack, but lack the same dynamism of earlier tracks. The final song Dancin’ Fool includes Kurt Winter’s replacement Domenic Troiano on lead guitar. Cummings vocal range is once again is displayed after the quieter previous songs.
Overall, this is a must have for any Guess Who fan, or any fan of “Classic” Rock/Blues Rock. It contains all the big hits on one CD, that many other collections sadly cannot claim (many ignore the post-Bachman era for example). The production is solid, the clarity is crystal. All in all, it is a fun and enjoyable listen and a great introduction to a band that many have all but forgotten.
Share the land