Saturday, January 02, 2010

Guess Who - Rockin' (1972) & Flavours (1975)

Welcome back! Yes, I've made a resolution to post some new music this year! Actually the move was precipitated by my whole family running their own laptops now and the "Old Man" has his computer back after 6 years or so!

Thought I'd keep it Canadian for the first post of the new decade. The Guess Who were certainly one of the first bands to "break out" of their Canadian shackles and make it big both in the US and internationally as well.

I've always found the Guess Who to be a tough band to categorize or pidgeon hole. They remind me a little bit of the Doors: lots of excellent top-40 hits, extremely catchy tunes, and interesting "weird" albums. Listen to the song "Friends Of Mine" from Wheatfield Soul and tell me that you're not thinking of Jim Morrison when Burt is screaming "And where WAS GOD???" Heady stuff. Other times, I'm not sure what the hell Burton was thinking. I remember at the time that I pretty much lost interest in Guess Who LP's after "Share The Land". Still, I liked the singles off the next group of LPs...

Rockin' (1972) was released after the band's live LP "Live At The Paramount" and featured guitarists Kurt Winter & Greg Leskiw, who were parachuted in after "American Woman" to replace Randy Bachman. The big hit off this LP was "Guns, Guns, Guns" which was kinda weird-yet-catchy, even for 1972. Can't remember the last time a top-40 hit implored, "...God Speed, Mother Nature..."

"Heartbroken Bopper" should have also been a big hit, but just missed the top-30 here in Toronto. I remember CHUM-1050 not even charting this song, but rival CKFH-1430 putting it into their playlist. I always liked Kurt Winter's guitar-style, and thought he added a toughness to the songs he brought to the table. I forget which band Winter was playing with in Winnipeg, but Burton did well to pry him loose. They had been friends for a long time. Kurt died far too early......

However, I think the album sort of got stuck in this 50's time warp. "Your Nashville Sneakers" is a nice ditty, and "Herbert's A Loser" also sounds like something from the Sha-Na-Na days. I won't even mention the cover of "Running Bear" (Johnny Preston with the original, I believe?....hell, I didn't even like this song THEN...).

"Hi Rockers" is some sort of weird Zappa-ish interplay between "Berrrt" and some numbskull whose name I can't quite make out. That's what I mean about the Guess Who. If they'd just stick to making great tunes and cut out this vaudeville shit.

Flavours (1975) came a full 3 LPs later (following "#10", "Artificial Paradise" and "Road Food"). By this time, Winter, Leskiw & Kale had departed and Bill Wallace and legendary guitarist Domenic Troiano were brought in. The big hit on this LP was "Dancin' Fool". Troiano was about the closest thing Burton ever came to finding a similar replacement to Bachman.

I think a lot of people expected a lot more from the guitarist who featured so prominently in BUSH, MANDALA and even THE JAMES GANG. Oh, there are some standout tunes here, including "Diggin' Yourself", "Dirty" and "Long Gone".

At least on this LP, Burton kept the Zappa-isms to a bare minimum. The lesser tracks are at least pleasing to the ear.

These two LPs were difficult to find for awhile, but BMG started reissuing the old LPs and for whatever reason, they decided to pair these two up. While not exactly the greatest pair in the Guess Who canon, each LP has its moments. A fun trip as it were, since the Guess Who would release "Power In The Music" a year later and that would about wrap it up for Burton and the gang.

"Rockin'" (1972)

01 Heartbroker Bopper
02 Get Your Ribbons On
03 Smoke Big Factory
04 Arrividerci Girl
05 Guns, Guns, Guns
06 Running Bear
07 Back To The City
08 Your Nashville Sneaker
09 Herbert's A Loser
10 Hi Rockers - Sea Of Love/Heaven Only Moved Once Yesterday/Don't You Want Me

Burton Cummings - Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Kurt Winter - Guitars
Garry Peterson - Drums
Greg Leskiw - Guitars
Jim Kale - Bass

"Flavours" (1975)

11 Dancin' Fool
12 Hoe Down Time
13 Nobody Knows His Name
14 Diggin' Yourself
15 Seems Like I Can't Live With You, But I Can't Live Without You
16 Dirty
17 Eye
18 Loves Me Like A Brother
19 Long Gone

Burton Cummings - Lead Vocals/Keyboards
Garry Peterson - Percussion & Backing Vocals
Domenic Troiano - Guitars, Mandolin & Backing Vocals
Bill Wallace: Bass & Background Vocals

Guess Who - Rockin' Part One

Guess Who - Flavours Part Two