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The Guess Who

RCA 0636
Released: January 1975
Chart Peak: #48
Weeks Charted: 9

Look, I'd be jealous too. Burton Cummings, longtime lead singer of the Guess Who, has to live with the embarrassing reality that his ex-cohort and lead guitarist Randy Bachman is burning up the American charts with Bachman-Turner Overdrive while he, cowriter with Bachman of several hits ("These Eyes," "No Time," "American Woman"), languishes in the lower echelons of the Top 40 with the current edition of the Guess Who. To add injury to insult, the Guess Who actually made a pretty good album last year, Road Food, only to eke out two close-call singles from it, one quite good ("Star Baby"), the other a modest success ("Clap for the Wolfman").

But the old nemesis of BTO haunted Burton. So, wham-bang, howzabout an image change? Sure enough, the cover of Flavours features the fellows dressed mod and promising to scintillate with all the flash of a tarnished pan. Cummings also decided to beef up the band's attack by adding Dom Troiano, formerly guitarist for the James Gange and, by reputation at least, a "musician's musician."

Sadly, somebody missed a turn somewhere down the line. The sweetness of Cummings's vocal fails to mesh with the misplaced complexity of Troiano's playing, and the new lineup seems eager to forego the pleasures of pithy pop -- which, after all, is what the Guess Who have always excelled at. Instead we get sheer embarrassments like Cummings trying to sing C&W ("Seems like I Can't Live with You, but I Can't Live without You" -- dedicated to the memory of Gram Parsons) and Troiano trying to "stretch out" (on "Long Gone," which also features such pungent lines as "I guess you've always been a power-hungry specimen").

RCA's advance flak on "Long Gone" waxed eloquent: "Troiano really gets loose with an eat-your-heart-out Mahavishnu John McLaughlin guitar lick." Eat your heart out? Make mine BTO, please.

- Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 3/27/75.

Bonus Reviews!

This group continues to amaze everyone with change after musical change. Still, the focal point of the music falls on the shoulders of the talented pianist/vocalist Burton Cummings. On this effort, the band has slimmed down to four and added one of the finer rock guitarists in many years, Dom Troiano. This album should get a lot of airplay and it will help to secure the group's hold on longevity. Best cuts: "Dancin' Fool," "Nobody Knows His Name," "Digging Yourself," "Eye," "Loves Me Like A Brother."

- Billboard, 1975.

The Burton Cummings part of this group always wanted it to be the Doors, Santana, and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap all rolled into one. This rather monstrous goal has finally been realized. Personally, I always preferred the part that wanted to be Bachman-Turner Overdrive. C

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

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