Road Food / Power in the Music / So Long, Bannatyne / #10 / Rockin' / Flavours / Artificial Paradise / Wheatfield Soul
(BMG Canada)

You've probably heard the old adage: "if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is." This is the perfect description of the 4 new 'two-fer' releases from The Guess Who. Fans have been clamoring for these 8 albums (3 of which had never been available on CD) since Buddah abandoned the band's reissue program back in 2000, leaving fans to make do with their scratchy old vinyl.

When BMG Canada announced that they were going to reissue the band's remaining RCA catalog, fans were thrilled. Unfortunately, the end result didn't live up to the hype. In fact - all 4 of these discs are inferior to their vinyl counterparts. All four discs say that they were 'remastered from the original masters.' As someone who has had the original vinyl versions of these albums for years, I can say, without any doubt, that this is not the case.

All of the albums have been compressed to the point where there is little or no dynamic range left. In some instances, songs have been edited, mixed differently, and/or equalized to make them sound 'better.' The artwork and liner notes have been reproduced from the original albums (most of them anyway), but that's about the only good thing I can say about them. After listening to these CDs, I find it very hard to believe that anyone involved with the band had anything to do with their release.

THE GUESS WHO: Road Food / Power in the Music (BMG Canada)Let's talk specifics. Since the pairing of the albums have nothing to do with each other aside from the fact that they would fit on a single disc, I'll go down the line by catalog numbers. The first disc combines Road Food (1974) with the band's last RCA album, Power in the Music (1976). Most of the tracks on Road Food lack bass, and all of them suffer from too much compression. Burton Cummings' lead vocals are mixed too low on "Attila's Blues" and "Don't You Want Me." "One Way Road to Hell" fades out early. "Pleasin' for Reason" and the title track have too much bass, and the latter fades out slightly early.

Power in the Music doesn't fare any better. The entire album (especially the first half) is compressed. The high end is boosted a bit on "Down and Out Woman." The end vocals on "Dreams" are buried in the mix, and Bill Wallace's intricate bass work is now lost in the mix. Cummings' spoken word parts in "Rich World, Poor World" are buried as well. One of the worst jobs on any of the tracks is on "Rosanne," when the intro is actually faded in. The title track (which is incorrectly listed as "Shopping Bag Lady" in the lyrics) has dropouts at 6:12 and 6:21 into the song.

THE GUESS WHO: So Long, Bannatyne / #10 (BMG Canada)So Long, Bannatyne (1971) has the best overall sound of all the albums. However, there are problems here too. The sound quality is rather sterile, and once again the vocals should be louder on some tracks. Equalization varies from song to song. The guitar solo in the middle of "Grey Day" seems to disappear instead of panning back and forth between the channels. "One Man Army" sounds good, but the mix isn't right. The strings in "Sour Suite" suffer due to the high end being rolled off.

#10 (1973) suffers from entirely too much bass on most of the album. Compression rears its ugly head once again on "Musicione." "Miss Frizzy" sounds fairly decent, although the vocals (once again) should be louder. "Self Pity" is the only track on the album that sounds like it should. The rest of the album's second side has way too much bass and "Just Let Me Sing" is a compressed mess.

THE GUESS WHO: Rockin' / Flavours (BMG Canada)1972's Rockin' ranks as one of The Guess Who's best (if not, the best) albums. The mix is closer the original than any of the other albums. It's not exact, but it's close. There are dropouts during the fade on "Get Your Ribbons On" along with some major equalization on "Heaven Only Moved Once Yesterday"--effectively ruining the song. The rest of the album is about as close to the original vinyl as you're going to get with these CDs.

Pairing Rockin' with Flavours (1975) is the musical equivalent of mixing apples and oranges. We're talking two completely different bands at this point in the group's history. The equalization and mix on most of Flavours is just plain terrible. Cummings' piano is buried on "Dancin' Fool" and the vocals are too loud. The acoustic guitar on "Hoe Down Time" sounds unnatural now, due to the EQ boost. From there, it's one extreme to the other. "Nobody Knows His Name" has too much bass. "Diggin' Yourself" has been compressed and the high end is muffled. "Seems Like I Can't Live with You…" suffers from too much bass and major noise reduction at the end. "Dirty" also has major equalization and compression, and awful noise reduction at the end. The rest of the album doesn't fare any better.

THE GUESS WHO: Wheatfield Soul /  Artificial Paradise (BMG Canada)Last up is Wheatfield Soul (1969) paired with Artificial Paradise (1973)--which is just as bad as pairing Rockin' with Flavours. Wheatfield Soul was the band's first RCA album, and contained the million selling "These Eyes." Unfortunately, it's also one of the worst sounding albums here. The vocals have been pushed back in the mix, and the equalization (low and high) is horrible. You'll notice it as soon as you hit the play button. "These Eyes" sounded better on AM radio than it does here. The rest of the songs are no better. This album and Flavours are the worst in the series.

Artificial Paradise (along with Flavours and Power in the Music) was one of the three albums never released on CD. Packaged in a paper 'sleeve,' this album was loaded with goodies--most of which are duplicated in much smaller form in the liners of the new CD. While the album was never one of the band's better sounding efforts, it still sounded better than it does here. The equalization and vocal mix isn't nearly as bad as it is on Wheatfield Soul, but it's still not right. And as is the case with most of the material reviewed here, there is too much compression as well.

The bottom line here is that unless you feel the need to throw your money away on these CDs, hang on to your old vinyl or look for a new copy in your local used record shop or maybe on eBay. These CDs should be avoided.

© 2004 Steve Marshall

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