Canned Wheat / Share the Land

THE GUESS WHO: Canned Wheat (Buddha)Continuing with their reissue program for The Guess Who's old RCA catalog, Buddah recently released two more titles: Canned Wheat and Share the Land. So far, everything they've reissued sounds dramatically better than the band's original RCA CDs. Canned Wheat continues this trend. Share the Land never sounded bad to begin with, but now it sounds even better. Both CDs include expanded liner notes, plus bonus tracks taken from the long out of print album, The Way They Were.

Canned Wheat was The Guess Who's second album for RCA, containing the hits "Laughing" and "Undun." It also included the original version of "No Time," later re-recorded for the American Woman album. The later version is the one that you're familiar with. The original has an extended intro and outro, plus a different guitar solo by Randy Bachman. Musically, this was always my least favorite album of the band's catalog. Still, there are quite a few tracks worth mentioning (besides the hits).

"Old Joe" is one of the better tunes on Canned Wheat, featuring a theme that would show up later on "Those Show Biz Shoes," a song from the band's Artificial Paradise album. Another highlight on the CD is "Of a Dropping Pin." Originally recorded during the band's ill-fated London sessions, this version is a bit more polished than the earlier one. The album's centerpiece is the ambitious, 11-minute "Key." Reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird," the song gives everyone in the band the chance to stretch out a bit--especially drummer Garry Peterson, who turns in an extended solo.

There were a couple production problems on Canned Wheat. Several copies of the CD were pressed and released with a different bonus track ("Miss Frizzy") instead of the one that was listed on the jewel box ("Species Hawk"). Unfortunately for the collectors out there, there's no way to tell which 'version' of the CD you're getting until you put it in your CD player. The other problem concerns the way the songs are tracked. Five of the songs have 'interludes' before them. In every instance, these 'interludes' are part of the previous song on the CD. None of this affects the music in any way, as long as you're listening to the CD from start to finish. The problem only occurs when you try to go to a specific track.

THE GUESS WHO: Share the Land (Buddha)Shortly after the American Woman sessions, there was a nasty confrontation between the four members of the group. Cummings, Peterson, and bassist Jim Kale accused Bachman of trying to manipulate the group for his own personal gains, eventually deciding to kick Bachman out of the band. Phone calls were placed to Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw--at the time, two of the hottest guitarists on the Canadian music scene. Winter was more of a ballsy, blues-based guitarist, while Leskiw had more of a laid-back country/jazz feel to his playing. Although they had already recorded some tracks with Bachman, they decided to scrap everything and start from scratch with the new lineup. The result was the diverse, yet highly successful album, Share the Land. The band traveled to Hawaii for a couple weeks to put the finishing touches on the tracks, and then went to Chicago to do the final recording.

Looking at the songs on Share the Land, it's no wonder that five of the album's eight original tracks made it to the band's greatest hits collection, The Best of The Guess Who. There's not a bad cut to be found. The hits speak for themselves, but the rest of the songs easily stand up on their own as well. "Moan For You Joe" features some tasty guitar work from Leskiw, and he contributes some fine pickin' on "Coming Down Off the Money Bag." "Three More Days" is a nine-minute workout, similar to what Traffic was doing at the time, and featuring Cummings' only flute solo on the record. As if the album wasn't good enough on its own, Share the Land now has two bonus tracks. The first of which, "Palmyra," is a great song that should've been released in the first place. Based on a riff similar to "No Time," this is easily the best of the bonus tracks on these two CDs.

It's great to see these albums finally getting the treatment they deserve. Aside from the minor production problems mentioned above, the folks at Buddah have done a great job with the recent reissues from The Guess Who. The sound quality has been superb (far surpassing the original vinyl), and the packaging has been outstanding (with new liner notes, photos, and bonus tracks). All they need to do now is release the rest of the band's RCA catalog.

© 2000 Steve Marshall