American Woman
(Cisco Music / RCA)

THE GUESS WHO: American Woman (Cisco Music / RCA)We get a lot of vinyl releases here at The Night Owl. Some of them are good; some are not. Then there are the ones that blow you away as soon as the needle drops into the groove. We recently checked out Cisco Music’s vinyl pressing of The Guess Who's third RCA album, American Woman. As a huge fan of the group, I have to admit, I've heard the album thousands of times and know every single note. However, I was completely blown away by this 180g vinyl pressing. Why, you ask? This marks the first time that the actual master tapes have been used on any release of this album--vinyl or CD. The clarity throughout is breathtaking.

The first side of the album starts in its usual unassuming fashion, with the acoustic intro to the title track. As soon as the electric guitars come in, followed by the bass & drums, it's clear that this is not your father's copy of American Woman. On "No Time," the compressed sound you’ve been used to is long gone, replaced with a new open sense of airiness. You can easily pick out the individual vocal tracks, and the overdubbed electric and acoustic guitars now sound like there are individual musicians are playing them.

"Talisman" was always a showcase for Randy Bachman (guitars) & Burton Cummings (lead vocals and piano), and now, even more so. The separation on the acoustic guitars is excellent. As the guitars fade after the vocals, Cummings' shimmering piano brings the song to a beautiful close.

One of the things that really stands out now is Jim Kale's bass guitar, especially on "No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature." The sound quality is superb throughout the song, and all of the instruments and vocals are distinct and well defined--especially when "New Mother Nature" comes in.

The second side of the album starts with the instrumental, "969 (The Oldest Man)." The track's jazzy interlude sounds especially clear, and features great effortless drumming from the hugely underrated Garry Peterson. Likewise on two of my personal favorites, "8:15" and "Proper Stranger." Although most people probably aren't familiar with these songs, ask any fan about them and they're sure to agree that these are two of the band's best.

"Humpty's Blues" closes the album and you won't find better separation and clarity than on this track. The sparse arrangement truly stands out and the whole song is clear as a bell--an excellent test of your audio system.

The last thing I wanted to mention here is the packaging. The Cisco vinyl comes in a noticeably heavier cover than the original RCA pressing. The cover art has been faithfully reproduced, inside and out (save for the DynaGroove blurb, which has been replaced by the Cisco production notes).

All told, there is literally no other version of this Canadian classic that even comes close in terms of sound quality. If you’re a fan of The Guess Who, this is a must-have for your collection. Hopefully, we’ll see additional titles from the band’s catalog released by Cisco in the near future.

© 2006 Steve Marshall
Purchase this album from Cisco Music