Running Back Thru Canada
(ViK / BMG Canada)

THE GUESS WHO: Running Back Thru Canada (ViK / BMG Canada)The Guess Who went on a cross-country tour of Canada this summer, playing to over 200,000 enthusiastic fans. From the opening drums of "Runnin' Back to Saskatoon," to the acapella ending of "Share the Land," the five Winnipeg natives--Burton Cummings (vocals, piano, flute, harmonica & guitar), Randy Bachman (guitar & vocals), Donnie McDougall (guitar & vocals), Bill Wallace (bass & vocals) and Garry Peterson (drums, percussion & vocals)--proved in no uncertain terms that they were still a force to be reckoned with. I was lucky enough to catch one of the shows on the tour, and let me tell you, the band was amazing. Boasting "no overdubbing, no fixing in the studio, and no adding of musicians," Running Back Thru Canada is the band's new double live CD, and an excellent document of the tour.

"Runnin' Back to Saskatoon" gets things off to a great start, with a killer harmonica solo by Cummings. The arrangement was a bit different on this tour, with Bachman taking three solos in a row instead of one, as on Live at the Paramount. "Guns, Guns, Guns" followed, and it was at this point that McDougall earned a new respect from me. I had always thought of him as more of a rhythm guitarist, but his leads on the song were breathtaking. Before "Rain Dance," Cummings takes time to introduce Peterson as "one of the finest drummers to ever come out of Canada." It's especially fitting here as he serves up some outstanding drum fills in the song. One of the best songs on the tour was "Glamour Boy," Cummings' stab at the music industry. Burton said in a recent interview that, as a vocalist, this is one of the hardest songs for him to sing. You'd never know it by listening--he nails the vocals with ease. The thing that made the song even better was Bachman's stellar solo at the end of the song, taking it to a new level.

Taking the lead from this year's Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tour, The Guess Who basically did a three-part show. The first part was mostly electric, followed by an acoustic set, and then they rocked out for the last hour or so. Cummings told a story of how the band played in coffeehouses when they were starting out (edited out on the CD), then introduced the acoustic set by saying "welcome to the coffeehouse." Although there were no Cummings solo songs in the show, Bachman managed to get three BTO tunes in there. The first of which was a great version of "Looking Out for #1," featuring acoustic solos by both Bachman and McDougall.

"Sour Suite" was beautiful, as always, accentuated by McDougall in the place of the strings that appeared on the studio version. "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" was one the biggest crowd pleasers, and rightly so. Prior to this tour, "Talisman" had never been performed live. The newbies out there probably won't think much of the song, but this one was clearly aimed at the older fans--especially the "Wooden Ships" tease they threw in toward the end. "Let it Ride" was the second BTO tune in the set, only this time it featured a radically different arrangement with great five-part harmonies. Once again, McDougall adds a tasty solo to the song. "Undun" stayed true to the original, with Cummings breaking out the flute for his first solo of the night, proving that he hadn't lost his touch. The biggest surprise, and one of the most enjoyable tunes on the tour, was Artificial Paradise's "Follow Your Daughter Home," with Cummings' extended 'Mexican rap' at the beginning.

Several of the tracks here were taken from the band's hometown show in Winnipeg, which unfortunately for the crowd, was hit by a major thunderstorm, forcing them to cut the show a bit short out of safety concerns for the band. After the storm cleared, the band launched into a fiery13-minute version of "American Woman," complete with the 'roast beef' intro (albeit with transposed verses by Cummings). Although this particular rendition was shorter than some of the others on the tour, it's an inspired performance.

"Albert Flasher" always sounds good, as does "Hand Me Down World" (written by, and dedicated to the band's late lead guitarist, Kurt Winter). "Orly" was one of the songs dropped during the tour, and after hearing the version included here, you can't help but wonder why. McDougall burns up the fretboard with his solos on the song, and the rest of the band is clearly into it. "Takin Care of Business" is pretty much the epitome of classic rock and (even though, for me, the song falls into the 'tired of it' category) this is one of the best performances of the song that you'll ever hear, easily surpassing the original. "Bus Rider" (another song written by Kurt, although the liner notes say otherwise) sounds a bit slower here than the studio version, but aside from Cummings' vocals at the very end, it sounds great. The encores--"No Time" and "Share the Land"--are both showcases for the bands intricate harmonies, and are just as outstanding as everything else on these two CDs.

Running Back Thru Canada is an awesome representation of The Guess Who's summer tour. With the group's recently renewed popularity and ever-increasing exposure via commercials on TV, etc, they seem to be unstoppable right now. There's been talk of a US tour in 2001. If they come to a venue anywhere near you, don't miss them.


Disc One: Runnin' Back to Saskatoon * Guns, Guns, Guns * These Eyes * Rain Dance * Glamour Boy * Lookin' Out For #1 * Sour Suite * No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature * Talisman * Let it Ride * Undun * Follow Your Daughter Home

Disc Two: American Woman * Albert Flasher * Hand Me Down World * Orly * Takin' Care of Business * Laughing * Clap For the Wolfman * Bus Rider * No Time * Share the Land

© 2000 Steve Marshall

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