| THE GUESS WHO:
This Time Long Ago (Ranbach Music)
Randy Bachman came up with the idea of releasing a collection of The Guess Who's rare and unreleased tracks during last summer's highly successful reunion tour. Apparently Bachman is quite the packrat. His personal collection includes tour books, contracts, test pressings, singles You name it. If there's something related to The Guess Who, Randy's got it. "You have these things and you wonder: will anybody care? Now I kind of feel that there are enough fans out there who do care," said Bachman in a recent interview. "When it is all put together, it really shows where the band came from, where we were and maybe where we were going. It was the breaking out of the cocoon."
The tracks on This Time Long Ago (currently available at www.randybachman.com) were recorded between 1966-68 in Minneapolis, London and the band's hometown of Winnipeg, where The Guess Who was the house band on CBC-TV's Let's Go/Music Hop and Where It's At. The CDs can be broken up into roughly three sections. The first consists of five songs recorded in Minneapolis in late 1966 (the band's first session with Burton Cummings). Up next are four songs from the failed London sessions in 1967, and finally, 19 tracks from various television appearances. Several of the cuts would later appear on the band's first three RCA albums.
Disc one gets off to a slow start with the pop clunker, "His Girl," but picks up quickly with the fuzzed-out rocker, "It's My Pride." On the Kinks-like "Croyez-moi," Cummings came up with the idea to try to sing in French. With the help of his high school French teacher, Burton and the boys manage to pull off the laughable (yet charming) take. "It was so bad at the time that we didn't want to release it," Bachman says with a laugh. "But now, it is so bad it is cute to hear." "This Time Long Ago" and "Miss Felicity Grey" sound great--much better than the old, scratchy singles. Bachman's moody "There's No Getting Away From You" is slightly different, with a trumpet part at the end.
Up next are two covers--the Blue Cheer version of "Summertime Blues" and The Troggs' "Love is All Around," which features bassist Jim Kale & Burton sharing the vocal chores. "Summertime Blues" sounds great; "Love is All Around" is best filed under the 'cool to have, but not something you'll play more than once or twice' category. The first of two versions of "Pretty Blue Eyes" was recorded as a joke, in hopes of getting out of their record contract. Recorded at Gar Gillies' Garnet amplifiers shop, the song features Burton singing through a megaphone and drummer Garry Peterson playing an electric drill and a Coke bottle. It's also notable for the classic line, "I love you more than fertilizer." Nice lyrics, Burton... "We're Coming to Dinner" is basically the same as the version on Wheatfield Soul, only with members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra helping out. Still, very cool.
Disc two starts with two versions of "Light My Fire"--first the Jose Feliciano version with strings, and then an almost note-for-note cover of The Doors' classic single. The song has some distortion on the keyboards, but they did a great job. Cummings has always been a huge Jim Morrison fan, and I'm sure The Lizard King would have approved of their rendition. "These Eyes" sounds like it may have been taken from an acetate; you can hear minor surface noise on the track. "A Wednesday in Your Garden" has always been a personal favorite, and Kale's bass on the track sounds great. This version is slightly different, missing the multi-tracked vocals on the chorus.
When I saw "When Friends Fall Out" in the track listing, I was hoping for the single version. Unfortunately (without doing an A/B comparison), this rendition just sounds like the one on American Woman. The psychedelic intro from the single is missing, and overall, it just sounds like the 'regular' version. The band gets more help from the WSO on "Maple Fudge" and "I Found Her in a Star." The latter song is missing the guitar parts. On "6 A.M. or Nearer," Burton's voice sounds surprisingly more mature than on the version that would later appear on Canned Wheat.
"I'm in the Mood For Love" finds Cummings in lounge singer mode, and there's a slight bit of distortion on Bachman's tasteful guitar solo. In a classic case of genre juxtaposition, the next track is a blistering cover of Cream's "White Room." Once again, Kale's bass sounds great, and Bachman's solo is incendiary. Wrapping things up on disc two is a noticeably different take of "Friends of Mine." The band gets help from members of the WSO again, the 'Magical Mystery Tour' section has different lyrics, the 'gallows' section is faster, and there is a sax solo at the end instead of Cummings' organ solo.
This Time Long Ago captures the band's evolution from a cover-oriented unit to the original songwriting powerhouse they would become in the next few years. With the comprehensive essay by John Einarson and a handful of vintage photos, this album is an excellent complement to the legacy of The Guess Who and is essential for fans.
|© 2001 Steve Marshall|