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Live at the Paramount

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(35 Reviews)

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  • This album contains the most Canadian rock and roll song every recorded, “Runnin Back To Saskatoon”. This band from Winnipeg sure wasn’t thinking about other markets when they recorded their song ‘about a town where nothing much ever happens,called Saskatoon’. The album showcases the talents of the late great Kurt Winter as a guitarist. It’s a tribute to Kurt that when Randy Bachman plays Guess Who songs penned by Kurt the solos sound as if Kurt is playing. The album has a slightly slowed down, (mellow) feel. The reissue includes some great versions of hit singles not released on the original album.

    Posted on November 20, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • At last! The Guess Who’s great LIVE AT THE PARAMOUNT album has been re-issued with bonus tracks and digital re-mastering. Originally released in 1972, PARAMOUNT gave instant FM credibility to the band with such cuts as “Runnin’ Back To Saskatoon” and the extended version of “American Woman.” The timeliness of the release was critical, in that it captured the band at the height of its musical power, with singer/keyboardist Burton Cummings front and center. The critical success far out-stripped the commercial on this release, and that is exactly what the band were hoping for. Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs called it “the band’s magnum opus so far,” adding “The ‘Woman’ alone, starting with a long sloppy medium tempo blues, proves that Burton can improvise the best gauche jive lyrics since the Lizard King himself. Who else but Burton or Jimbo would have the nerve to actually begin a song with the line ‘Whatchew goona do, mama, now that the roast beef’s gone?’ And he plays harmonica better than anyone since Keith Relf.” Guitarist Kurt Winter soars… and drummer Garry Peterson proves definitively that he is the best drummer to come out of Canada, ever! (Yes, better than Peart and that guy from Triumph). His solo on “Awmerican Woman” is breathtaking…. But it is Cummings’ show, and he carries the day splendidly. He displays his vast intrumental abilities by covering the piano, harmonica, and the guitar, but it is his voice that makes him special, and he plays that instrument better than anyone else in the business. Deft enough to sing ballads (“These Eyes” and “Sour Suite”, both bonus tracks added to the new release), blues (“Pain Train” and the prologue to “American Woman”), and good old-fashioned rock and roll (“Albert Flasher”), Burton proves once again why his fans refer to him simply as “The Voice.” In 1972, Burton was a rock and roll renegade, an otusider unwilling to play the glam game or bow to musical trends. As Alan Neister wrote in ROLLING STONE Magazine: “Burton Cummings may be a punk, but fortunately he’s a punk with considerable rock consciousness…. It is the punky arrogance of Cummings that makes this whole package so downright neat.” This re-issue coincides with a re-union tour of Canada, in which Cummings and co-founders Randy Bachman and Garry Peterson have rejoined with former members Donnie McDougall and Bill Wallace for a successful Canadian tour (supposedly headed for the US in the fall). Perhaps it is all designed to give them the exposure necessary to get this great Canadian treasure into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (where they CERTAINLY belong). Whatever the motivation, this is a scintillating album, and it belongs in the CD library of every serious student of the genre. “This may be the best live album of [1972],” Lester Bangs observed. “[...] Get this and play it loud and be the first on your block to become a public nuisance.” I concur whole-heartedly

    Posted on November 20, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • WOW! Finally someone at RCA/BMG has gotten off their duff and begun a serious attempt at remastering and re-archiving the Guess Who’s back catalog of gems (through the Buddha label)! This concert was recorded in late May of 1972 at Seattle’s Paramount Theater and consists of Burton Cummings (vocals, piano, flute and harmonica), Jim Kale (bass and vocals), Kurt “The Walrus” Winter (guitars), Gary “Humpty” Peterson (drums) and newcomer Donnie “Dooner” McDougall (accoustic and electric guitar and vocals). This tour was in support of the LP Rockin’ (of which, intriguingly, there isn’t a single track of on this album). Greg Leskiw had just quit the band and had been replaced literally overnight by Donnie (also a Winnipeggan, who was gifted with an incredibly beautiful voice). The band was originally going to record live at Carnegie Hall a few nights hence, but Burton lost his voice and the date was cancelled on short notice. The recording date was rescheduled for the Paramount, giving Donnie some time to better gel with the tight rock’n'roll ship of the Guess Who. The band plays with energetic – albeit a bit stoned – rock’n'roll drive, showcasing the Guess Who in their native element – prairie-stomping and rocking out in concert. I was ecstatic when RCA/BMG first re-issued the LP on CD, but that remastering was little more than a direct analog-to-digital transfer. This newly remastered project by Buddha Records, complete with six additional songs from that original concert set has been meticulously and lovingly crafted. The sound is so much brighter and defined, and, audio snob that I am, I notice several almost – ALMOST – inaudible drop-outs have been corrected (bonus points to the remastering engineer!). The highs are much more pronounced and the mids have a clarity absent on the first CD issue. If only every Guess Who release could be remastered and repackaged like this… HINT! HINT! Gary’s drums thunder with authority, especially his several minutes of no-holds-barred drum solo riding out the end of American Woman before the jazz-jam beginnings of the juggernaut Truckin’. Burton’s vocals pierce with heart-felt clarity and nuance. Kurt’s trademark icy needle-like leads are crisp and livid. Donnie’s warmer guitar tone is more distinct. Jim’s bass lines, however, are still quite muddy. As far as the source material is limited, there’s probably not much than could be done (my personal opinion is that the tonality of future Guess Who bassist Bill Wallace would be more favorable in a live concert recording environment). The extra songs and the original order almost make this a copmpletely new release! Those harmony vocals are so splendid (And Donnie’s high falsettos fit in with Burton’s gritty vibrato so well)! This is trully a masterpiece of remastering technique and feel! And now the big question – WHEN IS ARTIFICIAL PARADISE GOING TO BE REMASTERED ON CD? (and Flavours, and #10, and etc…)

    Posted on November 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • The original Live At The Paramount has always been a sentimental favourite of mine, but this re-release with extra tracks is truly an outstanding album. It’s sentimental to me, because Running Back to Saskatoon blew me away back in 1972 and made me a young Guess Who fan immediately. Another reviewer here said it best, Pain Train just explodes right off the bat. It fits much better at the beginning of the concert, where it actually occurred. The Guess Who really hit a peak at this time I think, the Kurt Winter era is much underpraised, with all due respect to Randy Bachman. Burton Cummings is in superb voice and is brilliant on “Saskatoon” especially. Imagine my reaction during the 2000 Running Back Through Canada tour stop in Toronto when the Guess Who launched into the Paramount version of American Woman (whatchoo gonna do baby, now that the Roast Beef’s gone?) Brilliant! It’s long and ragged at times, but I love that long version of American Woman on this album. New Mother Nature is missing its twin No Sugar Tonight (a shot at Bachman no doubt, who wrote the latter) but it rolls along nicely on its own in a mid-tempo groove. Additional added numbers like “Sour Suite” and “Hand Me Down World” work beautifully, and the sound seems a lot sharper. Outstanding live album. For similar albums from the era try Guess Who #10 (hard to find outside Canada) and Rockin’ (ditto).

    Posted on November 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Hot on the heels of their recent Canadian tour, The Guess Who just released an expanded version of Live at the Paramount. The new disc features new liner notes and photos, plus six bonus tracks, for a total of 75 minutes of great music. Originally recorded over two nights at the Seattle venue, this album dispelled any previous notions that they were `just a pop band.’ Paramount showed in no uncertain terms that The Guess Who could rock with the best of them. One listen to the 17-minute rendition of “American Woman,” “Pain Train” or “No Time” makes that point perfectly clear. The album has stood up to the test of time, and remains one of the most popular in the band’s catalog.For the new CD, the producers went back to the original 16-track master tapes from the first show (the second night was deemed “a waste of tape”) and remastered the whole shebang. The songs were restored to their original order in the set, and the sound quality couldn’t be better. Most of the stage banter between songs has been restored as well. The Paramount shows were two of the first to feature new guitarist, Don McDougall, and he fit in perfectly. His vocals and guitar work added a lot to the group, and he brought in additional songwriting abilities to boot.Starting with an blistering version of “Pain Train,” the album gets off to a rocking start as soon as you hit the play button. The song’s a showcase for Kurt Winter’s searing guitar licks, and he really lets loose. The band played three new songs during the show, the first of which was “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon.” Critics considered the song a bold move at the time, because the chorus reads like a lesson in Canadian cities. Be that as it may, the one thing that you can’t argue with is that it’s a great song and a longtime favorite among fans. Up next is the first of the bonus tracks (and a personal favorite), “Rain Dance.” Unfortunately, the song sounds a bit anemic here–suffering from either a poor mix, or just a lackluster performance. The segue into “These Eyes” doesn’t help. To go from a rocker like “Rain Dance” into a pop ballad just doesn’t work. The band stays in a retrospective mood for the next few songs–”Glace Bay Blues” and vocalist Burton Cummings’ solo spotlight, “Sour Suite.” Fans who owned the original vinyl will notice the intro to “Glace” is louder than it was originally.From this point on, the CD rocks. “Hand Me Down World” is a bit slower than the studio version, but still sounds great. The medley of “American Woman” and “Truckin’ Off Across the Sky” was the highlight of the original album, and the same holds true here. The big difference is the intro to “Truckin’.” The original had a different solo overdubbed at the beginning of the song. The new CD has no overdubs at all, so the song will sound noticeably different to those who were familiar with the original. “Share the Land” also sounds great, but the hurried tempo in which it’s played makes you think that they’re just playing it because they have to. The CD comes to a close with a killer version of “No Time.” The only things missing from the original vinyl are the stage banter from the end of the album (where Burton says “Seattle! Seattle, Washington!”) and the lyrics. The stage banter was apparently taken from the second night. As for the lyrics, the producers opted for new liner notes and photos instead (the photos that were in black and white on the original sleeve are now in color). Live at the Paramount is a perfect example of taking a great album and making it even better.

    Posted on November 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now