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Live at the Paramount

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  • 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