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Live at the Paramount

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★★★★½
(35 Reviews)

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  • 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