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So Long, Bannatyne/#10

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★★★★☆
(12 Reviews)

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  • As with the other pairings in this Guess Who “twofer” reissue series, the decisions on what album got paired to what album seem completely bizarre. Why not do these joins in a chronological order? WHEATFIELD SOUL could’ve come out by its lonesome and then all of the post-Randy Bachman Guess Who albums could have been paired in order of their initial release (save SHARE THE LAND, which was reissued a couple of years ago). The way it is now seems as if BMG International didn’t really pay attention to the legacy of the band but just wanted to ship the product out to get Guess Who completists to shut up about why it’s been so long since these albums were reissued on CD. Not a monumental injustice here, you understand, but a pretty haphazard way of archiving and releasing material, and this band deserves better treatment.In the case of this pairing, SO LONG, BANNATYNE is by far the better of the two albums. Here you had the G. Who stretching their musical muscles a bit outside the hit singles arena (with the exception of the excellent “Rain Dance,” which opens the album), going into some weird left-of-center corners (“Going A Little Crazy,” “Grey Day”) gorgeous ballads (“Sour Suite,” “She Might Have Been A Nice Girl”) a few peculiar stabs at humor (“Fiddlin’,” “One Man Army”) and some genuinely solid rockin’ and bluesin’ (the title track,”Life In The Bloodstream” and “Pain Train”). The playing is mostly solid stuff; the twin lead guitars of Greg Leskiw and the late Kurt Winter give the band more punch than they had during the Randy Bachman era (I know; blasphemy! Hey, deal with it!) and the rest of the band, including the raw vocal pipes of Burton Cummings, do great things as well. A great one.Things are not quite as smooth with #10, which by now has Donnie McDougall replacing Greg Leskiw on 2nd guitar and Bill Wallace playing the bass in place of departed founding member Jim Kale. This incarnation of the Guess Who had already made one very good but also eclectic album, ARTIFICIAL PARADISE, which bombed sales-wise and the story is that Burton Cummings threatened to leave the band if things weren’t done his way for the next album, which became #10. True or not, what resulted is an album that has some high points but is on the whole very uneven in quality. Except for the anti-glam rock ballad “Glamour Boy,” an old toe-tapper from the Randy Bachman days called “Miss Frizzy” and an R-’N-B powerhouse with horns called “Just Let Me Sing” that closes the album, the songs are fairly unmemorable or gratingly obscure. What saves them in the end is that the band still really cooks, particularly on “Musicione,” where the vocal harmonies that were the group’s best asset really shine bright. But what was a nice balance of familiar and experimental on BANNATYNE has given way on #10 to a feeling that everybody’s a little out of their depth and not terribly cohesive. Still, the Guess Who’s lesser stuff is often more winning than a lot of performers’ best material, so you’re still getting good value for money.Overall, the verdict is—glad these are back in print!

    Posted on February 23, 2010