The Guess Who The Way They Were (Vinyl - RCA, 1976 ) ***
Genre: Canadian pop/ rock
Places I remember: Wild One - Real Groovy Records (Auckland); TWTW - Music Box Record Exchange (Hastings)
Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Species Hawk
Gear costume: Tuff E Nuff is a load of hunky fun, as is This Could Be Love with youthful Burton Cummings vocals. On TWTW, Silver Bird and Palmyra hinted at greatness to come. The Answer road tests the distinctive harmonies.
Active compensatory factors: These two are bracketed because they both pre date Wheatfield Soul, their first 'real' album.
Wild One features the Chad Allan led version of the band. Strictly speaking, it's a compilation of material done between 1965 and 1967 but because of the narrow focus it sounds like a bona fide studio album.
Weirdly, their first hit, a 1965 rendition of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' Shakin' All Over is not included in the package. Nor are other singles of this era!
Just to weird it out some more, Chad left in 1966 and so the band effectively continued as a quartet for the next four years with:
- Burton Cummings (keyboards/ vocals)
- Randy Bachman (guitars, backing vocals)
- Jim Kale (bass, backing vocals)
- Garry Peterson (drums, backing vocals)
Hope you're keeping up!
That's the background. What about the music?
Wild One's sound is nowhere near the Burton Cummings' led band that we all know and love. Instead it's a tentative series of songs in thrall to American rock of the mid sixties, looking for a distinctive voice. As such, it sounds a lot like New Zealand music of the time. Outsiders both.
Chad Allan sounds like the American teen idol that, I guess, he wanted to be. Randy Bachman tries out surf guitar and some psychedelic licks at times, but it would have been going out on a limb to think these guys would evolve to mega stardom.
By the time they recorded the material on The Way They Were the band had taken a quantum leap forward. Burton had become a much more assured vocalist and Randy's guitar style had also undergone a transformation into a more distinctive heavy riffing style.
And the songs had improved! No more covers - Cummings/Bachman had become a thing.
Where do they all belong? Wheatfield Soul would prove itself to be a game changer.