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The Guess Who: Live at the Paramount

C. Michael Bailey By

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A so-so live LP transformed into a perfect live CD.

 

Say what one may that all the introduction of the compact disc has done is provide more mediocre music than the LP— this is certainly true more than it is not. But just as true are the diamonds that are produced. With the longer playing format, the CD has enabled record companies to more completely document live records. Some of these documents offer no improvement over the original LP releases, including poorly recorded or performed songs (obviously excluded for a reason) for the sake of another release with selling points for those fanatics already owning the music. Then, more rarely, there are those LPs that are so vastly improved by the remastering, restoration of omitted music, and re-release that the listener is stunned into a dumb silence by the first listen.

Some of the notable examples of this latter phenomenon are the Jimi Hendrix live recordings Live at Woodstock (MCA 11987, 1999), Live at the Fillmore East (MCA 11931, 1999) and Jimi Hendrix Plays Monterey (Polygram International, 1999). In all of these cases, entire shows were restored, often with revelatory results. Monterey adds several killer tunes ("Killing Floor" and "The Wing Cries Mary") to the superb original. Woodstock has everything, including "The Star Spangled Banner." The Fillmore recording rounds out the famous Band of Gypsys show on December 31, 1969. In all cases the newly restored songs augment and complete the picture for these recordings.

More often than not this augmentation takes a generally good recording and makes it better. In the case of The Guess Who Live at the Paramount, added songs and remastering takes a fairly common recording and makes it essential. When I purchased the original rendering on vinyl, I was disappointed because some of the better known songs ("No Time," "Hand Me Down World," "These Eyes," etc.) were not included. I was intrigued by the later music ("Paint Train") that was included as well as by the new music especially performed for this recording ("Running Back to Saskatoon" and "Truckin' Off Across The Sky"). "American Woman" was total transformed from the studio version in the same way that Little Feat transformed "Dixie Chicken" on Waiting for Columbus. On Woman, Cummings does a slick bit of scat singing and jazz flute playing for a pop artist. The same can be said for the smoky production of "New Mother Nature," teased away from "No Sugar Tonight" where Cummings blusey piano and laconic delivery transform the piece into a barrelhouse anthem. In spite of these pluses, the LP just felt incomplete.

Well, Live at the Paramount is incomplete no more. Restored are six additional songs, all well known, perfectly rounding out the Guess Who shows I recall from my youth. "Rain Dance" and "These Eyes" as effectively showcase Burton Cummings vocal talent as "No Time" and "Share The Land" does the spirited background vocals and guitars of Kurt Winter and Don McDougall. The remastering removes all of the mud marring "American Woman", establishing it as the granite hard centerpiece to the show. The Guess Who sounds like less of a pop band and more of an essential rock and roll voice on these sides.

What cha gonna doo mama now that the roast beef is gone ...indeed!


Track Listing:

Pain Train; Albert Flasher; New Mother Nature; Runnin' Back To Saskatoon; Rain Dance; These Eyes; Glace Bay Blues; Sour Suite; Hand Me Down World; American Woman; Truckin' Off Across The Sky; Share The Land; No Time. (Total Time: 76:50).

Personnel:

Burton Cummings: Piano, Flute, Harmonica, Vocals; Kurt Winter: Lead Guitar Vocals; Don McDougall: Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals; Jim Kale: Bass Vocals; Garry Peterson: Drums, Vocals

Title: Live at the Paramount | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Buddha Records

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