The Guess Who’s 1969 albums

Buy Wheatfield Soul
Buy Canned Wheat

The Guess Who 1969 albumsAlthough the group was already over a decade old and had already released three albums, the pop career of The Guess Who really got underway with the release of two albums in 1969; Wheatfield Soul and Canned Wheat. These albums spawned several hit singles and ignited the group’s meteoric span at the heights of the pop and rock world internationally, which continued into the early seventies. Both of these albums were produced by Jack Richardson.

Formed in Winnipeg in 1958, The Guess Who recorded their debut single, “Tribute To Buddy Holly”, in 1962 as “Chad Allan and the Reflections”. Three years later the group produced their debut album, Shakin’ All Over and corresponding title song which topped the Canadian charts and reached the Top 30 in the United States. Two more albums, Hey Ho (What You Do to Me!) and It’s Time were released in the next year and a half through 1965 and 1966, before Allen was replaced by 18-year-old Burton Cummings. In 1967, The Guess Who were hired as the house band on the CBC radio show The Swingers as well as the television program Let’s Go, giving the group vast exposure in Canada and eventually leading to their international record deal with RCA Records.


Wheatfield Soul by The Guess Who
Released: March, 1969 (RCA)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: A & R Studios, New York, September 1968
Side One Side Two
These Eyes
Pink Wine Sparkles in the Glass
I Found Her in a Star
Friends of Mine
When You Touch Me
A Wednesday in Your Garden
Lightfoot
Love and a Yellow Rose
Maple Fudge
We’re Coming to Dinner

Canned Wheat by The Guess Who
Released: September, 1969 (RCA)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: RCA Studio A, New York, New York, 1969
Side One Side Two
No Time
Minstrel Boy
Laughing
Undun
6 A.M. or Nearer
Old Joe
Of a Dropping Pin
Key
Fair Warning
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Burton Cummings – Lead Vocals, piano, keyboards, flute, harmonica
Randy Bachman – Guitars, Vocals
Jim Kale – Bass, Vocals
Gary Peterson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

Wheatfield Soul was recorded in New York City in September 1968 with most songs co-written by Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman. The album offers an odd but interesting mix of structured sixties Brit-pop and roaming experimental songs, some which work and some which don’t. Standing above all else is the fantastic opening track, “These Eyes”, a song of perfect sonic execution. It starts with simple electric piano riff by Cummings along with choppy electric and lightly strummed acoustic by Bachman and then slowly adds arrangement and orchestration matched by Cummings’ vocal intensity to make for a perfect pop song for the late 1960s. The song became the group’s first single to reach the top ten in the US and it has individually sold over one million copies.

Wheatfield Soul by The Guess WhoPink Wine Sparkles in the Glass” is a short but rather complex rocker with differing tempos and homages to contemporaries like the Beatles and the Bee Gees, while “I Found Her in a Star” is a more standard ballad with plenty of sonic décor including both smooth orchestration and buzzy electric guitar. The freaky psychedelic rock suite “Friends of Mine” has multiple section built on simple jam riffs with Cummings adding somewhat improvised poetic motifs which seem to be influenced by The Doors’ Jim Morrison and include a contemporary reference of Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour with the statement;

Kurt is the walrus and the walrus does funny things to the veins in his left arm….”

The second side of Wheatfield Soul is equally as diverse, starting with “When You Touch Me”, which starts with Gary Peterson‘s animated drums and settles into a pop-oriented groove but may be a little underdone to become a hit. Bachman’s “A Wednesday in Your Garden” is a pretty and pleasant jazz rock ballad with lead vocals remaining high in rock intensity, while “Lightfoot” is a pure folk tribute song with multiple acoustics and lyrics that call Gordon Lightfoot “an artist painting Sistine masterpieces”. “Love and a Yellow Rose” starts as an Eastern-style chant accompanied by single, buzzy guitar before fully kicking in as an entertaining funk rocker, followed by the happy-go-lucky, bouncy, bubblegum rock of “Maple Fudge”. The closer “We’re Coming to Dinner” is a cool jazz rocker with plenty of groovy elements led by an effective rebellious hook which should’ve made this a hit in the late sixties.

The Guess Who

Outside of Canada where it reached the Top Ten, Wheatfield Soul was not a commercial success. However, it did set a standard to be built upon and improved upon for a follow-up album. Canned Wheat was recorded through 1969 and features tracks which are more evenly spread out in temper and quality. The opener “No Time” is an early “alternate” version of the later re-recorded hit featured on the 1970 album American Woman. It starts with weird, dissonant guitars before breaking into the moderate rock groove. Later, Bachman’s extended guitar lead reaches into psychedelia a bit, making this distinct recording pretty interesting. “Minstrel Boy” follows as slightly jazzy folk track with bouncy bass by Jim Kale along with definitively strummed chords and darkly-tinged lyrics.

Canned Wheat by The Guess WhoTwo of the more popular tracks on Canned Wheat, “Laughing” and “Undun” were actually recorded twice due to quality issues. “Laughing” alternates between a sad ballad and a more upbeat pop love song, a combination which propelled the track to the top of the Canadian Singles Chart and the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bachman’s “Undun” was originally issued as the B-side of “Laughing” and this jazzy track features excellence all around – unique, bright guitar chording by Bachman, the best bass playing yet by kale, bossa-nova style drumming by Peterson, and vocals which stretch the ranges by Cummings – along with a very cool and unique bridge. While a little disjointed in direction, “6 A.M. or Nearer” is a very pleasant listen nonetheless to complete the original first side.

“Old Joe” is a track by Cummings with an intro that features backward-masked piano and haunting chords before breaking into a folk piano ballad with fine, dynamic vocals and good, animated rhythms, while “Of a Dropping Pin” is a decent rocker with a profound lyrical hook. “Key” is the album’s eleven-minute extended track which starts with sitar before breaking into a rhythmic rock section during the initial three verses. Then, after a standard guitar lead comes an interesting drum/percussion section topped by various guitar textures before Peterson goes into a full-fledged drum solo which takes up the second half of this extended suite. The album concludes with the short track, “Fair Warning”, with jazzy guitar chords and spoken words.

By the time Canned Wheat was released in September 1969, The Guess Who had already begun recording material for their next album, American Woman, the first of two albums released in 1970 by the group.

1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1969 albums.

 

The Guess Who 1970 Albums

Buy American Woman
Buy Share the Land

The Guess Who 1970 albumsThe year 1970 saw the apex of popularity for The Guess Who as well as the initial cracks in their band unity. The two albums they released that year, American Woman and Share the Land showed the progression of their sound from the strictly pop-oriented output of the late sixties to their more diverse fusion sound of the early seventies. In between these albums, founding guitarist Randy Bachman left the group and some studio recordings were abandoned as the group started over with two new guitarists.

The Guess Who started as Allan and the Silvertones in Winnepeg, Canada way back in 1958. Bachman, bassist Jim Kale, and drummer Garry Peterson were all on board from the jump and this original incarnation of the group released several singles through the early sixties but with minimal success. In 1965 the group adopted the name “Guess Who?” and added then 18-year-old Burton Cumming as lead singer and keyboardist. The late sixties saw the group find Top 40 success in Canada and beyond, due in part to their extended run as house band on a CBC radio show. The group’s 1969 albums, Wheatfield Soul and Canned Wheat, primed The Guess Who for the rock mainstream.

Peaking in the Top 10 of the album charts, American Woman is the most commercially successful album ever put out by the group. In part influenced by the sound of Led Zeppelin’s 1969 albums, a harder-edged rock sound was introduced on this album, led by Bachman’s fuzz-tone guitars and Cummings’ ever more dynamic and bluesy vocals. This album also included a few suite-style medleys as well as slight forays into prog rock.

Share the Land saw the arrival of guitarists, Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw and slightly richer overall arrangements. Recording began almost immediately after Bachman’s departure, but producer Jack Richardson found a cohesive sound for the now five piece band. Being how it was so quickly written and recorded, the group was pleasantly surprised when Share the Land reached the Top 20 on the album charts and spawned a few successful singles.


American Woman by The Guess Who
Released: January, 1970 (RCA Victor)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: RCA Mid-America Recording, Chicago, August-November, 1969
Side One Side Two
American Woman
No Time
Talisman
No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Cumberland 969 (The Oldest Man)
When Friends Fall Out
8:15
Proper Stranger
Humpty’s Blues/American Woman (Epilogue)

Share the Land by The Guess Who
Released: October, 1970 (RCA Victor)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: RCA Mid-America Recording Center, Chicago, 1970
Side One Side Two
Bus Rider
Do You Miss Me Darlin’?
Hand Me Down World
Moan For You Joe
Share the Land
Hang On to Your Life
Coming Down Off the Money Bag
Song of the Dog
Three More Days
Group Musicians
Burton Cummings – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar, Flute, Harmonica
Jim Kale – Bass, Vocals
Garry Peterson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Randy Bachman – Guitars, Vocals (American Woman only)
Greg Leskiw – Guitars (Share the Land only)
Kurt Winter – Guitars (Share the Land only)

 

The opening title track of American Woman starts with an acoustic blues intro before stopping completely and re-starting as a droning, hard rocker, led by Bachman’s distinctive riffs. The song would go on to be one of the most popular and distinct in the Guess Who library. “No Time” is actually a remade version of a song originally released on Canned Wheat the previous year. This version starts with the distinct drum beat of Peterson and features call and response with backing vocals during the verses and great harmonies throughout. The 1970 single of “No Time” peaked at #5 in the U.S. and topped the charts in Canada.

American Woman by The Guess WhoThe album drastically changes up with “Talisman”, a pure folk song by Cummings and Bachman with dark acoustic elements and traditional English folklore-like vocal melodies. The medley “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” may actually be more like a two part suite. It is acoustic throughout with an introductory riff starting each section. Kale’s bass sets the rhythms for each of these sections with a slight variation between each and Cummings’ piano makes an appearance during the “New Mother Nature” section. The lyrics morph from those of regret in “No Sugar Tonight” to a quasi-party theme during “New Mother Nature”.

The second side of American Woman contains more obscure material. Bachman’s double-track guitar rock instrumental “Cumberland 969” later morphs into a jazzy, Jethro Tull-style flute solo by Cummings before returning to the strong rock elements to complete the track. The album’s second remake, “When Friends Fall Out”, dates back to a 1968 release as a marching pop track with repetitive verses and a psychedelic ending. “8:15” is a funky rocker with deep Hammond organ and a unique vocal approach by Cummings, while “Proper Stranger” somewhat returns to the vibe of the first side with duo acoustic, sharp bass notes and animated rhythmic drumming later accompanied by electric riffs and lead. The closing “Humpty’s Blues/American Woman (Epilogue)” starts as slow blues with crying guitars and heavy harmonica before the song dissolves awkwardly into a reprise of the intro section of “American Woman” to encapsulate the album in a thematic way.

Share the Land saw Kurt Winter step up as a primary composer in his new band. The opening track “Bus Rider” was penned by Winter as a fifties-style rocker with seventies-style rock riffs to make it overall fun musically, albeit a bit trite lyrically. “Do You Miss Me Darlin’?” is a bit richer and deeper as a ballad with nice, whining guitar and soulful and dynamic vocals by Cummings, accompanied by rich harmonies between the verses and during the softer, piano driven mid-section.

Share the Land by The Guess WhoWinter’s “Hand Me Down World” is one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album with a descending electric guitar riff, bright acoustic chords, driving rhythms, and pleasant vocal melodies. The song reached the Top 20 as a single in The US. “Moan for You Joe” is a jazzy tune with odd timings and a an exceptional overall drumming performance by Peterson along fine guitar and piano work, especially an extended lead by Cummings. The title track “Share the Land” is a fine “hippie” anthem by Cummings featuring dual lead guitar riffs by Leskiw and Winter. This sing-along ballad features dynamic and soulful lead vocals with Cummings almost taking on a revival preacher role.

“Hang on to Your Life” is riff driven with frantic vocals during the rock-oriented verses while the chorus leans back slightly towards pop. An extended outro has guitar leads over the chorus hook before it breaks down in feedback backing with a spoken recital of the biblical Psalm 22. “Coming Down Off the Money Bag”/”Song of the Dog” is perhaps the most unique Guess Who song ever with the first section, written and sung by Leskiw, having an Americana/Country vibe with plenty of cool instrumentation. After a single verse, the song breaks into a rock interlude before morphing into the acoustic driven bluesy “Song of the Dog” by Cummings. Closing out Share the Land is the nearly nine-minute track, “Three More Days”. Led by Kale’s bass, this moderate blues rocker contains lyrics about death and the philosophy of a finite life and musically moves through different sections including a chant about “freedom” and a flute lead.

Although The Guess Who were still high on the pop/rock echelon at the end of 1970, further personnel shifts would undermine and ultimately dissolve the group. Leskiw left the group early in 1972, followed by Kale shortly after. Eventually, it was Cummings who grew weary of the band and departed himself to start a solo career in the mid seventies.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.