Radical departure from the classic sound, but good
A music fan | Rutherford, NJ USA | 03/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Here is the last of the classic chemistry of Bachman and Cummings, but it is not exactly the classic sounds of "Canned Wheat" and "American Woman", possibly because although there is a primary composition of Bachman's here (as on the three preceeding albums) Cummings' half of the team was slowly beginning to dominate the formula. Still a good disc that shouldn't be overlooked. I have no idea why they feld the need to strip it down and use the songs as bonus cuts on "Canned Wheat" and "Share The Land". "Got To Find Another Way", the bonus cut on "American Woman" was also recorded during these sessions and should have been included within this package originally. And there'd be room for it too, the whole album only runs a shade over a half hour. The only reason this album (planned to be called "Palmyra" at the time) was shelved was due to Bachman's sudden departure at the time. It should have been released at the time it was done anyway, its strength shows through.
The other two band members, Kale and Peterson, also share composition credit on "Running Down The Street", a slow ballad-type song touching an area the band hadn't hit before and they do a fine job of it, even Cummings sings the song with the usual power and strength as if it were his own. "Silver Bird" is a quiet yet peaceful opener to the album that makes musical reference to, and in no doubt has influence of, the other Winnipeg legend: Neil Young (a friend of theirs who grew up with Bachman and today worships him as his guitar hero). "Species Hawk" is great, it's the closest to Satan they ever got. Its catchy hard-rocking guitar riff seems to have laid ground to the Rolling Stones' classic "Bitch" (yes this WAS written first) and will be remembered. "Miss Frizzy" is a catchy blues-tinged Beatle-ish tune that is overall mediocre, but Cummings' droaning, monotonous, druggy vocal lines at the end are worth it alone! "Palmyra" is a strong rocker that yet has a chilling mystic tinge to it, if the lyrics aren't too vague, and was initially supposed to be the title track. It's one of my favorites. The strength of "The Answer" mainly lies in its poignant lyrics, but the bitter sounds of the music set the mood perfectly. "Take The Long Way Home" is Bachman's primary composition here that all in all was a precursor to "Share The Land". It has the same lyrical theme and although quite simple, may just be the strongest cut here, at least a perfect closer to the album.
An overall modest work, it has its potential and is relatively strong and never did get the recognition it deserves. It should have been released then, if not now, as planned, possibly including "Got To Find Another Way". Although Cummings may have begun to dominate, Bachman's last contributions are of no weakness or small part at all."
A Lost Gem!
The Green Man | Stone Bank, WI United States | 08/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Real fans of The Guess Who knew about the existance of this material years before it finally surfaced in the summer of 1976. But, issued to fulfill a contactual obligation, it died quickly during the early days of disco. Its raw, unfinished demo sound seemed cheap compared to the polished over-productions of disco and classic rock of the times. Being a fan, I bought it and listened to it occasionally over the ensuing decades. As the years wore on it gadually became one of my favorites. With some polishing up of the production, and the addition of some more tracks, it would have been a worthy successor to "American Woman." In fact, I now prefer it to "Share the Land." Some of the songs in this more-than-an-EP, but-less-than-an-LP's worth of material had showed up before 1976. "Miss Frizzy" appeared in 1973 on "#10" (though this version is better), "Take the Long Way Home" was an instrumental on Randy's solo album "Axe" (though again the vocal version here is much better), and "Running Down the Street" appeared as the B-side of "Hand Me Down World." With a more polished arrangement and better lyrics, "Silver Bird" would have been a great follow-up single to "American Woman." It was actually released as a single in 1976, but was virtually ingnored by radio. The lyrics are the same kind of "I've been on the road too long" stuff that was done much better on the "Road Food " album. "Palmayra" is a great rocker that would have made a good 2nd single of the album. The real diamond in the rough here is "The Answer." 3 decades later it stands out as one of the RCA-era band's best songs. With the greater appreciation for stripped-down/minimalist production values that marked much '90's rock, this album sounds even more contemporary than some of the band's more polished and famous productions. As an additional bonus for this CD version, you get the complete album version of "American Woman' with the prologue, plus the album version medley of "No Sugar Tonite/New Mother Nature"--not just the singles implied by the song listing. The one disappointment is that, just like the 1976 cassette version, the 21st century CD version comes in a cheap cardboard box that won't stand the test of time that a jewel box and carboard inserts would. SPECIAL NOTE: If you already have some of these songs as bonus tracks on the re-released versions of "Canned Wheat" and "Share the Land," don't pass this CD up thinking that you already have most of the good stuff. The versions here differ from the bonus-tracks of the re-releases."