The Guess Who

Lonely One

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When original Guess Who bassist Jim Kale released 1979's All This for a Song along with Don McDougal, who joined the group in 1972, it didn't have the charm or inspiration of Randy Bachman's Brave Belt albums, the precursors to Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Brave Belt also boasted Chad Allan as a member, original focal point for the Guess Who prior to Burton Cummings joining the party. The 1995 version of the group does include the original rhythm section of bassist Jim Kale and drummer Garry Peterson, but all they do is play and provide a name -- Peterson's other contribution is merely a co-write of one of the ten titles, "Rock & Roll Classic," and that is derivative as all get out with a quick reference to "American Woman" and nicks of famous classic rock riffs. It's actually as close to the Guess Who's sound as the band can get. For those looking for a the neo-bubblegum pop of the Guess Who, get ready to be greeted by big-hair '80s arena rock ten years after the fact. This could be Johnny Edwards from King Kobra and the 1991 Foreigner Unusual Heat days on the Razor's Edge, while "Still Feels Like Love" could be Edwards fronting the Commodores on a sequel to their post-Lionel Richie hit, "Nightshift." Please note all the post-heyday versions of bands that this aggregation resembles. Though All This for a Song prostituted the band's good name and was a total stiff, it at least was a weak version of the Guess Who's sound (though a lame attempt and not as successful as other cash-in projects like those Wand and Pickwick releases, Sown & Grown in Canada and Wild One. As cheesy as those products were, they still had merit: Sown & Grown re-released the group's first big smash, "Shakin' All Over," and Wild One uncovered some very cool early Burton Cummings material). Lonely One's problem is that it is actually a very good '80s rock album in the '90s -- one that comes off like Lou Gramm fronting .38 Special. Such a drastic change in formula is not worthy of inclusion in the Guess Who's catalog. An excellent song like "Haunted Heart" would have had a fighting chance if the band had their own identity; it's the hit REO Speedwagon desperately needed to sustain their career. "I Feel Your Pain" gets even more mellow with the Philly sound ballad-formula refitted. Rather than calling this the Guess Who, a moniker like the Jim Kale/Garry Peterson Project would have been a welcome and refreshing offshoot; their names would have lent the project more credibility than riding the coattails of Bachman and Cummings, the men who were the most identifiable components of the respected Canadian band. Bachman-Turner Overdrive certainly pulled it off with a change in name to herald the change in sound -- and the sound here is big, those icy keyboards, angelic guitars, and eunuch vocals containing an air of arrogance so prevalent in '80s arena rock. It's the antithesis of the sound pop purists adored when "These Eyes," "Undun," "No Time," "Share the Land," and "American Woman" made the band's name. Had this ensemble remade "American Woman" à la Chicago's very interesting '80s re-creation of "25 or 6 to 4," one might squint and give the band a pass. But here a slick piece of plastic was manufactured and a venerable trademark slapped on the cover. For fans of Loverboy, Foreigner, and Eddie Money, here is your clone-band dream come true. For those who love the Guess Who, you now know what Jim Kale and Garry Peterson were up to in the mid-'90s. The album was also released under the name Liberty, and had they changed the name of the band to that rather than the disc, it might've enjoyed a bit more success.

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