What's unique about Reunion by the Guess Who is that it brings together the "original" band that found fame with "These Eyes," the quartet that emerged from Chad Allan & the Expressions and ended abruptly in 1970 when they abandoned what became 1976's The Way They Were LP, recorded around the time Randy Bachman taped his Axe solo album. Producer Jack Richardson pines in his liner notes to the 1976 compilation that this foursome was/is his original Guess Who (though he recorded all the acts' RCA discs with the various bandmembers), and that the band "never were again." Well, they say never say "never." Richardson is back producing, and it is Randy Bachman who writes the liner notes and dedicates the album to Chad Allan, Bob Ashley, Kurt Winter, Bill Wallace, Greg Leskiw, Domenic Troiano, and Don McDougal -- the Guess Who alum. Bachman's liner notes explain how the four got back together in January of 1983 for the first time since the split in 1970. The rehearsals began in Vancouver in May of 1983, and the band performed a month of dates. This album was recorded during the Toronto concert. So what is it like having Randy Bachman performing on "Rain Dance," "Sour Suite," "Hand Me Down World," "Clap for the Wolfman," "Glamour Boy," and other songs from the post-Bachman version of the band? Not bad -- in fact, it's very good and what you'd pretty much expect. So why is this review not ecstatic that this excellent pop band made this document? It's because this version of the "live" LP does not cast the magic spell of The Guess Who Live at the Paramount, a majestic recording of a band in its prime recorded May 22, 1972, 11 years before Reunion, with Brian Christian engineering. Also, the songs on the LP are in chronological order and not the order which they were performed onstage. Bachman tells the listener to view the concert video The Guess Who -- Together Again for the songs that were omitted. Those songs count among them "Shakin' All Over," "Takin' Care of Business," and "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," material vital to this live disc. And here's the really strange thing about the album, a Burton Cummings title, "Creepin' Peepin' Baby Blues," along with the first two tracks, "What's Gonna Happen to the Kids" and "Let's Watch the Sun Go Down," all sound like studio recordings with overdubbed applause. Same goes for "C'mon and Dance" and "Love Grows," which show up on side four, five new studio titles slipped in with the 16 live renditions of previously released Guess Who songs. Of the five new songs, "Love Grows" is perhaps the most interesting. But these items are pushed on unsuspecting fans with no information on where they came from and what they're all about. Wouldn't a "new" studio album from the Guess Who have made more of an impact than deleting some of the hits from a made-for-TV record? It's a really bizarre merchandising blunder. Then again, so was releasing only half of Live at the Paramount the first time around, when double live albums were catapulting artists like Bob Seger, Peter Frampton, and J. Geils into the serious spotlight. Two years before this recording, in a May 29, 1981 interview, bassist Jim Kale noted that RCA "were into refrigerators and television sets as opposed to records." One would have hoped the group might have learned from that life lesson in marketing music. About two decades after this performance, the band, without Jim Kale, has a reputation as a powerhouse live. Reunion could be an important document of a special moment in time if the entire concert was released as it was performed, with the studio tracks separated from the fake applause and given their place as bonus tracks.
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AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione