Rockin' is Greg Leskiw's last of three albums with the Guess Who; he came onboard with Kurt Winter for Share the Land and recorded So Long, Bannatyne as well, the two men slipping into the big shoes of Randy Bachman. This finds Burton Cummings in a definite '50s mode, "Running Bear" and "Nashville Sneakers" being throwbacks to another time. The album predominantly features the songwriting of Cummings, though Kurt Winter does lend a generous hand. As an artistic statement it's all very interesting, but for a band whose bread and butter was the Top 40, this stuff tempts fate a bit too much. Along with the musical about-face, this is also the darkest Guess Who album, featuring a black-and-white cover and a black-and-white gatefold, and when the band's not back in the past, pre-color TV, they are doing boogie-woogie like "Get Your Ribbons On" or going negative with "Guns, Guns, Guns." "Guns, Guns, Guns" does have a terrific melody (though you'll swear Aerosmith nicked from this one as well), with Burton Cummings showing signs of life. "Smoke Big Factory" is the only other tune next to "Heartbroken Bopper" and "Guns, Guns, Guns" that sounds truly like the Guess Who, a good album track borrowing much from Lou Reed's first solo album version of "Berlin." The guitars are innovative and it's too bad the album wasn't full of more of these instead of the travels back in time. The "Sea of Love"/"Heaven Only Moved Once Yesterday"/"Don't You Want Me" medley is another oddity, quasi-psychedelia meets doo wop, stranger than the Zappa-ish "Musicione" track from the Guess Who's #10 LP. When you spin this right next to 1973's Bachman-Turner Overdrive II, you can really feel what both Bachman and Cummings brought to the table, and despite Bachman-Turner Overdrive's reign of hits initiated with that album, neither band achieved the heights of the first four Guess Who albums, including the first one without Bachman, Share the Land. Rockin' is a strange exercise whose best parts showed up on The Best of the Guess Who, Vol. 2.
Review by Joe Viglione