The Guess Who

This Time Long Ago

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In the CD era, the catalog of the pre-Wheatfield Soul Guess Who has been very hard to come by. Together with Sundazed's Shakin' All Over! (which focuses on their hardest-rocking mid-'60s cuts), this two-CD Canadian collection of rare and unreleased 1967-1968 recordings fills in the gap well. A few of these songs did appear on non-LP Canadian and/or U.K. singles, like the devastating garage punkers "It's My Pride" and "If You Don't Want Me" (which are also on the Sundazed comp); the sappy 1967 ballad "His Girl," heard here in two versions, which was actually a minor British hit; "Flying on the Ground Is Wrong," one of the first (if not the first) covers of a Neil Young song; and unbelievably awful versions of Steve Lawrence's "Pretty Blue Eyes," recorded by the band in an attempt to get their label to release them from their contract. ("Croyez-Moi," an awkward French version of their 1966 single "Believe Me," appears for the first time here.) Most of this set, however, is devoted to unreleased material, recorded in 1967 and 1968 in the studios for CBC TV shows. Some of those performances are marginalia, like the almost note-faithful cover versions of "Light My Fire," "White Room," and "Love Is All Around," and the psychedelic instrumental "Sitar Saga." Much of disc two, however, is devoted to late-'60s originals that find the band starting to arrive at their own hard pop/rock identity, including early versions of four songs apiece from Wheatfield Soul and Canned Wheat. The standouts are early versions of "These Eyes" and the Doors-ish psychedelic suite "Friends of Mine," which includes contributions from members of the Winnipeg Symphony and some free jazz sax near the end. A CBC version of the single "When Friends Fall Out" (later to appear on American Woman), which alternates between grinding riffs in the verse and contemplative balladry on the bridge, saw Burton Cummings start to fully form his tense, belting vocal style. There's a sense of a band fishing for a style throughout much of this anthology, not always successfully, but it documents an important transitional phase in the group's evolution.

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