The Guess Who

Wheatfield Soul

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Wheatfield Soul by the Guess Who has become a collectors item of sorts over the years, fetching various prices in fan circles, and it is an important "first" step for the reconstituted group which initially hit with "Shakin' All Over" when it was led by Chad Allan. The album is Jack Richardson's excellent production of Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings' music played by this particular four-piece unit, which Peter Clayton's liner notes claim were together "for three years when they cut this album in late 1968." The naïve sound of Cummings' voice on the album tracks is charming, but the hit "These Eyes" has that authority which the band would repeat on diverse chart songs like "No Time," "American Woman," and even "Star Baby" further down the road. "Pink Wine Sparkles in the Glass" is a precursor to "New Mother Nature," but the solo Cummings composition "I Found Her in a Star" is very nice Guess Who-style pop that their fans adore. "Friends of Mine" is a strange one, though, ten minutes and three seconds of Burton Cummings imitating Jim Morrison, not just Morrison, but the copping of his vocal riffs straight from "When the Music's Over." This is a band stretching and searching for direction, and rather than hit you with hard Randy Bachman assaults which were a welcome addition to future long-players by this group, as well as Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Wheatfield Soul concentrates on Brit-pop and experimental songs. Randy Bachman's "A Wednesday in Your Garden" is British rock meets jazz, and is one of the LP's most interesting numbers. The Chick Crumpacker and Don Wardell liner notes to Ultimate Collection note that "These Eyes" "was technically the 18th release by the band." The key is that it was the first from the quartet of Cummings, Bachman, Kale, and Peterson as produced by Jack Richardson. Ultimate Collection also notes that "Lightfoot" was written for "fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot." The notes go on to point out that "Maple Fudge" and "We're Coming to Dinner" were real oddities, but a style that would reappear over the band's long and illustrious catalog. Maybe that's what makes Wheatfield Soul so sought after, inventive themes that eventually found their way onto later albums like Artificial Paradise and Rockin'. Perhaps the tragedy is that they didn't get to work with Frank Zappa -- the Guess Who's left-field musings would have been the perfect follow-up to Zappa's work with Grand Funk. Take two of "Lightfoot" appears on Ultimate Collection, which only utilized three songs from this important first album after the band was reborn. But for all the musical wandering, it is "These Eyes" which remains timeless, the song that stands out as the masterpiece on this creative adventure.

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