Hot on the heels of their recent Canadian tour, The Guess Who just released an expanded version of Live at the Paramount. The new disc features new liner notes and photos, plus six bonus tracks, for a total of 75 minutes of great music. Originally recorded over two nights at the Seattle venue, this album dispelled any previous notions that they were `just a pop band.' Paramount showed in no uncertain terms that The Guess Who could rock with the best of them. One listen to the 17-minute rendition of "American Woman," "Pain Train" or "No Time" makes that point perfectly clear. The album has stood up to the test of time, and remains one of the most popular in the band's catalog.
For the new CD, the producers went back to the original 16-track master tapes from the first show (the second night was deemed "a waste of tape") and remastered the whole shebang. The songs were restored to their original order in the set, and the sound quality couldn't be better. Most of the stage banter between songs has been restored as well. The Paramount shows were two of the first to feature new guitarist, Don McDougall, and he fit in perfectly. His vocals and guitar work added a lot to the group, and he brought in additional songwriting abilities to boot.
Starting with an blistering version of "Pain Train," the album gets off to a rocking start as soon as you hit the play button. The song's a showcase for Kurt Winter's searing guitar licks, and he really lets loose. The band played three new songs during the show, the first of which was "Runnin' Back to Saskatoon." Critics considered the song a bold move at the time, because the chorus reads like a lesson in Canadian cities. Be that as it may, the one thing that you can't argue with is that it's a great song and a longtime favorite among fans.
Up next is the first of the bonus tracks (and a personal favorite), "Rain Dance." Unfortunately, the song sounds a bit anemic here--suffering from either a poor mix, or just a lackluster performance. The segue into "These Eyes" doesn't help. To go from a rocker like "Rain Dance" into a pop ballad just doesn't work. The band stays in a retrospective mood for the next few songs--"Glace Bay Blues" and vocalist Burton Cummings' solo spotlight, "Sour Suite." Fans who owned the original vinyl will notice the intro to "Glace" is louder than it was originally.
From this point on, the CD rocks. "Hand Me Down World" is a bit slower than the studio version, but still sounds great. The medley of "American Woman" and "Truckin' Off Across the Sky" was the highlight of the original album, and the same holds true here. The big difference is the intro to "Truckin'." The original had a different solo overdubbed at the beginning of the song. The new CD has no overdubs at all, so the song will sound noticeably different to those who were familiar with the original.
"Share the Land" also sounds great, but the hurried tempo in which it's played makes you think that they're just playing it because they have to. The CD comes to a close with a killer version of "No Time." The only things missing from the original vinyl are the stage banter from the end of the album (where Burton says "Seattle! Seattle, Washington!") and the lyrics. The stage banter was apparently taken from the second night. As for the lyrics, the producers opted for new liner notes and photos instead (the photos that were in black and white on the original sleeve are now in color). Live at the Paramount is a perfect example of taking a great album and making it even better.