American Woman

The Guess Who

Legacy, 1970

http://www.theguesswho.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/18/2012

American Woman is both the Guess Who’s finest album statement and the original group’s swan song, and it’s a fine way for Randy Bachman to exit.

Yes, the band continued to have success for several years, but after the tour for this one Bachman left to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and the Guess Who quickly went through a downward slide, from “Bus Rider” to “Sour Suite” to the awful “Clap For The Wolfman.” With Bachman on board, they were a pretty good band for a few years there, and it culminated in this album.

Up to this point, most of the music had been pretty low-key (“Laughing,” “These Eyes,” the superb “Undun”), but the guitar crunch was turned up for this album, and it paid off on the hit “No Time.” The tune was a re-recording of the one from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Canned Wheat; where that sounded more like a garage band jam, this is a polished, melodic, fuzz-heavy guitar piece with the band firing on all cylinders and it's a keeper.

Smarmy lyrics mar “American Woman,” but you can’t beat the transition from the acoustic opener (sometimes dropped when played nowadays on the radio) to the classic riff and the guitar solos throughout. The dual song approach also comes up in “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature,” with the first song playing, then the second, then both merging together at the end. The piece works well as a whole, although “New Mother Nature” is catchier, and Jocko says yes, and I believe him.

A bag of goodies and bottle of wine surely were factors in the art-rock acoustics of “Talisman,” the band’s only trip down this road (“Artificial flowers cannot die for life within them is illusion / Talisman, grace my hand", and so on, for five minutes). Right. Skip it and try the groove of “Proper Stranger” or the boogie rock of “8:15.” Another re-recorded song is offered with “When Friends Fall Out,” which starts off decent with a fuzzy guitar tone and good vocal harmonies but falls apart in the psychedelic bridge.

The pretty good instrumental “909” is worth a spin or two, but the bonus CD track “Got To Find A Way” is pretty slow and yields no reward. The closing “Humpty’s Blues/American Woman (Epilogue)” tries to bring it full circle, but the blues half of the song is grating after a while; it’s nowhere near as organic as the jam that bore the first part of the title track to start the album.

With a better hits to filler ratio than other Guess Who albums and with three of the band’s best hits present, this turns out to be a pretty good album. It’s not great, but it’s worth seeking out for fans who will appreciate what the band was trying to do here.

Rating: B-

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