Sound: First things first, a little backstory: this album was recorded live at the Paramount, in Seattle of 1972, two years after Randy Bachman left the band. The Guess Who would replace him with Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw, but the latter had to jet before they got to Seattle because he just couldn't handle the life on the road anymore. Instead of cancelling their tour, they called their good friend and guitarist Donnie McDougall to come over from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and fill in the last slot of the band. Also, he had to learn the full set of their next gig overnight. No biggie.
Now here's another fun little tidbit for you: this album was supposed to be called "Live From Carnegie Hall", but Burton Cummings had the terrible idea of partying his vocal cords into a knot. They had to settle on Seattle instead.
So, enough history for today, how does the sound fare?
It's a lot different from the studio recordings, I can tell you that! Not only is there this amazing energy that you can only get in a live recording, but if you were to get someone who was frozen in 1970 and only listened to "American Woman" and previous albums, they would be amazed that the band's musical style evolved in such a way. The sound has definitely evolved, going from your standard rockin', distorted guitar band to a band with a greater jazz and blues sound, all the while maintaining the band's distinctive signature groove. The best example of this shift would be the third track, "New Mother Nature"; if you've heard the original recording (with "No Sugar Tonight"), this version is a piano-driven, groovy-as-all, upbeat version, and I'll be damned if I can get it out of my head one day.
Of course, all this talk of a greater involvement of Burton Cumming's piano playing and a jazzier feel doesn't mean that The Guess Who have become a progressive jazz band; that overdriven lead guitar sound is still there, and boy do Kurt Winter and Donnie McDougall play it right. Garry Peterson also still rocks the skins, keeping the harmony of the band in beat with the... Well, beat, with his consistent drumming, but still takes some liberties with a bunch of cool little drum solos.
My only problem facing the sound would be that there are some transitions between songs that sound clipped, instead of being what the audience would have heard during the prestation. It kind of ruins the immersion a live album is supposed to have, but it's very minimal, and I'm honestly just fishing for SOMETHING to say that isn't "listen to this album now". // 9
Lyrics and Singing: Burton Cummings. That is all. What? You want me to elaborate? Fine.
As you may know, Burton Cummings is one of rock'n'roll's greatest lead singers. No that's not opinion, it's fact; they did a study, and nine out of ten people got goosebumps-or-more listening to his voice, while the other person was deaf. He just has a great growl to his singing, and the vocal range to go with it. Just listen to "These Eyes", and you'll see what I mean.
Furthermore, on track number seven, "Glace Bay Blues", Donnie McDougall shows that not only is he a competent guitar player, he can also take the lead microphone and sing when he wants to. He's got a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young kind of voice, which is a nice contrast to Burton Cumming's growl in the other tracks. The band can also pull off some good harmonies, especially in "Share The Land", "Runnin' Back To Saskatoon" and "No Time".
Finally, my only problem with the lyrical portion of the album is, surprisingly enough, during "American Woman", where Cummings seems to use a lot of prejorative language for no particularly good reason; the song is meant to be a semi-subtle jab at the American policies of the day, but it just makes him sound like he has a thing against women on this version. It's a shame, because most, if not all, of the other lyrics are interesting and well-phrased. // 9
Impression: I've got to say, buying this album on CD was one of my better ideas; it is quite possibly one of the best live albums I've heard (and I've listened to "Live At Leeds" quite a few times). Not only does it feature amazing live tracks, such as "New Mother Nature" and the like, but it also features a few you won't find on the LP, like "These Eyes", "Sour Suite", "Hand Me Down World", "Share The Land" and "No Time". Why these songs weren't originally included beats me, and should also be a crime against humanity. The only reason I'm giving this a nine, and not a ten, is that the album hasn't caused me to enter a deep psychedelic coma due to the achievement of musical nirvana. // 9