THE GUESS WHO — So Long, Bannatyne (review)

THE GUESS WHO — So Long, Bannatyne album cover Album · 1971 · Non-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Goin' a little crazy ain't too bad...

So Long, Bannatyne came in the wake of a huge international success that was American Woman, an album that blew up a band that had previously only had a few extraneous hits here and there. Randy Bachman, once perceived as the creative muscle behind songs like 'Undun', took his leave following his bout of Mormon fever that infected his view of the band's then unruly lifestyle. This left The Guess Who to pick up two guitarists from their home city of Winnipeg, Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw, to take his place. Bachman's departure had not left the group quite in dire straits, as not only was Share the Land with this new lineup. Released in the same year of 1970, it itself spawned more singles that kept The Guess Who in a continued state of success.

As the year winded down however so did this success. The group began to evolve slightly but quickly in to a much less commercially palatable sound with progressive touches here and there. The band went from scoring number ones on the Billboard charts to barely scraping into the top 20 in a year alone. Thus enter So Long, Bannatyne, what came out of this madness. To be blunt, this record has no right to be good considering the circumstances in which it was released. However it'd be foolish to judge a book, or in this case a large plastic disk by its cover.

If a word alone were given to describe this particular record, it would likely be "ambitious". It certainly embodies post-Bachman Guess Who better than anything that followed it- this has a much looser, experimental tone than the harder edged stuff on American Woman. It generally wanders the line between archaic, earthy rock 'n' roll and warm hints of progressive rock. When it comes down to specifics it's all over the place, with each song sounding relatively different and reflecting off of one another. For instance the second track 'She Might Have Been a Nice Girl', a bittersweet, regretful ballad is immediately contrasted by the elaborate and maniacal 'Goin' a Little Crazy'. It's quite hard to get over this seemingly halfbaked nature upon first listen, but after a few spins you begin to see how all of the songs are tied by a vague theme of retrospection and introspection. Though it's fairly known in the band's fan circle that this album's title track is written in relation to Kurt Winter's upheaval from Manitoba, the entire album tends to follow a train of thought that delves into sentimentality quite often. 'Sour Suite', a stunning piano rock ballad (and one of if not the best ballads I've heard) tells of a "runaway dad that took away the only thing that I never had". The more straightforward, floaty rocker 'Pain Train' has the lyric "We love the dollar more than the collar that Daddy used to wear". This whole lyrical theme the album uses not only, as aforementioned, ties everything in, but it also makes it thematically intriguing and keeps your intention extremely well. It doesn't hurt that songs like the jazz-rock of 'Grey Day' keep you on your toes with extremely impressive musicianship. Seriously, this song absolutely stunning. One of both Cummings' and Peterson's best work, as well as the song by the band that likely has impressed me the most to date.

So Long, Bannatyne is a comfort record, for sure. On the other hand, it's also a rocker. On the third hand, it also makes you think. You can take it however way you please. Or you can simply take all three in at once and listen to what a surprisingly beautiful and awesome show that this record is.
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