04:07 AM, Jul 01, 2009
Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Bachman-Cummings: “Guess Who’s Back Together – Bachman Cummings Overdrive?”
Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings have had their share of ups, downs and personal fallouts over the years. As fellow members of the Guess Who, they co-wrote numerous hits, such as These Eyes, Laughing, No Time, peaking with their smash 1970 No. 1 - American Women. But at the pinnacle of the Guess Who’s career, personal differences caused lead guitarist Randy Bachman to leave the group.
Lead singer/pianist Cummings remained with the Guess Who after Randy’s departure. He continued to produce albums and help pen hits for the Guess Who such as Share the Land, Rain Dance and Clap for the Wolfman.
Bachman eventually went on to form Bachman Turner Overdrive in 1973 and began racking up gold and platinum success. Randy continued writing hit songs while expanding his duties from lead guitarist to lead vocalist on BTO hits such as Taking Care of Business, Hey You, and Baby You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.
Cummings eventually became disenchanted with the Guess Who and in 1975, he began a successful solo career, pumping out hits such as Stand Tall, My Own Way to Rock, and You Saved My Soul.
By 1977, slumping sales and solo ambitions led Bachman to part company with BTO.
In 1983, Randy and Burton put aside differences with each and their former Guess Who band mates to stage a successful reunion tour and a live album. But the reunion was short lived and both soon returned to their solo careers.
Bachman and Cummings reunited with the Guess Who twice more, once in May 1997 to help raise funds during Winnipeg’s Flood of the Century, and again in August 1999 at the request of Winnipeg Premier Gary Doer to have the band play the closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games. The last show led to a successful cross Canada and US tour in 2000 as well as a live CD and DVD release. They did several more tours with the group that culminated in a warmly received set before an estimated crowd of 450,000 at the Toronto SARS benefit concert. The show was the largest outdoor ticketed event in Canadian history.
However, an underlying problem was overshadowing the band’s renewed success. Due to a legal glitch, Bachman and Cummings, the creative heart and spirit of the Guess Who, the guys who wrote and sang the band’s hits, had lost the rights to the name The Guess Who. It had been scooped out from under them by the former Guess Who bass player Jim Kale who was sitting at home collecting a sizable percentage of the tour profits.
Finally, in July 2003, Bachman and Cummings left the Guess Who name behind for good.
Eager to capitalize, Kale hired former Guess Who drummer Gary Peterson and a rotating group of Bachman/Cummings sound a likes and began doing shows under the banner The Guess Who in the US where the missing stars’ faces would be less conspicuous while carefully avoiding shows in Canada.
Burton and Randy got the brainstorm to unite their talents under the banner Bachman-Cummings. The primary forces behind the Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive, joined forces and hit the road, showcasing their enviable back catalogue of songs which encompasses their 40 plus years in music.
With their songs having been rerecorded by artists ranging from Junior Walker and the All Stars to Lenny Kravitz, there are few people on the planet who haven’t been exposed to the songs of Bachman and Cummings. They are legends in Canada and well known international stars. But in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Randy and Burton’s hometown, they enjoy a near godlike status. So when the announcement leaked that the two would be making a Winnipeg stop as part of their 2009 tour, I was “Johnny at the rathole” to grab tickets.
The “hometown boys made good” entered to a thunderous standing ovation, and immediately staked their claim on the Guess Who legacy, opening the pre-Canada Day concert with their Canadian flag-waver Running Back to Saskatoon, followed by the rollicking Albert Flasher
“It’s good to be home,” declared Burton, attired from head to toe in black and sporting a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt under his open shirt.
Flexing their versatile hit making muscle, Randy then took over lead vocal duties and belted out his BTO smash You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet! Randy was in strong voice, and looked positively svelte (he’d lost a good 150 pounds). His voice was a bit thin when he occasionally took on the lines of former BTO vocalist Fred Turner, but strong harmonies from their tight 5 piece back up band, and his scorching lead guitar solo’s more than made up for it.
Burton then had the audience clapping in time to the 1974 Guess Who hit dedicated to the late great DJ - Wolfman Jack - Clap for the Wolfman.
Bachman then exited while Cummings covered the title track from his latest CD entitled Above the Ground and Randy followed suit with a cut from his latest solo CD Jazz Thing II.
Then it was back to the hits, with a song Randy noted, “prevented them from wearing the tag One Hit Wonders,” – their 1969 top 10 Guess Who hit Laughing.
The guys did a great job of making Winnipeg feel special. Bachman announced that they’d thrown away the set list in honour of playing at home. Winnipeg was fortunate to hear many songs that had not been used on the tour thus far. These included My Own Backyard (Cummings at his rockin’ best hammering on his piano like a young Jerry Lee Lewis), Timeless Love (which Burton dedicated to his mother who was in the audience - both these songs were from Burton Cummings’ solo career), and The Guess Who’s Glamour Boy as well as their first US top 10 hit These Eyes which Cummings claimed they had only played sporadically on the tour because “he could no longer sing it like he could when he was 20.”
Cummings has one of the most distinctive voices in the business. His pipes have weathered remarkably well and he can still belt out throat tearing high notes such as the ending notes of Bachman’s pop/jazz masterpiece Undun with incredible power.
After Burton finished nailing These Eyes, Randy joked, “Ladies and gentlemen a 20 year old Burton Cummings – I guess that makes me 24.”
Burton’s 62 and Randy’s 66.
Bachman and Cummings rocked with authority for nearly 2 and ½ hours and could easily have given many young twenty-something bands a hard run for their money.
Throughout the night, they shared many entertaining stories about how they wrote some of their hits songs. Randy told an amusing tale from his BTO days about confronting a trucker, “who was as big as a Volkswagen with a head screwed on top” who had deliberately boxed in the band’s van with the help of 2 other truckers for a practical joke. Instead of tearing Randy’s head off, the trucker simply said, “let it ride, son” that resulted in Randy penning BTO’s 1974 breakout hit “Let It Ride.”
Randy showed off his finesse and diversity moving from his jazz flavoured songs such as Looking Out for No 1 to the hard rocking BTO hits like “Hey You” which Cummings introduced with a smirk as being “ a song that Randy wrote when he didn’t like me.”
Although performing a few well-received tunes from individual solo albums (mostly Burton’s) such as Bachman’s Prairie Town and Cummings My Own Way to Rock, the boys primarily stuck with the tried and true Guess Who/BTO classic rock hits. The spotlight rotated back and forth between Burton and Randy as they rotated between Guess Who tracks like No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature, BTO’s Let It Roll and then partnering to do what they each do best on smash hits like American Woman which had the entire crowd on their feet, punching their fists in the air.
They boys brought the night home with a tip of the hat to former Guess Who band mate, the late Kurt Winter, performing his ode to the working man – Bus Rider and finished the set with a searing version of their US Billboard top 5 hit - No Time.
After a lengthy well deserved standing ovation, they returned to finish the night with The Guess Who’s 1970 peace anthem Share the Land and closed with Randy’s BTO party hearty rock classic, Taking Care of Business – something Bachman and Cummings proved they could do extremely well.
Guess who’s in The Guess Who? From here on in, they’ll be no need to guess. Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings are the real deal! Case closed.
4 out 5 stars
Winnipeg, MB Canada
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AP Photo / John Minchillo
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