From the Stacks

From The Stacks: ‘The Greatest of the Guess Who’

You don’t need this album. You totally need this album.

By the time this was released in 1977, Canada’s The Guess Who certainly were entitled to a greatest hits package. Beginning with their original incarnation as Chad Allan and the Expressions (Guess Who?), the band released 15 studio albums between 1965 and 1975. They racked up nearly as many U.S. top 40 singles during that same period–14 in all, including two number ones.  Any band would be proud of that legacy.

But in the early ’80s, a new radio format debuted that proved to be both blessing and curse to bands like The Guess Who. Classic rock radio guaranteed that “American Woman,” “These Eyes,” “No Time,” and “No Sugar Tonight”–that’s 1/3 of The Greatest of the Guess Who–would remain in rotation for the next 35 years (and counting). I’m sure the band appreciates the royalties, and even more so I bet they’re proud to occupy a permanent space in the pop music consciousness.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that thanks to the classic rock format, The Guess Who’s 15 albums’ worth of music have been reduced to four songs that while good I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing again. Even worse: Overexposure has led to a genuine hatred for “American Woman.”

It’s not just The Guess Who. Classic rock radio would lead you to believe that Led Zeppelin only recorded four songs, as did the Who, the Beatles, and the Stones. They’re the lucky ones: Some bands simply do not exist because they didn’t make the classic rock radio format. When was the last time you heard the Dave Clark Five, for example?

The net result for a lot of listeners is burnout on a band that we’ve barely listened to. A Guess Who greatest hits? Couldn’t you just stab me in the ear with a fork? “American Woman” overexposure closes otherwise curious minds and ears to the slippery, sexy, Bacharach-ish beauty of 1969’s “Undun,” for example.

So no, you don’t need 1/3 of The Greatest of the Guess Who but yes, you need the other two-thirds, and if you’re really feeling frisky, there’s a more ambitious 39 track anthology that covers the band’s entire discography while The Greatest only pulls from seven albums.

But what you really get with The Greatest of the Guess Who is that amazing Jack Davis album cover. No amount of overexposure can kill my Jack Davis love.

This one won’t cost you much. You may even find it in the dollar bin, but more likely you can expect to pay around five bucks. Happy hunting.

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