Trying to keep track of the career of Canadian rock & pop legends The Guess Who, let alone the discography, can be a challenge these days. One quick look at their discography and you'll see albums listed under Chad Allan and the Expressions, The Guess Who?, The Guess Who, and Post Burton Cummings The Guess Who, which, I guess is where the band are at these days, as they've now done seven albums in the years since Burton left the band, the latest being Plein D'Amour for Cleopatra Records. Who is in the band at this point you might ask? Well for starters, the only original member left is drummer Garry Peterson, and he's joined here by Derek Sharp (guitar, keyboards, lead vocals), Michael Staertow (guitar, vocals), Leonard Shaw (keyboards, sax, flute, vocals), and Michael Devin (bass, vocals...ex-Whitesnake), plus guests Jason Charboneau on cello and Tony Krempa on violin. Some will no doubt say 'without Burton Cummings and/or Randy Bachman, how can this be The Guess Who?'. I'd tend to agree with that, but if we take that thought process out of the equation for a minute, and just judge Plein D'Amour on its own merits, it's actually a pretty good album filled with lots of memorable, melodic, hook laden pop/power pop/pomp rock songs. It doesn't sound like The Guess Who one bit, but, it does sound good. "The King", "Across the Line", and "People Around Me" kick off the album, and damn if these aren't instantly catchy songs with plenty of lush vocal harmonies, tasty instrumentation, and choruses that stick in your head long after the songs have ended. I hear 10CC, Queen, Sweet, City Boy, CSN&Y, and a host of other vocal oriented bands that have thrilled our lives over the last 50 years. This guy Derek Sharp has some voice, and the fact that all the rest of the guys contribute backing vocals gives the entire album a rich, pleasurable quality. "Headline" is a complete acoustic based ear-worm, "Pursuit of No Regret" brings to mind Styx, Queen, and The Baby's with it's snazzy piano and irresistible vocal melodies, and the title track starts off with a charming Celtic feel and then morphs into a kick ass guitar rocker that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Lynyrd Skynyrd album, complete with scorching lead guitar trade-offs and a killer chorus.
Honestly, if you told me that the record label tried to pull one over on us and this was a new Cats in Space album, I'd say 'ah yes, that makes sense, I can see it now', but, as it is, this is the current incarnation of The Guess Who cranking out a really fun throwback record, not to their own sound, but of that era in general. It doesn't all work so smashingly-"Spaces" and "Free" don't really grab me like the rest of the songs, but for the most part, this is 37-minutes well spent, a fun album, regardless of the name on the front of the record.
Across the Line
People Around Me
Pursuit of no Regret
Plein D Amour