Burton Cummings - piano, vocals; Michael Rowe - keyboards, vocals; Danny Weiss - guitar, vocals; Ian Gardner -bass; Jim Gordon - drums, percussion
As the front man and one of the primary songwriters for The Guess Who, Burton Cummings became one of the most celebrated Canadian musicians of all time. Originally joining the group as a keyboard replacement in 1965, Cummings soon became the lead vocalist following the departure of Chad Allen. A gifted musician and showman, with a rich sculpted voice, Cummings was a critical element leading to the bands' monumental success. By the late-1960s, The Guess Who were a virtual hit machine, scoring huge international pop hits with "These Eyes" and "Laughing," both of which he co-wrote with Randy Bachman. Cummings was also responsible for the infectiously jazzy "Undone," which was unlike anything in the hit parade of the time and was successful in large part due to his captivating vocal and jazz-inflected flute solo. In 1970, The Guess Who became the first Canadian group to hit number one on the American popular music charts, with "American Woman," a highly controversial political commentary on the US military and social upheaval surrounding the Vietnam War. As the 1970s rolled on, personal and religious issues between Cummings and band mate Randy Bachman caused a major rift in the band. Bachman soon departed to form the band Brave Belt, with original Guess Who vocalist Chad Allan, which later became Bachman-Turner Overdrive, while Cummings became the de facto bandleader. The string of hits continued with "Share the Land," "Hand Me Down World," "Albert Flasher," and several more before the group finally reached the end of the line in 1975, when they disbanded after a decade together.
Relocating to Los Angeles, Cummings launched his career the following year with an impressive self-titled solo album. Free from the expectations of his former band, Cummings was able to pursue his own musical vision. The album was impressive, showcasing his piano-based songwriting and highly distinctive vocals. The album track, "Stand Tall," soon became another international hit single, followed by the less successful "I'm Scared." The satiric anger and reckless abandon that Cummings had exhibited during the latter years of The Guess Who was seriously toned down, replaced by a more introspective and mature artist creating music on his own terms. Charting higher than any Guess Who album since 1970's Share The Land, the album was a success, and the following year Cummings was awarded with two Junos, both in male vocal categories.
This live recording captures Burton Cummings, along with an outstanding group of musicians (including former Derek & the Dominoes drummer, Jim Gordon), performing live at a huge outdoor concert. Hundreds of thousands jammed into downtown Boston to catch Cummings, along with the bands Orleans and Heart, at the Charles River Esplanade's Hatch Shell. This concert not only includes choice material from his debut solo album, but also features live previews of 1977's My Own Way To Rock, which had just been completed and was being prepared for release. However, this recording kicks off with a nod to Cummings' former band, beginning with the classic Guess Who Who song "American Woman." Danny Weiss gives the song an edgier sound than the original, with more metallic bite to his guitar, before they conclude the medley with "No Time," to great applause. The plaintive ballad, "I'm Scared," follows, featuring a heartfelt vocal and outstanding piano work from Cummings as he longs for more meaning to life. Next up are back-to-back previews of tracks soon to be released. The title song of the forthcoming album, My Own Way To Rock, is not surprisingly, a vigorous rocker that allows the group to flex their muscles a bit before they deliver a driving bluesy rendition of the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller classic "Framed," the latter featuring plenty of vocal improvisation and barrelhouse-style piano work from Cummings. He closes the set with "Stand Tall," a song that displays the same melodic craft that made so many of his Guess Who songs so unforgettable and had become a substantial hit single in the States.
Cummings' profile would continue to rise throughout the late 1970s, continuing with the release of My Own Way To Rock shortly after this performance, which featured more of his trademark vocals, some of the finest piano work of his career, and a guest appearance by former Guess Who writing partner, Randy Bachman. Cummings' Dream of A Child album in 1978 would become the biggest Canadian album in history at that point, but here is an opportunity to hear Cummings just as his solo work was beginning to receive recognition and he was arguably at his most inspired as a live performer.