Toronto, ON, Canada
December 2, 1976
This is a previously uncirculated recording from Burton Cummings' first solo tour after dissolving The Guess Who. The entire show was captured on two cassettes.
He dedicates the hits medley near the end of the set to "a fellow who is probably single-handedly responsible for any kind of music industry there is in this country, Mr. Jack Richardson." And in 1976 Canada he's not far from the truth.
Before the encores Cummings says the band has only been together for three weeks and that they've run out of songs. He finishes with two more piano ballads to a roar of approval.
Tagged onto the end of the second tape was a radio spot reviewing the gig. I've also included ads and a review from the Toronto Star.
This is great piece of Canadian music history. Thanks to pjcksr for taping (who also taped Kiss at the Victory Burlesque in 74 and Max Webster at Duffy's in Hamilton in 75) !
This was the perfect setup to tape a show. I was front row center of the first balcony. I used a cheapie run of the mill cassette player that had served me well. There was a ledge and a railing along the front of the balcony (maybe to prevent people from jumping over it ....ha ha.) All I did was wrap the microphone wire around the railing so the mic was hanging, suspended in the air. I didn't have to touch it or adjust it at all. Just hit record and we're off. It was so nice to not have to worry about it and I could just sit back and enjoy the show. As anyone who tapes knows, you spend more time worrying about the tape than you do watching the show, so this was a real treat. I hope everyone enjoys this.
And here's a heartfelt recollection from rocksteady1:
"The anticipation was intense and undeniable. Indeed, you could say it was palpable. This was the professional solo debut of an already established Canadian Rock and Roll icon. A self-titled solo album had hit the charts along with the single Stand Tall and by all indications, the fans were eager to buy into the idea. But the question remained – would Burton Cummings' previous acclaim as the lead singer of Canada's incredibly popular and storied band The Guess Who translate into success as a solo artist?
In the winter of 1975, immediately following the demise of the Guess Who, Burton had holed up at Winnipeg's Roade Studio with a bassist and drummer banging out tunes, maintaining his chops and honing his craft, working things out in preparation for whatever was to come next. The Guess Who was a spent force – 15 albums over 7 years, 5 different guitarists, and 2 bass players. Whether it was a new group or a solo act, Burton was determined to take the next step entirely on his own terms. It could not be lame; it had to be good; failure was not an option. He was indeed that "workshop owner in the gulch for the people offering himself to the world"!!!
Then Portrait Records (a relatively new "boutique" label subsidiary of Columbia Records) came along and signed Burton to a multi-record contract and enlisted esteemed producer Richard Perry. By the fall of 1976, a solo album was on the record racks supported by an extensive North American tour featuring the best musicians available – keyboardist Michael Rheault, bassist Ian Gardiner (the lone Winnipegger and someone whom Burton would put his trust in for years to come), guitarists Danny Weiss and Randy Strom, and drummer Jim Gordon (who co-wrote Layla with Eric Clapton…). The inaugural 1976 tour was to be a defining moment.
Would Burton simply bring out the requisite Guess Who classics and guaranteed show-stoppers and ride the coattails of his legacy as the lead singer of that great Canadian group; or, would he offer us something fresh in performance and repertoire that would truly distinguish himself? While it would be silly to ignore the Guess Who – after all, this was a Canadian tour – there would have to be something more! "A new mother nature taking over" (if you will…)
Those first shows would be special. Had to be. Starting the show, the band would come on stage and plunge into an instrumental medley of Burton's new solo tunes (Is it Really Right, Stand Tall) and then break into the opening lick to Your Backyard. This would be Burton's cue (an instrumental announcement if you will) to come out on stage as the band repeated the lick over and over – revving up the frenzy – until Burton was ready to stand at the piano and grab the mike. And as the audience erupted, Burton Cummings – Winnipeg Warbler – Jellyroll Kirkpatrick would start to pound the keys and wail to the top of his lungs – never mind the white 70s leisure suit – it was after all 1976!)
Sitting in the audience at Massey Hall, it was magic. Superb musicianship, a high voltage stage presence, and the best vocal pipes in rock and roll right in front of our eyes (and our ears). The energy was electric. –"Wham Bam Thank you Ma'am – Where you goin' down the wild wood trail"
The next 2 hours would take us through much of the new solo stuff to be sure. Stand Tall was now a hit record. I'm Scared had an intriguing spiritual bent. Is It Really Right was sincere and inspired song-writing ("Fly, just swoop and soar and spin; Glide above what you have been")…
Your Backyard was good old rock and roll. … Just as quickly though, Burton was Fats Domino reincarnated (No Fats wasn't really dead yet) banging out a new and rollicking tune - My Own Way To Rock. Yes, the solo stuff was working out just fine in live performance. (Like a 747 mama; shiny, lanky, long, and lean…)
We even heard for the first time 2 very strong tunes; Sona Sona, and A Fool A Fool I Met A Fool – from an aborted movie soundtrack Burton had written tunes for in 1974 while still a member of that other group, but performed that night with soaring vocal lines and nifty intricate piano playing.
There was the requisite acknowledgement of the vast musical legacy of The Guess Who – Albert Flasher, Hang On To Your Life, Hand Me Down World and a driven and intense rendition of New Mother Nature – a tune that the Guess Who had performed a myriad of different ways over the years. A robust and buoyant rendering that hearkened back to the old Live At The Paramount (1972) version excised from the Bachman classic No Sugar Tonight. Burton had to acknowledge the Guess Who hits: These Eyes, Laughing, Undun, American Woman, No Time in a special medley that had first appeared in the later 1975 touring Guess Who setlists. And even though Burton had the faith and the guts to leave, he could still deliver the Guess Who favorites with style and panache.
Included on this special recording is a short radio segment of a follow-up review of the show by rock radio legend David Marsden of CHUM FM that was broadcast the following day (I distinctly remember actually listening to this very review on "the Rock Report" right after the 5:30pm news on December 3, 1976). Marsden identifies Burton's solo performance of Sour Suite as a quintessential moment in the concert and then singles out Charlemagne as a classic Burton Cummings rocker composition that showcases all of his abilities as a rock-singer-songwriter-performer.
Indeed with Charlemagne, Burton took things to another level entirely. Yet another sensational new hard driving rocker – with lyrics based on a series of dreams (The subsequent recorded version would be cut to 3 verses – this performance has 5-6 different stanzas referencing various historical figures from Jezebel, Charlemagne, Napoleon Bonaparte, an astronaut and even a Neanderthal caveman! ("Never could be no Neanderthal!) Cummings voice like a laser over a relentless piano and electric guitar assault and suddenly it was "Thank You and Good Night". Almost 2 hours but as if only 5 minutes had passed. Yes we got the encores but wow was it really over???
My buddy Ken and I had been at Burton's previous show in Toronto on August 31, 1975 watching the Guess Who perform one of their very last concerts in the pouring rain at CNE Stadium. And even though Burton and the boys sang and played their hearts out for us for 2 hours in that Sunday night thunderstorm, somehow the weather seemed a precursor to what was to come… We were dampen spirited – die-hard Guess Who fans devastated by their demise.
And so here we were again a year later - 19 year olds - in the more protected environs of Massey Hall; one of Canada's finest musical venues and renowned for its history and acoustics. We were expectant. We were hopeful and hungry. We had already bought the solo record and played it to death. Frankly a little disappointed by the slickly produced softer piano ballad focus of the album but hopeful that Burton's performance that night would at once reassure us of his rock and roll credentials in a full blown concert setting. (The premise being that the primary reason Burton Cummings was placed upon this good earth was to scream rock and roll to the top of his lungs.) Indeed we were not to be disappointed. Burton and the band came to play and came to rock. From the 11th row, we could almost feel the sweat.
Having spent a good part of my life collecting live recordings of Burton Cummings and the Guess Who, I have always been on the look out for something from this special time; that is, these first several concerts as a solo artist. We had audience recordings and radio broadcasts from 1977 but up until now nothing from 1976 – nothing but my own 43 year old recollections of that night in December '76 stored somewhere in my musical synapse banks… Oh yeah, a couple of pictures and a short newspaper review… But that was all. 1976 was special. Burton would be doing songs (Blue Suede Shoes, Nothing Rhymed, Niky Hokey) that would soon be dropped from the setlist forever – experimenting with different things until by early 1977 the setlist was refined into a well-oiled machine. If only – if only we had SOMETHING from the very start…
So imagine this. Over 40 years later, a friend emails to tell me that a couple of cassettes have been found. Burton Cummings. Massey Hall. December 2, 1976. 112 minutes of Burton and his band at the top of his game singing and playing into our musical hearts. (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!) We were there and let me tell you about it! And here we are again! Verified and Validated!"
Master Cassettes > WAV > FLAC level 8
(transfer: Nakamichi Dragon > M-audio interface > PC)
Danny Weiss - guitar
Randy Strom - guitar
Michael Reault - keys
Jim Gordon - drums
Ian Gardiner - bass
1. Your Backyard
2. Hand Me Down World
3. Nothing Rhymed
4. Albert Flasher
5. Hang On To Your Life
6. My Own Way To Rock
7. Blue Suede Shoes
8. band intros
9. band instrumental
10. Sour Suite
11. Sona Sona
12. I'm Scared
13. New Mother Nature
14. Guess Who medley: The Way They Were/Laughing/These Eyes/Undun/American Woman/No Time/The Way They Were
15. Niki Hokey
16. Stand Tall
17. Is It Really Right
19. A Fool A Fool I Met A Fool
20. Glamour Boy
21. radio review
Enjoy, and please keep it lossless (and don't bootleg this - particularly rockinconcerts.com; if you are the person who runs that website, you are pure scum).
Images for all shows as well as full size images for this show.
Images for this show: