A Perfect Record #1 – American Woman

Music has always been my salvation. Some recordings strike me as “perfect” from beginning to end. Even were I to go deaf, I would still be able to listen to these on the turntable of my mind, so ingrained into my consciousness are these albums. In this ongoing series, I’ll take a quick peek at some of the perfect records that have shaped my life.

The Guess Who – American Woman. It was 1970. The whole hippie thing was everywhere, and I wanted to be a part of it. But I was only twelve. My only avenue for participation was the music, brought home on vinyl (we called them “records” or “albums” back then) by one or both of my older brothers. I think I actually remember being in the car, driving home from a shopping trip to 28th Street in Grand Rapids, MI, and looking at the album cover as we drove. It was probably my mother driving. It was probably Dave who had purchased the album. The memory comes with a feeling of excitement, as we were now heading home to listen to it. And it comes with a deep, aching longing triggered, I think, by the psychedelic images and copy on the cover. Something larger than my small, rural life was going on out there in the world, and I was missing it!

This album stirred my young, lonely heart. Burton Cummings’ voice, one of the best in rock in my opinion, was so beautiful, and so real. And the music… there was not a clunker on either side. The mix of acoustic and electric guitars on the title cut, and that riff when it kicked in, on top of almost tribal drums. The No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature medley with that overlapped last verse and Cummings’ soaring voice. Proper Stranger‘s darker vibe. Talisman’s lush quiet. I didn’t really know what the lyrics meant. But I could feel that they came from a larger world. I wanted to touch that world.


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