Domenic Troiano | The Guess Who
Most of those who know me know that I am a tireless defender of
the music of Domenic Troiano. I noticed some recent internet
postings inquiring as to what of Dom's music is available on
CD. I was in Toronto this summer and found the compilation
still in stock at Sam The Record Man. Triple
is an overview of the 3 albums he released in the late
'70s after the Guess Who broke up. When the Guess Who disbanded in
1975, Domenic put a band together with a distinct rhythm and blues
style. With 2 keyboard players, the first release, Burnin' at
, was the most mellow effort of Dom's career. Some
outstanding songwriting such as "The Outer Limits of My Soul" as
well as the jazz flavoured contributions of the Brecker Brothers
still made this album a worthy effort. In contrast, 1977's The
Joke's on Me
revealed a more solid rock flavoured sound that
was more reminiscent of Troiano's earlier efforts. The title track
along with "Maybe the Next Time," "War Zone," and "Road to Hell"
certainly emphasized a more progressive rock sound; driving rhythm
under sophisticated harmonic structures, topped off with terrific
guitar artistry. One could only wish Burton was around to sing
the vocals... the album also contained an instrumental "Spud"
that was a number the Guess Who jammed between songs during their
final tour in the summer of 1975. By 1979, The Domenic Troiano
Band was now called simply "Troiano" and the corresponding album
was the most commercially successful of this
trio of releases supported largely by the hit single "We All Need
Love." More important and better songs such as "South American
Run" (featuring former Bush/Mandala vocalist Roy Kenner) and the
bluesy "Achilles" were unfortunately overshadowed by the quasi-disco
The Toronto Sound
is still available as well. It consists
of Dom's 2 Mercury solo albums (1972-73) that he did prior to joining
the GW. Both albums fit in their entirety on 1 CD so it is good value
for money. The music on both of these albums was extraordinary,
probably Dom at his best. Great numbers like "Repossession Blues,"
"Writing's on the Wall" and "The Wear and the Tear on My Mind" make
seeking out this music well worth the effort.
A terrific CD that was available a few years ago was the Bush album
from 1970 (no, not the British band of the same name). Bush
released one fantastic album in 1970. They opened for Three Dog Night
and the "Dogs" even recorded one of Bush's tunes "I Can Hear You
Calling (Troiano)" for the flipside of "Joy to the World." If you
can find the Bush CD, buy it. It also contains 20 minutes of bonus
material from a 1970 concert at the Bitter End in L.A. One of the
tunes from this is a piece called "Wicked Woman" from which Dom
would steal the riff to "Rich World-Poor World" a few years later.
Prior to Bush, Dom was an integral member of one of Canada's greatest
bands of the 1960s, The Mandala. The Mandala was a Toronto rhythm and
blues outfit featuring George Olliver on lead vocals. Interestingly,
Domenic wrote most of the material (as he would in every one of his
various ventures). It is a crime that their album has yet to be
released on CD. I have spoken to Dom about this and he would love it
to happen as well.
Between Bush and The Guess Who, Domenic joined the Cleveland based
rock trio the James Gang (replacing Joe Walsh) and contributed on 2
albums, "Passin' Thru" and "Straight Shooter," both of which are
available on CD.
Many Guess Who fans first encountered Troiano as a sideman on Randy
Bachman's 1970 instrumental solo album, Axe
. Although it is
hard to imagine two guitarists with a greater contrast of style,
Domenic has a great respect for Randy's musicianship and has spoken
highly of Randy on a number of occasions. It is rumoured that Randy
will be re-releasing this album on CD sometime in the near future.
Another rare recording featuring Domenic is an LP from 1981 called
"Changing of the Guard." Dom formed a power trio called Black Market
for this venture. One can definitely hear the same sound as Dom
achieved producing Greg Leskiw and Bill Wallace in Kilowatt around the
same time period. None of this is on CD as yet.
In the mid-80s, Dom went into television soundtrack writing. He did
the music for the show Night Heat
as well as Diamonds
The theme for Night Heat
was released as a single as well.
Dedicated fans will find Domenic playing as a sideman to such artists
as Donald Fagen, David Clayton Thomas, and even rockin' Ronnie
Hawkins. His playing is distinct and unmistakably recognizable. The
die-hard Canadian rock fans may remember a Toronto group from the
'60s called the Five Rogues. A number of singles were released where
Domenic's playing was prominently featured.
The music he recorded as a member of the Guess Who was as different
from Kurt Winter as Kurt Winter's was of Randy Bachman. Kurt helped
turn the music of the Guess Who from a "pop/rock" sound to a more
serious FM radio hard rock sound. It was a deliberate decision of the
band to go in this musical direction as Burton craved the acceptance
of the rock establishment of the day. By 1974 however, things had
soured. The band was still considered a pop band (almost novelty act
considering the recent and rare hit on the radio in the form of
"Clap for the Wolfman") in the U.S. Although there was a genuine
respect and impressive following throughout the mid-west, the Guess
Who were still nobodies in NYC and L.A. Salt in the wound was added
in the form of the stunning success of Burton's rival Randy Bachman
whose band Bachman Turner Overdrive was cresting an incredible wave
of popularity and record sales at the time.
Burton had to do something. If he couldn't achieve the same commercial
success as Randy, at least he could show up the simplistic 3-chord
formulaic rock that Randy was churning out by raising the musical
quality bar several notches and go for "respectability" through a
more "sophisticated" sound. Certainly the musicians, Cummings,
Wallace, and Peterson were capable of all kinds of musical versatility
and diversification. Add a proven musician of the caliber of Domenic
Troiano, and the band would earn instant respectability. At least that
was the plan. Other bands at the time such as the Doobie Brothers
had undergone similar transformations and had garnered significant
success. Remember at the time that artists such as Boz Scaggs and
Steely Dan were also hitting their stride. In that context, the
decision to bring in Troiano with his jazz/blues rock style was
a reasonable choice.
Make no mistake, everyone in the Guess Who at the time knew exactly
what they were doing. They had just recorded a soundtrack for a
movie (that was never released) with Dom taking all of the guitar parts
on 5 songs ("Sona Sona," "Fool, Fool, I Met a Fool," "Your Back Yard,"
"Roll with the Punches," and "Save a Smile"). (Burton would of
course re-record "Punches" and "Backyard" on his '70s solo discs
and even perform "Fool Fool" during the European leg of the Ringo
Starr All-Star tour of 1992)
Unfortunately, the fans did not appreciate the dramatic shift. Ticket
buyers in the summer of 1974 expecting a showcasing of the recently
album were subjected to something entirely
different as the band tried to introduce them to the new Guess Who
sound of the Domenic Troiano influenced Guess Who featured on such
songs as "Dirty" and "Long Gone" that were true departures from
their musical past. "Dancin' Fool" didn't seem that different but fans
and reviewers were still confused.
Musically, the material on Flavours
and Power in the
is as sophisticated as the Guess Who ever would be.
was released in late 1974 and was powered by the single
"Dancin' Fool." However, numbers like "Dirty," "Diggin' Yourself," and
"Long Gone" which featured extended jazz inflected soloing by
Troiano were very different indeed to what had been standard Guess
Who fare ("Long Gone" is still an unquestionably strong instrumental
tour-de-force). The band still had great harmonies though on numbers
like "Hoe Down Time," and Burton still could wail out crooners like
"Loves Me Like a Brother" and sing convincingly on ballads like "Eye"
and "Nobody Knows His Name." There was even a country influenced tune
"Seems Like I Can't Live with You" that had Domenic taking a mandolin
solo. There was no question among the fans who were used to the meat and
potatoes rock of Kurt Winter. This stuff was different.
Power in the Music
, released in the late spring of 1975, had
no hit single to save it. It started out promisingly enough with the
rocker "Down and Out Woman" (which the band would use to open their shows
during the summer of 1975), but it simply did not catch on. All the
same, there is an excellent selection of music on this album. The
ballad "Dreams" (based lyrically on various dreams that Burton
documented each morning when he would awake) to which Burton refers
to this day as one of the best songs he ever wrote. "Women" was a
song that was written spontaneously as Dom strummed his guitar and
Burton started to sing. "When the Band was Singin' 'Shakin' All
Over'" rocked out like the traditional Guess Who sound that people
loved; great hooks, terrific licks and Burton screaming like a mother.
"Rich World-Poor World" has been labeled pretentious by some. Lyrically,
that may be a fair comment, however the musical changes are still
extraordinary. "Rosanne" (about Gary Maclean's girlfriend) was pegged
by the band to be the next hit single. It never made it. Quite
frankly, it is one of the weaker tunes on the album. "Coors for Sunday"
is an incredible jazz/blues number that showcases the band's musicality
in a magnificent manner. The album finished with the slower "Shopping
Bag Lady" (a respectable piano-ballad in the style one would soon
associate with Burton's upcoming solo career) and the title-track
"Power in the Music." "Power" featured lyrics that were lame
and a verse/chorus that was all too predictable. The song is saved
however by the instrumental coda at the end that simply cooks.
For the fans however, it was simply all too much. Ticket and record
sales dropped considerably and Burton quickly tired of the new
experiment. At the conclusion of the summer tour, he pulled the plug,
and the Guess Who were finished.
Looking back, despite the lack of commercial success, the Guess Who
produced some remarkably great music with Domenic Troiano. Their shows
were fantastic. (Several excellent bootlegs exist from that time to
prove this.) Burton's piano playing was never better. (I suspect that
Burton may have felt intimidated by Troiano and decided that no one
would upstage him in performance! Burton's resultant musicianship
was a huge improvement from that of recent years.) Domenic forced
the band to rehearse more than ever. Consequently, their live shows
were indeed almost flawless.
After the break-up of the band, Cummings did the usual disparaging
remarks routine, and this did not help the historical perspective of
the 2 Troiano GW albums. Indeed, Burton to this day has yet to play a
single song in live performance from either Flavours
either as a solo artist or in the Guess Who.
Bill Wallace recently reflected that although Domenic is a great
musician, the music they produced was "not Guess Who." Garry Peterson
speaks glowingly of Domenic and the music they did and laments
that Burton didn't give the experiment a greater chance to succeed.
Plans for a 3rd Troiano/Guess Who album that was mostly written were
abandoned with the break-up in 1975.
I have spoken with Domenic several times in recent years. Despite the
remarks by Burton in the press, Dom is philosophical and forgiving;
quick to point out that Burton did the same when Randy Bachman, Greg
Leskiw, Kurt Winter, and Donnie McDougall conducted their various
respective exits from the band, and as such, his comments should not
be taken too seriously. Indeed, Troiano and Cummings have met and
spoken together from time to time throughout the decades since 1975
and get along well. Dom once told me that if he and Burton both
came into the same room unexpectedly, they would be hugging each
other shortly thereafter. It should be noted that even Burton has
been kinder in the media when speaking of Dom. In fact, during the
"Running Back thru Canada" Tour of 2000, while in Toronto Domenic
got together with the band in a private social setting. It had
been rumoured that he would be on stage at the Molson Amphitheatre
to do a rendition of "Dancin' Fool" but given the careful preparation
that had gone into this show, such an idea was too risky... it
was particularly gratifying to note that both Domenic and Kurt
were mentioned for their contribution to the Guess Who during
the "Walk of Fame" ceremony in Toronto held in June of this year.
For a number of years now, Domenic Troiano has been living with
prostate cancer. Thankfully, he has been in relative good health
and continues to produce new artists and work to see his earlier
music re-released. It is Domenic's hope that some day,
and Power in the Music
will make it to CD.
Then, just maybe a fuller appreciation of the fine music of
these albums will occur.
by Mark Doble, August 2001
Back to Domenic's contributions to bands