Cummings & Bachman cover faves

-- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

American Woman. These Eyes. Undun. No Sugar Tonight. Takin' Care of Business. Stand Tall. And plenty more where those came from.

Between them, the Guess Who's Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman have penned enough rock classics to fill a jukebox.

But when it came time to stock their own Jukebox -- the CanRock legends' first new studio disc together in a generation -- they decided to stick to other people's tunes. And with good reason.

"We didn't have the time to sit down and write new songs," Cummings said over the phone during a tour stop in Vancouver. "And honestly, we weren't interested. Because we've seen what happens to artists from our era. We saw The Bee Gees put out a brilliant record that went nowhere. We saw ELO come out with a new record that went nowhere. We didn't want to fall into that trap. Let's face it; we're not going to compete with Britney and Beyonce and DMX and Jay-Z. This is a different world."

So they stuck with the world they knew and put together a disc of old favourites.

"We thought, 'Let's just have some fun,' " Cummings said. " 'Let's do a tribute to the stuff that we loved when we were growing up in Winnipeg, and that influenced us and made us want to cut records in the first place.' We each made a list of about 25 songs and e-mailed them to each other. And then we whittled it down to seven or eight each and went in and made the whole album in 17 days. So the pressure to write wasn't there. The only pressure was to sing and play these tunes and do justice to them."

Their lists included usual suspects such as The Beatles, Elvis and Dylan, plus lesser-known acts such as Jimmy McCracklin and one-hit wonders like The Equals.

But no matter how familiar the artist, Bachman and Cummings' approach was novel. Instead of a Beatles hit, for instance, they reworked I'm Happy Just to Dance With You, a relatively obscure cut from A Hard Day's Night. They bypassed Elvis's chart-toppers for the B-side Ain't That Loving You Baby. They ignored Dylan's version of Like a Rolling Stone in favour of Hendrix's searing live rendition from Monterey. And so it goes throughout the 17-track disc, which also includes tunes by Fats Domino, Edwin Starr, Cliff Richard, Sam Cooke and more. The point, Cummings says, was avoiding the obvious.

"If you're going to do a Beatles song, it's stupid to do Hey Jude or Nowhere Man. That's like messing with The Lord's Prayer. And for Elvis, it wouldn't have made sense for me to do Jailhouse Rock or Hound Dog. I found Ain't That Lovin' You Baby on Elvis's Gold Records Vol. 4. I think our choices have been pretty good on this."

So far, critics agree. Cummings says initial response to the disc -- which lands in stores next Tuesday -- has already sparked talk of a sequel.

"I think we're gonna do a Jukebox 2," he says, adding a live TV special and DVD are also in the works. "A lot of that will hinge on how well this one does, but so far, I haven't heard one negative comment. It's so exciting at this point in life. I'll be 60 this year and Randy's 63. And it is great, as older gentlemen, to have an album that's got so much heat. We were hoping for a good reaction, but this has been over the top."

Speaking of over the top, the CD cover shows Randy and Burton arm-wrestling. Who won that matchup?

"He did, actually," Cummings said, laughing. "I tried my best. But he's bigger and stronger. And older. But he put his shoulder out doing that. He paid a high price to win."


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