on August 22, 2007
It's no stretch to say Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings have had an interesting relationship. Bachman brought Cummings into the Guess Who before the iconic Canadian band hit the big time. Bachman's expulsion from the band in 1970 led to at least six years of acrimony before Cummings covered Bachman's BTO classic You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet on his 1976 solo debut. They played on each others' albums and on a TV special, then were part of the 1984 Guess Who reunion tour and live album (which has never been released on CD).
The pair toured as a duo in 1987 and even hit the studio together (now available as The Thunderbird Sessions), but fell out over ownership of their Guess Who songs and, as far as I know, didn't re-connect again until an impromptu Guess Who reunion at the 2000 (or was it 1999?) Pan American Games in Winnipeg. This led to another, more successful and critically acclaimed Guess Who reunion. That lasted several years and produced the excellent "Running Back Thru Canada" live album.
While often doing their own thing, Bachman and Cummings stuck together after that reunion ended, making a live DVD from a CBC TV special, a CD repackaging of their old hits as the Bachman Cummings Songbook and doing a nostalgia tour of their old material.
Which leads us to this package, their first time together in a studio in 20 years. Designed to look like an old-fashioned jukebox, it features 16 covers of their favourite songs from their early years (plus a cool shuffle arrangement of American Woman). Here's the full songlist:
Baby Come Back (first done by the Equals)
Who Do You Love (first done by Bo Diddley)
I'm Happy Just To Dance With You (Beatles)
The Walk (Jimmy McCracklin)
Don't Talk To Him (Cliff Richards & The Shadows)
Man of Mystery (an instrumental by The Shadows; Cummings doesn't play on it)
Ain't That Just Like A Woman (Fats Domino)
Little Queenie (Chuck Berry)
Good Times (Sam Cooke)
Like A Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
Judy In Disguise With Glasses (John Fred & The Playboy Band)
Don't You Just Know It (Huey 'Piano' Smith & The Clowns)
Yeh Yeh (Georgie Fame)
Agent Double-0 Soul (Edwin Starr)
The Letter (Box Tops)
Ain't That Loving You Baby (Elvis)
American Woman 2007
As you can see, Bachman and Cummings rarely went for well known songs; this gives the album the feel of being all new, with a few covers thrown in. Even the well known songs often have a twist; the Dylan tune is done in the style of Jimi Hendrix's cranked up arrangement from his 1967 Monterey festival performance. And Who Do You Love contains snippets of Bo Diddley's other big hits (Not Fade Away and Hey Bo Diddley).
You won't get bored listening to Jukebox 'cause it contains so many styles. Baby Come Back rocks things up nicely, the Sam Cooke cover is the album's smoothest and most pleasing melody and Like A Rolling Stone is a thrashy rocker. This can be a little jarring, of course; right after Like A Rolling Stone comes Judy In Disguise, a certifiable, lighter-than-air pop ditty. Wow, what a shift! I think Bachman and Cummings really like that element of things; some songs have a party feel to them and you can just imagine Cummings grinning as he performs Starr's hokey take-off of the then-new James Bond movies.
The album, recorded with The Carpet Frogs, a Toronto band that backed the duo on their last tour, comes with a fantastic booklet; Cummings writes notes on every song and Bachman contributes an essay. Cummings is remarkably generous to his partner and sometimes rival; it's amazing to read his warm words and remember a 1988 Oshawa, Ont. concert where Cummings introduced Undun by telling the audience "this next song is written by the world's prized jerk". Ah, time heals all wounds, eh?
If you're buying this, I recommend getting the deluxe edition. It has a bonus DVD containing a very relaxed 20-minute black and white (why not colour? Hmmmm....) interview with the two, sitting in the recording studio and chatting up each song on the disc.
on June 14, 2007
I bought this CD expecting some good stuff, but also concerned it might be just another run-of-the-mill covers album. I have been a fan of both Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman forever...but was concerned with what I might hear. I should have known their magic was back!
This cd is nothing short of excellent. The arrangements are brilliant...honest! Their playing and singing is better than what I have heard from either Burton or Randy in years. Their interpretations of these songs are simply stunning. Buy this album...it's one of those rare albums that you want to hear again immediately after the 1st listen. Burton and Randy were obviously having fun doing this, and it translates into some fantastic performances! Together with the back-up band, The Carpet Frogs, they blow everything else out of the water. The unfortunate part is that this will probably receive only moderate airplay. It deserves to be heard.
Special notice to "Don't Talk To Him", "Who Do You Love" and "The Letter".