The concern when producing such an album is to pick the right songs, the songs that work best for your voice and band. Rush did an excellent job of this in their 2005 collection Feedback. It is also where Jukebox falls down.
Opening track , The Equals Baby Come Back, starts promising enough, with Bachman establishing a solid groove. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, Bachman also takes vocal duties. It is a weak effort, that Cummings almost certainly could have done much better. The song needed it.
Who do You Love fares better. Bachman's vocals are better suited, drummer Sean Fitzsimons takes the classic Bo Diddley rhythm to new heights, and the insertion of Bo Diddley and Don't Fade Away into the song is effective and fun.
Here's a quote from the liner notes:
To go through the Beatles songs and try to find one that hasn't been done and done adn done by eveybody was really hard.Be that as it may, some songs stay Undone for a reason, and based on this jazzed up arrangement I'm Happy Just to dance With You, is one of them.
Whenever I hear a cover, whether a CD's worth or a single song, I'm looking for the band to own the song. Jimmy McCracklin's The Walk, is the first song on Jukebox that Bachman Cummings own. Not coincidentally, it's the first Cummings vocal vehicle. This version could be an original Burton Cummings song, which is what I'm looking for. The boys capture a great groove, and Cummings sings the song note perfect. Great rock and roll.
The same applies to Cliff Richard's Don't Talk to Him. A great rockabilly piece that, again, could be a Cummings original. In the liner notes Cummings writes that this is a tough song to sing and he was sweating it, but he did a great job, and it's a great piece.
The Shadows were Cliff Richards back up band, but they also had a string of instrumental hits on their own, and became highly influential in guitarist circles. Thankfully, their bad surf movie guitar songs went out of style 45 years ago. Sadly, Bachman resurrects "Man of Mystery" thus showing this style as worthy of going out of style.
Fats Domino's Ain't That just Like A Woman on the other hand sounds fresh and great. Cummings boogie-woogie piano and vocals make this sound fresh and new. And kudos to Bachman quoting Glenn Miller's Chatanooga Choo-Choo in his short solo.
If they were worried about using an overdone Beatles song, Chuck Berry's Little Queenie is a curious choice, considering how often it's been done, and better. Both Bob Seger and REO Speedwagon have live versions of this song that are great, giving new energy and life to Chuck Berry's classic boogie/blues playing. This version goes back to the Chuck Berry version, and suffers from a lack of that power and energy that others have found there.
Sam Cooke's Good Times is a great song that suffers, this time from Cummings vocal performance. Some songs just don't suit some singers, this is one that Cummings should have left off this album for that reason. Nicely done, just doesn't work here.
The surprise of the album is probably the downright punkish/Wild Thing version of Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, with Randy Bachman's best vocal performance of the album and a Neil Youngish solo.
John Fred and the Playboys' Judy in Diguise (With Glasses), is a classic R&B tune that here sounds great. Huey "Piano" Smith's Boogie Woogie Don't You Just Know It, is one of those 50's childish style tings, like Charlie Brown or See You Later Alligator. It sounds OK, but it should have stayed in the50's.
Georgie Fame's Yeh, Yeh is just a good old Rock and Roll song as is Edwin Starr's Agent Double-O Soul. Both songs sound good and are carried well.
The Box Tops' classic The Letter is given a BTO style rock up and works very well, as should be expected when Randy Bachman BTO's a song. IN fact, BTO demoed this song in 1971 , and released itin 1993 Anthology CD, and this version sounds more like BTO than the early BTO version did. Kudos again to drummer Sean Fitzsimons who gave some Robbie Bachman like tom-tom work to drive this song forward.
What a collection of 50's and 60's rock and roll songs would be without some Elvis, I don't know and fortunately, I don't have to find out quite yet. Ain't That loving You Baby is the kind of thing you expect on a tribute album by some guys who profess deep love for the music their doing - a song they sound like their having real fun playing. You can almost hear the swing in Burton Cummings hips, and Bachman gives some great rockabilly licks throughout. This is a real treat, sounding honestly like Elvis while giving a fresh modern sound.
The CD finishes with a cover of a song written by some guys called Bachman and Cummings. American Woman 2007 isn't really new, as this re-working was done for their last tour, and can be heard on the last years DVD "First Time Around." As well there is an acoustic version of the same arrangement floating around. None the less, this is a good work up of the song, it sounds great on Bachman's 57 Les Paul and it is interesting and new without hurting the original song. A great finish to a very good CD.
Overall, some performances here lacked, and some song choices where suspect, but this is a good CD. If you are a fan of Bachman Cummings, or of the old rock and roll, you probably want it.
4 out of 5