Cocker Covers Lennon, Gaye

Veteran interpreter finishing new album in L.A.

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Joe Cocker is at work on a new album at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. The singer hopes to be finished by the end of February.

"It's tricky territory when you get into some of what I'm working on," Cocker says. "I'm doing a version of 'What's Goin' On' by Marvin Gaye and having a crack at 'Maybe I'm Amazed' by Paul McCartney, in a slightly lower key -- you understand why -- and 'Jealous Guy' by John Lennon. I'm deliberately doing an album of me rethinking other people's work."

Working with a group of players led by session guitarist Dean Parks (Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Madonna), Cocker has already cut nine songs and an additional session is scheduled for mid-February. "We've got most of the arrangements figured out, and I'm pleased with the direction it's going," says Cocker, who's hoping to work in a duet or two. "It's alright to say, 'I want to do a song with Aretha [Franklin].' But so do another 100 people. You've got to put a song under their nose that's going to make them go, 'Oh, I get it.'"

Universal Records will release Joe Cocker: Ultimate Collection on January 13th. The set will include hits like "With a Little Help From My Friends," "You Can Leave Your Hat On," "First We Take Manhattan" and "You Are So Beautiful."

Cocker recently received the ultimate compliment from Paul McCartney, with respect to his treatment of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends." "We did a thing for the Queen a while back and Paul said, 'Well, I guess your version is the consummate version,'" says Cocker. "So coming from him, that's pretty good."

Randy Newman heard a cash register's ring when he heard how Cocker arranged his "You Can Leave Your Hat On." "On our version there's a certain chord that's a bit more commercial than the chord he put in on the original one and it makes it more danceable," Cocker says. "He said, 'Wow, I wish I had put that chord in there. I'd have had myself a hit.'"