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Pop - Released October 7, 2013 | SevenOne Music

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Rock - Released December 1, 2003 | Parlophone UK

Calling something "The Ultimate Collection" is fraught with problems -- usually of omission. Certainly over these two discs -- containing a total of 30 tracks -- there are plenty of fine moments from some of Joe Cocker's earliest material, such as "The Letter," "With a Little Help From My Friends," "Delta Lady," "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window," etc. Also present are virtually all of his later hits and some that should have been: "Up Where We Belong," "You Are So Beautiful," "Many Rivers to Cross," "Leave Your Hat On," etc. But there's just too much that isn't here. Where are "Bird on a Wire" and "Hitchcock Railway," for starters? Nonetheless, given the length of Cocker's career, this is not an unusual complaint. One thing that is unique about this set -- other than the fine sound -- is the sequencing that crisscrosses over the breadth and chronology of Cocker's discography. There are also a couple of rarities, which would have been OK to leave off in order to include some of the more classic titles. But this is quibbling; Cocker fans will have a good time with this, but it's a safe bet they won't be selling off their original albums/CDs to replace them with this. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 1, 1969 | A&M

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Joe Cocker's debut album holds up extraordinarily well across four decades, the singer's performance bolstered by some very sharp playing, not only by his established sideman/collaborator Chris Stainton, but also some top-notch session musicians, among them drummer Clem Cattini, Steve Winwood on organ, and guitarists Jimmy Page and Albert Lee, all sitting in. It's Cocker's voice, a soulful rasp of an instrument backed up by Madeline Bell, Sunny Weetman and Rossetta Hightower that carries this album and makes "Change in Louise," "Feeling Alright," "Just Like a Woman," "I Shall Be Released," and even "Bye Bye Blackbird" into profound listening experiences. But the surprises in the arrangements, tempo, and approaches taken help make this an exceptional album. Tracks like "Just Like a Woman," with its soaring gospel organ above a lean textured acoustic and light electric accompaniment, and the guitar-dominated rendition of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" -- the formal debut of the Grease Band on record -- all help make this an exceptional listening experience. The 1999 A&M reissue not only includes new notes and audiophile-quality sound, but also a pair of bonus tracks, the previously unanthologized B-sides "The New Age of Lily" and "Something Coming On," deserved better than the obscurity in which they previously dwelt. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 2, 1992 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released April 1, 1969 | A&M

Joe Cocker's debut album holds up extraordinarily well across four decades, the singer's performance bolstered by some very sharp playing, not only by his established sideman/collaborator Chris Stainton, but also some top-notch session musicians, among them drummer Clem Cattini, Steve Winwood on organ, and guitarists Jimmy Page and Albert Lee, all sitting in. It's Cocker's voice, a soulful rasp of an instrument backed up by Madeline Bell, Sunny Weetman and Rossetta Hightower that carries this album and makes "Change in Louise," "Feeling Alright," "Just Like a Woman," "I Shall Be Released," and even "Bye Bye Blackbird" into profound listening experiences. But the surprises in the arrangements, tempo, and approaches taken help make this an exceptional album. Tracks like "Just Like a Woman," with its soaring gospel organ above a lean textured acoustic and light electric accompaniment, and the guitar-dominated rendition of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" -- the formal debut of the Grease Band on record -- all help make this an exceptional listening experience. The 1999 A&M reissue not only includes new notes and audiophile-quality sound, but also a pair of bonus tracks, the previously unanthologized B-sides "The New Age of Lily" and "Something Coming On," deserved better than the obscurity in which they previously dwelt. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 8, 1999 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released May 21, 1990 | Parlophone UK

This is a solid, R&B-heavy live concert. © Dan Heilman /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 28, 1987 | Parlophone UK

Unchain My Heart was the release Joe Cocker had been rebuilding for. The title cut returned him to the Top 40, and the song "A Woman Loves a Man" followed it there along with it being included in the Bull Durham film soundtrack. A solid effort from a veteran. © James Chrispell /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 2, 1994 | Parlophone UK

After eight years and five studio albums (plus a live album and a best-of album) with Capitol Records, Joe Cocker moved to 550 Music, a new Sony Music imprint, for Have a Little Faith. Produced by Chris Lord-Alge and his manager, Roger Davies, Cocker turned in a label debut full of well-chosen songs sung with authority. The title track, John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me," was a good choice for Cocker, as it contained that mixture of tenderness and toughness the singer has always brought out so well. Unfortunately, the new label affiliation did nothing for Cocker; Have a Little Faith flopped. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 1, 1970 | A&M

Listening to this CD brings back a lot of memories. Mad Dogs & Englishmen was just about the most elaborate album that A&M Records had ever released, back in 1971, a double LP in a three-panel, fold-out, gatefold sleeve, with almost 80 minutes of music inside and a ton of photos, graphics, and annotation wrapping around it. A live recording done in tandem with a killer documentary film of the same U.S. tour, it was recorded at the Fillmore East, where the movie was a cross-country affair, and the two were, thus, completely separate entities -- also, as people couldn't "buy" the film in those days, the double LP has lingered longer in the memory, by virtue of its being on shelves, and also being taken off those shelves to be played. Unlike a lot of other "coffee table"-type rock releases of the era, such as Woodstock and The Concert for Bangladesh, people actually listened to Mad Dogs & Englishmen -- most of its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique. The CD offers a seriously good sound, whether it's just Joe Cocker and a pianist and organist in the opening of "Bird on a Wire," or the entire band going full-tilt on "Cry Me a River"; the remastering was set at a high volume level and there was a decent amount of care taken to get the detail right, so you can appreciate the presence of the multiple drummers, and the legion of guitarists and singers, plus the multiple keyboard players. The lead guitar and solo piano on "Feelin' Alright," for example, come through, but so do the 34 other players and singers behind the lead. This record was also just as much a showcase for Leon Russell as it was for Joe Cocker, which A&M probably didn't mind a bit, as Russell was selling millions of records at the time. As is now known, and it's recounted in the new notes, the tour from which this album was drawn all but wiped out Joe Cocker -- on a psychic level -- because the music was presented on such a vast scale (and there is a moment in the movie where he mentions breaking up his former backing group, the Grease Band, with a hint of regret in his voice) and his own contribution was so muted by Russell's work as arranger and bandleader. He may well have been the "victim" of a "hijacking" of sorts, but the musical results, apart from the dubious "Give Peace a Chance," are difficult to argue about upon hearing this record anew, decades after the fact -- it's almost all bracing and beautiful. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2002 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

After his one-album stint at Asylum Records with Luxury You Can Afford in 1978, Joe Cocker was without a record label until 1981, when he signed to Island Records. Island head Chris Blackwell took him to the Compass Point studios in the Bahamas, where he recorded a 12" single, "Sweet Little Woman"/"Look What You've Done," released in May 1981, then continued working on a full-length album. When that album, Sheffield Steel, appeared a year later, listeners could be forgiven for imagining, during the instrumental portions, that they were hearing not a Joe Cocker disc, but rather a Robert Palmer record. The instrumentalists were the Compass Point All-Stars, led by drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, and including keyboard player Wally Badarou and guitarist Barry Reynolds, and they maintained a steady tropical groove on most tracks that strongly recalled their work on Palmer's series of albums. Typically, however, Cocker made his own a group of high-quality songs from major songwriters. Bob Dylan's "Seven Days" was an obscure tune only previously heard in a 1979 recording by Ron Wood. Cocker succeeded with Randy Newman's "Marie" as he would again four years later with the songwriter's "You Can Leave Your Hat On" by singing it without any of the irony Newman's version contained. Cocker got a jump on what would be the title track to Steve Winwood's next album, "Talking Back to the Night," and he approached Jimmy Webb's "Just Like Always" with delicacy. The result was an effective album, if, once again, a one-off effort since Cocker, his career rejuvenated by the success of the movie theme "Up Where We Belong," quickly decamped for Capitol. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 7, 1996 | Parlophone UK

Following the disastrous failure of his 550 Music debut, Have a Little Faith, Joe Cocker tried what must have seemed like a couple of surefire commercial ideas: first, hire Don Was, who has made a career out of organizing salvage operations on stars of the '60s and '70s, as producer; and second, do an "unplugged" session, albeit under another name. Thus, Organic found Cocker revisiting his interpretations of such songs as "Delta Lady" and "You Are So Beautiful" in more stripped-down arrangements. The remakes made up about half the album, with another quarter consisting of previously uncovered covers like Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" and Randy Newman's "Sail Away," and another quarter given over to new songs. The old favorites were not given interesting enough re-imaginings to justify the effort; the new songs added nothing to Cocker's repertoire, and the new covers were problematic. You wondered why Cocker had neglected to sing Morrison's material until you heard "Into the Mystic" and realized the reason probably was that Morrison is so much better a singer with a similar style. And Cocker, who is more an emotional singer than an intellectual one, typically sang "Sail Away" without a trace of the irony that gives the song its meaning. So, while Organic was certainly a listenable Cocker album containing many songs associated with him over the years, it failed to redefine the artist in the way it seemed intended to do. And it became his second straight album to miss the charts, which boded ill for his recording career, at least on a major label. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 1, 1969 | A&M

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Joe Cocker's first three A&M albums form the bedrock of a career that spans over three decades. While Cocker certainly wasn't always in top form during this stretch -- thanks to alcohol problems and questionable comeback moves in the '80s and '90s -- his early records did inform the classic pub rock sound later credited to proto-punk figures like Graham Parker and Brinsley Schwarz. On those early records, Cocker mixed elements of late-'60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set. Russell's sophisticated swamp blues aesthetic is felt directly with versions of his gospel ballad "Hello, Little Friend" and Beatles-inspired bit of New Orleans pop -- and one of Cocker's biggest hits -- "Delta Lady." Following up on the huge success of an earlier cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends," Cocker mines more Beatles gold with very respectable renditions of "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Something." And rounding out this impressive set are equally astute takes on Dylan's "Dear Landlord," Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire," and John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon." Throughout, Cocker gets superb support from his regular backing group of the time, the Grease Band. A fine introduction to the singer's classic, late-'60s and early-'70s period. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released December 11, 2015 | Rhino

Rock - Released August 18, 1970 | A&M

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Listening to this CD brings back a lot of memories. Mad Dogs & Englishmen was just about the most elaborate album that A&M Records had ever released, back in 1971, a double LP in a three-panel, fold-out, gatefold sleeve, with almost 80 minutes of music inside and a ton of photos, graphics, and annotation wrapping around it. A live recording done in tandem with a killer documentary film of the same U.S. tour, it was recorded at the Fillmore East, where the movie was a cross-country affair, and the two were, thus, completely separate entities -- also, as people couldn't "buy" the film in those days, the double LP has lingered longer in the memory, by virtue of its being on shelves, and also being taken off those shelves to be played. Unlike a lot of other "coffee table"-type rock releases of the era, such as Woodstock and The Concert for Bangladesh, people actually listened to Mad Dogs & Englishmen -- most of its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique. The CD offers a seriously good sound, whether it's just Joe Cocker and a pianist and organist in the opening of "Bird on a Wire," or the entire band going full-tilt on "Cry Me a River"; the remastering was set at a high volume level and there was a decent amount of care taken to get the detail right, so you can appreciate the presence of the multiple drummers, and the legion of guitarists and singers, plus the multiple keyboard players. The lead guitar and solo piano on "Feelin' Alright," for example, come through, but so do the 34 other players and singers behind the lead. This record was also just as much a showcase for Leon Russell as it was for Joe Cocker, which A&M probably didn't mind a bit, as Russell was selling millions of records at the time. As is now known, and it's recounted in the new notes, the tour from which this album was drawn all but wiped out Joe Cocker -- on a psychic level -- because the music was presented on such a vast scale (and there is a moment in the movie where he mentions breaking up his former backing group, the Grease Band, with a hint of regret in his voice) and his own contribution was so muted by Russell's work as arranger and bandleader. He may well have been the "victim" of a "hijacking" of sorts, but the musical results, apart from the dubious "Give Peace a Chance," are difficult to argue about upon hearing this record anew, decades after the fact -- it's almost all bracing and beautiful. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 5, 2019 | Renaissance Records USA

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Rock - Released January 1, 1999 | A&M

A&M's double-disc Anthology may be too much for casual fans that just want the hits, but anyone else will find this exhaustive 37-track chronicle of Joe Cocker's prime years definitive. The first disc concentrates on his first three albums, buttressed by a rare 1964 single of the Beatles' "I'll Cry Instead" and his 1970 non-LP single "The Letter"/"Space Captain." Disc two features highlights of all the albums he recorded between 1972 and 1982, selecting not only hits, but key album tracks. The end result is a collection that is concise and definitive. It may be missing such latter day hits as "When the Night Comes" and doesn't cover as much ground as the box set Long Voyage Home, but anyone looking for a comprehensive collection of Cocker's classic recordings will be satisfied by Anthology. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released November 16, 2012 | Columbia SevenOne

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Rock - Released September 27, 2004 | Parlophone UK

When he came to popular attention in the late 1960s, Joe Cocker reinvigorated and to a certain extent reinvented the art of interpretive singing at a time when it seemed to have been put in the shade permanently by the rise of singing songwriters led by Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Just when it seemed that no one but the songwriters themselves had the right to sing their songs, Cocker came along giving a gruff, pleading rendition of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends" that stood in stark contrast to Ringo Starr's happy-go-lucky version. But on his many albums, Cocker usually made sure to balance his carefully selected covers of well-known material with previously unknown tunes so that he was able to originate some material. On Heart & Soul, which marks the 60-year-old singer's return to major-label status (it was released on EMI internationally in October 2004 and on Universal's New Door imprint in the U.S. in February 2005), he doesn't bother with the new stuff; this one's all standards. The songs date from the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '90s, and are drawn from R&B, pop/rock, and alternative rock stalwarts ranging from Screamin' Jay Hawkins to former Beatles and contemporary acts U2 and R.E.M.. Producer Jeffrey C.J. Vanston makes a point of referencing the hit versions of the songs in the arrangements, which leave room for the talents of a who's who of guest guitarists including Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Steve Lukather. Cocker's familiar growls and cracked crooning make the songs his own, as usual, and as usual he claims the material without any sense of exclusivity. He never makes you forget the accomplished singers who did these songs before (sometimes more than one of them -- "I Keep Forgettin' [Every Time You're Near]" has had seemingly definitive readings by both Chuck Jackson and Michael McDonald, while "Jealous Guy" is associated not only with its author, John Lennon, but also Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry). Nor does he necessarily improve on those singers; could anyone turn in a more memorable version of "What's Going On" than Marvin Gaye? But that isn't really the point. It's not like his version of "With a Little Help From My Friends" was better than the Beatles', either. It was just different, and it made listeners hear the song in a different way. That's what an interpretive singer does, and it's what Cocker successfully does here, too. At a time when McDonald has enjoyed a career resurgence re-singing the Motown songbook, there is clearly a place for Cocker among adult listeners and on the adult contemporary charts, and that's why he's back on the majors. He does not disappoint. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 1, 1969 | A&M

Joe Cocker's first three A&M albums form the bedrock of a career that spans over three decades. While Cocker certainly wasn't always in top form during this stretch -- thanks to alcohol problems and questionable comeback moves in the '80s and '90s -- his early records did inform the classic pub rock sound later credited to proto-punk figures like Graham Parker and Brinsley Schwarz. On those early records, Cocker mixed elements of late-'60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set. Russell's sophisticated swamp blues aesthetic is felt directly with versions of his gospel ballad "Hello, Little Friend" and Beatles-inspired bit of New Orleans pop -- and one of Cocker's biggest hits -- "Delta Lady." Following up on the huge success of an earlier cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends," Cocker mines more Beatles gold with very respectable renditions of "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Something." And rounding out this impressive set are equally astute takes on Dylan's "Dear Landlord," Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire," and John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon." Throughout, Cocker gets superb support from his regular backing group of the time, the Grease Band. A fine introduction to the singer's classic, late-'60s and early-'70s period. © Stephen Cook /TiVo