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Rock - Released May 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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Pop - Released May 21, 1990 | Parlophone UK

This is a solid, R&B-heavy live concert. © Dan Heilman /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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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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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
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Rock - Released March 1, 1993 | Parlophone UK

This is a well-chosen little collection of Cocker's post-comeback work, with stylistic nods to several mini-genres of the '80s and '90s. There's a little synth pop ("Shelter Me"), a couple of power ballads ("Feels Like Forever," "Don't You Love Me Anymore") and even an idiosyncratic, couldn't-be-by-anybody-else Jeff Lynne production. There's also a nod to Joe's R&B roots with a new version of Ray Charles' '50s hit "Unchain My Heart," and a '90s live version of "With a Little Help From My Friends" that sounds almost exactly like the more famous 1969 version from the Woodstock soundtrack. © 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 August 18, 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 November 1, 1977 | A&M

Greatest Hits features most, but not all (no "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" or "It's a Sin When You Love Somebody") of Cocker's biggest hits from the early '70s. Nevertheless, there's plenty of fine music here, making the record a solid compilation. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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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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Rock - Released March 1, 1987 | A&M

A solid collection from his 1967-1976 peak, it includes "Feeling Alright," "You Are So Beautiful, " and "With a Little Help from My Friends." © Dan Heilman /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 6, 2000 | A&M

Another one-stop shop from Universal's 20th Century Masters Millennium Collection, here's all the Joe Cocker you need in one packed-with-hits single-disc collection. Kicking off with "Feelin' Alright," "With a Little Help From My Friends," and "Delta Lady," the set also includes his later hits like "You Are So Beautiful" and his duet with Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong." This may only clock in at 11 tracks, but it's a very potent little package and highly recommended as the perfect starter set. © Cub Koda /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 6, 1986 | Parlophone UK

Just a few years after "Up Where We Belong" topped the charts, Joe Cocker found himself struggling to earn the attention of the audience he had just regained. It wasn't that he was recording uncommercial material. If anything, it was because he was trying too hard, as 1986's Cocker proves. He works with a variety of producers on the album, yet they all arrive at the same slick, mildly synthesized, vaguely soulful adult contemporary sound. There are some good moments on Cocker that do justice to his still-robust voice -- "Shelter Me" is a reasonably entertaining new effort, and Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues" was a good cover choice, as was Randy Newman's "You Can Leave Your Hat On," even if Richie Zito's production on the latter is a little too slick. Cocker winds up being another uneven effort from a talented singer. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 13, 1984 | Parlophone UK

Joe Cocker has always been a good interpreter of other writers' material, and on Civilized Man, he continues to find new avenues to travel. Be it the old '50s tune "There Goes My Baby" or Squeeze's "Tempted," Cocker takes a song and makes it his own. While nothing here isn't worth listening to, one gets the feeling that it's transitional -- that Cocker is trying to find a new grip on what he's been doing for so long. © James Chrispell /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1982 | 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 February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Elektra

Luxury You Can Afford was Joe Cocker's only album for Asylum Records. Released in 1978 and produced by Allen Toussaint, it had all the pedigree to be a great recording. With Cocker's trademark wounded, Ray Charles-derived vocal style and Toussaint's genius with fluid, soulful horn charts, it really should have been another high-water mark in Cocker's career. That it only partly succeeds is the disappointment, but with this reissue from Wounded Bird Records, a reappraisal seems in order, and with hindsight, Luxury You Can Afford was much more solid an outing than it first appeared to be. Cocker's version of Bob Dylan's "Watching the River Flow" is a perfect cover, and Toussaint's horns give the arrangement a solid swing, and some swagger and punch as well. "I Can't Say No," written by John Bettis and Daniel Moore, could stand in as an autobiography of Cocker's early years, and lines like "I can't say no/I never could" sung in Cocker's woozy, world-beaten voice carry the ring of absolute truth, as does the soulful and wounded resignation of Cocker's signature rasp on "Wasted Years," a song written by Phil Driscoll. The lead track, the wonderful "Fun Time" (penned by Toussaint), was hyped as a disco track at the time of the album's release, but now appears to have been really more of a New Orleans dance and party cut, and it rocks smoothly and firmly without ever tipping over into Donna Summer territory. What mars Luxury You Can Afford, though, are two covers that must have looked good on paper, Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and Norman Whitfield's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," most notably done in a for-the-ages version by Marvin Gaye. Both songs would seem tailor-made for Cocker's vocal approach, but the arrangements on Luxury sink them immediately. "Pale" is paced too slow, a critical problem for a song that depends on its hazy ennui to work in the first place, while the arrangement for "Grapevine" come across as disjointed and blustery, a situation that plays to Cocker's weaknesses rather than his strengths. Without these two serious missteps, Luxury You Can Afford would have the coherence of tone to be resurrected as an underappreciated classic. With them, unfortunately, it suffers from a sad musical schizophrenia. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 28, 2007 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released October 29, 1996 | 550 Music

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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Rock - Released March 26, 2007 | New Door Records

The very title of Joe Cocker's Hymn for My Soul suggests that this, his 2007 studio album, is a gospel affair, or at least something inspired by faith -- something that isn't true to the letter, yet there is something true about the spirit of this sentiment, for these are songs that serve as a tonic to Cocker's soul. He's pulled songs from several familiar sources -- Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, Bob Dylan -- and found other newer songs that share a similar sentiment, offering reassuring thoughts in troubled times. While nobody could ever claim that this album -- produced by Ethan Johns, son of Glyn -- has any grit, it nevertheless is warmer than recent Cocker discs, boasting a soulful heart (even if it has been polished and cleaned until it sparkles). If this isn't enough to bring long-straying Cocker fans back into the fold, it nevertheless is his best record in recent memory, and will satisfy those who have been looking for nothing more than a good, solid album from him, which this surely is. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 5, 2019 | Renaissance Records USA