Top Artists – Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

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  • This copy of Cocker’s sophomore release boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy with sides that play this quiet, and the first ever to hit the site with our condition grade of Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than this one?
  • Take a gander at this track listing: “Dear Landlord,” “Bird on the Wire,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Something,” “Delta Lady,” “Darling Be Home Soon” – and there’s plenty more where those came from
  • Records like these are getting awfully hard to find these days in audiophile playing condition, which explains why you so rarely see them on the site
  • 4 stars: “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.”

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music.

This album is a ton of fun, with Cocker and his band putting their spin on some of the best songs of the era. You need energy, space and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound if this music is going to sound right, and on those counts these copies deliver. (more…)

Joe Cocker / Mad Dogs and Englishmen – The Wrong Early Pressings Have Horrendous Sound

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Well, for one thing, if you get the wrong stampers on this record, you will discover, as we did, that it’s clearly been mastered from a badly made dub. The “cassette-like” sound quality will not be hard to recognize. If you have stumbled onto one of those pressings, give up on it and try your luck elsewhere, making sure to note the bad stampers.

Most copies have a tendency to sound smeary and congested.

Listen for good transients and not too much compression.

Most copies are opaque, as well as dull up top; try to find the ones with some degree of transparency and as much top end extension as you can (the percussion will be helped most of all by the extended top).

And of course you need to find a copy that rocks, as this is a definitely a Rock Concert, although what it most reminds me of is Ray Charles doing a choice set of modern classics, mixing it up by off-handedly mixing in a few of his own. See how they all fit together? That’s how the pros do it. (The main pro in this case is Leon Russell, the mastermind of the whole operation. He clearly knows what he is doing.)

All tracks were selected and mixed by none other than the legendary Glyn Johns.

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Joe Cocker / With a Little Help From My Friends – A Masterpiece of Blue Eyed Soul

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We just finished our first shootout in over FIVE [2012 or so] years for the album and were SHOCKED by how amazing the best copies can sound, even better than we remember them from last time around. Turn this one up good and loud and you’ll have Joe Cocker in all his raspy glory belting out With A Little Help From My Friends right in your very own listening room!

Blue-Eyed Soul doesn’t get much better than this. Cocker and his band chose SUPERB material for this album, including Dave Mason’s Feelin’ Alright; two of Dylan’s best, Just Like A Woman and I Shall Be Released; and of course the wonderful title track by no less than Joe’s fellow Brits Lennon and McCartney. The backing band features many great musicians including giants such as Jimmy Page and Stevie Winwood. No one’s making records like this anymore, not with this kind of musical and songwriting talent anyway.

What’s surprising is how good all the not-so-famous musicians are here. Chris Stainton is killer on bass, piano and organ. (He later toured extensively with Eric Clapton.) Henry McCullough (who joined Wings in 1971) handles the electric guitar duties so well (along with Jimmy Page and Albert Lee) that we would be hard pressed to say who turns in the better axe work on the album. (Some of these guys went on to become The Grease Band, but all of them had no trouble finding professional work with the best in the business.)

Whoever put this band together deserves our gratitude; they are playing with the Best of the Best and holding their own every step of the way. It was a thrill to hear the quality of the musicianship on this album; they sound like one of those great British bands that’s been together for years and finally got the chance to show off their chops.

The Recording

This album sounds just like one of the better Aretha Franklin outings from the late ’60s, early ’70s, with Aretha ducking out and Joe taking her place at the mic. If you’ve heard one of our Hot Stamper Aretha records you know exactly what you’ll be getting here. The background vocalists, piano and organ are eerily similar. It’s pretty clear that her recordings were being used as a template for this album, and it seems to have worked out very well for everyone involved. There is really nothing to fault here; the arrangements, the performances and the sound are GLORIOUS.

Overview

We played a large number of copies in our shootout and found that the average copy just didn’t cut it. They tend to be overly smooth with no real extension up top. Some are grainy and spitty, with edgy background vocals. It’s the Hot copies that split the difference — smooth and sweet in the upper mids, with an extended top end, but without sacrificing the all-important texture and presence in the vocals. If Cocker’s voice isn’t front and center and raspy as all get out, what’s the point?

Reissues

We used to recommend and sell the Speakers Corner German pressing of the album, one of the few Heavy Vinyl pressings we carried up until a few years ago. It’s a good value at $35 but obviously would not hold a candle to one of our Hot Stamper original pressings. (The domestic reissues on the later A&M label are not to our liking and should probably be avoided.)

Robert Christgau’s Insightful Review

With a Little Help From My Friends is the major triumph of rock interpretation thus far. Cocker’s material leans to the conventional … but his conception and performance, as well as Denny Cordell’s production, are always audacious.

His transformation of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “A Little Help From My Friends” from light-hearted ditties into wails of human need succeeds perfectly, and his version of ‘Feelin’ Alright’ is not only better than Three Dog Night’s but better than the original, by Dave Mason and Traffic.

If that means Cocker is the best singer in England, well—overlook Mick Jagger and it’s possible, even likely. His voice is very strong, influenced by Ray Charles, and he has no inhibitions about using it. All of his inhibitions came before the fact, in the immense care that went into each track …

Cocker’s affection for rock is uniquely personalized. He is gruff and vulgar, perhaps a touch too self-involved, but his steady strength rectifies his excesses. He is the best of the male rock interpreters, as good in his way as Janis Joplin is in hers.

Various Artists / Woodstock

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  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “As potent a musical time capsule as ever existed, it captures the three-day, 1969 concert event that united close to half a million members of what came to be known as the ‘Woodstock Generation’. It topped the Billboard Charts for four weeks and sold two million copies.”

You will have a very hard time finding a quieter copy!

Folks, it was a struggle, let me tell you! Not as much of a struggle as putting on the concert itself to be sure, but a struggle for those of us charged with finding good sound on this famously badly recorded album.

First off there are six sides to play for every copy.

Secondly the sound is problematical at best; figuring out what the best copies do well that the run-of-the-mill copies don’t takes quite a bit of concentration, and one has to stay focused for a long time (most of the day in fact). After a while it can really start to wear on your nerves. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs And Englishmen

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  • The sound is rich and tubey, with driving energy and the top end and clarity that was simply missing from far too many of the copies we had to work through in order to find this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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.”

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Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends on Speakers Corner

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Rock and Pop releases. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

“Speakers corner knocks one out of the park with this wonderful reissue! Those conga drums and the back-up singers sound so much better than I remember them! If you’re going to own one Joe Cocker album make it this one. It’s a man-size serving of English Soul.”

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

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  • This outstanding copy boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • There’s a reason this album is so tubey and real – it was recorded at Olympic and Trident in the halcyon days of 1968
  • The sound is solid, present and rich – you’re unlikely to find a better sounding pressing, and if you own the mediocre Speakers Corner pressing from years back, a world of sound will open up to you that you never knew was there
  • 4 stars: “Joe Cocker’s debut album holds up extraordinarily well across four decades, the singer’s performance bolstered by some very sharp playing… Tracks like “Just Like a Woman,” with its soaring gospel organ above a lean textured acoustic and light electric accompaniment… help make this an exceptional listening experience.”

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Joe Cocker – Self-Titled (1972)

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  • A Killer Copy of Joe Cocker’s patented Blue Eyed Soul Album, rating an outstanding grade of Double Plus (A++) or close to it on both sides
  • Plays on some of the quietest vinyl we have ever heard for the album, a true Mint Minus throughout!
  • Pardon Me Sir; High Time We Went and Black-Eyed Blues, Midnight Rider; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and St. James Infirmary – so many of his best songs
  • “With “St. James’ Infirmary,” Joe Cocker has moved into a whole different sphere of musical activity, far distant from the rip-roaring anarchism of the Mad Dogs … This album is, when all be said and done, riddled with meaningful soul.” — Rolling Stone

Great sound for this rockin’ soul album with two live tracks. Just listen to the drums on Black-Eyed Blues — the way the percussion and bass mingle sonically with Alan White’s skins takes this listener right into the room where the magic happened.

Classic Tracks

On side one, three out of five you know or should know: Pardon Me Sir; High Time We Went and Black-Eyed Blues.

On side two, three out of four you know or should know: Midnight Rider; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and St. James Infirmary.