.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/56a2a42924310714e2cc86ef320c23c72ddf9651.png Joe Cocker!

Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker!

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
February 21, 1970

Joe Cocker's delightful second album is ample proof that the imagination that transformed a song so fixed in our minds as "With a Little Help From My Friends" has not run out of things to do, nor fallen into the trap of "stylization."

Joe, his Grease Band, and their friends — who together form one of the toughest rhythm and blues bands outside of the Motown studios — start from the bottom up in re-arranging material as familiar as "Dear Landlord" or "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window." It's not a matter of "improving" the songs, but of removing them from their original sound and conception to such a degree that they remain great music and still don't really remind the listener of the original versions. The feeling one gets when listening to, say, Aretha's version of "The Weight" — "Wow, they must have really been reaching on that one" — doesn't happen when Joe and his band make music.

Not just anyone can carry off lines like those, from Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire": "Like a bird on the wire ... I will try, in my way, to be free." When Joe sings it those words seem as timeless as the wisdom of the blues.

If Cocker himself is beginning to sound like a master, his band has surprised as well. Their introduction to "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" sounds like a fat man splitting his pants — and then Cocker falls in like he slipped on a bar of soap. The song itself has that hilarious circus sound of Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window." And maybe that's not a coincidence.

It would be fun to hear Cocker experiment with different sorts of back-up groups. While there are certainly limits to what he can do, they are broad enough to keep him going for a long, long time. Limits or no, what's special about Joe Cocker is that he is so much fun to listen to, because the fun he's having — on stage, picking his phantom guitar with mad frenzy, or on record, letting his own excesses communicate his real emotion — is completely infectious.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Road to Nowhere”

    Talking Heads | 1985

    A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com