It’s been years since anyone expected greatness from a Joe Cocker album. True believers have come to rate Cocker’s albums on a bell curve, getting by on the relative terseness of Sheffield Steel or the promising punch of last year’s Unchain My Heart. The latter album was too slick and conformist for Cocker, but at least producers Charlie Midnight and Dan Hartman stripped away a few of the fattier elements, giving the old growl some leeway.
Now Midnight has managed to undo everything good that was accomplished last time. Cocker’s voice sounds like it was recorded through some sonic gauze, as if his flaws were something to hide rather than revel in. The music meanwhile is recorded entirely without dynamics, as one solid glop of sound.
Some of the material rivals the production for sheer mediocrity. Songs like “I Will Live for You” and “When the Night Comes” (which Bryan Adams had a hand in writing) are catchy in the most tepid, radio-mongering way. At least the more famous covers — like Gladys Knight’s “Imagination” or “Fever” — have greater distinction. They’re out-and-out awful.