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Music Review: Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs & Englishmen: Rarities Edition

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Joe Cocker’s 1970 North American tour, shortly after his performance at Woodstock, was one I’m sorry I missed. He gathered 43 different musicians and singers and performed concerts in 48 cities in 56 days. His backing band was led by a young Leon Russell. It included such musicians as keyboardist Chris Stainton, bassist Carl Radle, drummers Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner, backing singer Rita Coolidge, saxophonist Bobby Keys, and trumpet player Jim Price.

Joe Cocker was the vocalist and ringmaster of his musical circus that partied its way across The United States and Canada. The music was energetic and the ensuing album, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, captured the spirit of the tour. It was a huge commercial success reaching number two on the Billboard Magazine Pop Album Chart and remaining on the chart for 53 weeks.

The album remains a lesson about the best of late 1960s and early 1970s rock music. A new edition has just been released; Mad Dogs & Englishmen: Rarities Edition. The major problem is I’m not sure another edition is needed at this point. This is one of those albums that has been released a number of times, since its original issue on vinyl just over 40 years ago now.

The 2006, six CD album, The Complete Fillmore East Concerts, remains the definitive release of the tour and material. 2005 saw the release of the 35th Anniversary Edition. Unfortunately this new Rarities Edition does not add much to this prior release. Both releases cover the material well and the remastered sound is clear.

The material holds up well down through the years. Many of Joe Cocker’s biggest hits of the era are present. “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “The Letter,” “Feelin’ Alright,” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” and “Cry Me A River” are presented in all their live glory. Leon Russell assumes the lead on “Hummingbird,” “Dixie Lady,” and “The Ballad Of Mad Dogs And Englishmen.”

There are a number of other treats to be enjoyed such as “Something,” a rollicking version of “Honky Tonk Women,” and Rita Coolidge’s vocal on “Superstar.”

Any fan of rock music of the era should own this album and in that regard it’s nice to see the album reissued again. However, if you already own a later addition of the album or music, then this one is not needed.

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