Monday, 6 February 2017

"Mad Dogs & Englishmen: 35th Anniversary DELUXE EDITION" by JOE COCKER (2005 Universal/A&M 2CD Reissue - Suha Gur Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...






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"...Feelin' Alright..."

Absolutely everyone loved "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" - Joe Cocker's blistering live double-album released September 1970 on both sides of the pond (and everywhere else for that matter). It capturing lightning in a bottle - a humungous band at their lead-swinging freshest recorded across two venues and nights in March and April of that decade’s first year. A&M Records loved it (went to No. 2 in the USA and sold a million copies) - the public and press alike frenzy-fought for tickets to see the 43-piece extravaganza as it made its way across America until the final show on the 16th of May. Everybody loved it – everyone except Joe Cocker.

By the end of the tour the freshness and excitement was gone – and so was he. A massive ego-clash between him and Leon Russell had ripped the happy heart out of the merry band – and all that palatable joy in those first shows so evident on the 2LP set – had evaporated in a haze of drugs, recrimination and bitterness. Legend has it that the feud was so grim it wouldn't be discussed for decades on end. Worse - despite nationwide fame, adoration and a single in the American charts for the first time - Cocker had just under $900 in his pocket with his hard-won LP royalties' unavailable - years and years away. He wound up broke and bruised in California with an itch he needed to scratch. Joe later said it took him years to fully recover from the aftermath of that fateful tour...

None of this post-mortem however detracts from the reissue brilliance of this very cool '35th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' – Joe Cocker’s ground-breaking live double-album "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" finally given the stunning Remastered Audio its always deserved - quality presentation and some shockingly brill Previously Unreleased tracks alongside other B-side rarities. They even sort-of mimic that wonderful foldout many-leaved sleeve that came with original vinyl issues. Nice. Here are the muscular details...

UK released 24 October 2005 (18 October 2005 in the USA) - "Mad Dogs & Englishmen: 35th Anniversary DELUXE EDITION" by JOE COCKER on Universal/A&M 0602498860069 (Barcode 602498860069) is a 2CD Reissue and Remaster with Eight Previously Unreleased Tracks and other Rarities and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (57:23 minutes):
1. Honkey Tonk Women
2. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
3. The Weight
4. Sticks And Stones
5. Bird On A Wire
6. Cry Me A River
7. Superstar - Performed by RITA COOLIDGE
8. Feelin' Alright
9. Something
10. Darling Be Home Soon
11. Let It Be - Performed by CLAUDIA LENNEAR
12. Further On Up The Road - Performed by DON PRESTON

Tracks 3, 9, 10 and 12 on Disc 1 are Previously Unreleased - all recorded Saturday, 28 March 1970 at the Fillmore East
Track 11 is the non-album 7" single B-side to "The Ballad Of Mad Dogs & Englishmen" released April 1971 in the USA on A&M 1253 (1st time on CD)

Disc 2 (79:30 minutes):
1. Let's Go Get Stoned
2. Space Captain
3. Hummingbird - Performed by LEON RUSSELL
4. Dixie Lullaby - Performed by LEON RUSSELL
5. The Letter
6. Delta Lady
7. Give Peace A Chance
8. Blue Medley: I'll Drown In My Own Tears/When Something Is Wrong With My Baby/I've Been Loving You Too Long
9. With A Little Help From My Friends
ENCORE:
10. Girl From The North Country
STUDIO SESSIONS for SINGLES:
11. Warm-Up Jam including Under My Thumb - Performed by LEON RUSSELL and THE SHELTER PEOPLE
12. The Letter (Studio Single Version) - Performed by JOE COCKER with LEON RUSSELL and THE SHELTER PEOPLE
13. Space Captain (Studio Single Version) - Performed by JOE COCKER with LEON RUSSELL and THE SHELTER PEOPLE
14. The Ballad Of Mad Dogs & Englishmen - Performed by LEON RUSSELL

Tracks 3, 4, 9 and 11 on Disc 2 are Previously Unreleased
Live Tracks 3 and 4 recorded Friday, 27 March 1970 at the Fillmore East - Track 9 recorded Saturday, 28 March 1970
Studio Track 11 recorded 17 March 1970 and 3 April 1970 at A&M and Gold Star Studios respectively
Tracks 12 and 13 are First Time STEREO Mix – released April 1970 in the USA on 7” single as A&M 1174 and June 1970 in the UK on Regal Zonophone RZ 3027. It was subsequently re-issued using the same catalogue number but replaced the studio versions with the 2LP live cuts.
All songs sung by JOE COCKER except where stated

Lovers of the original will immediately notice that Universal in their corporate wisdom have decided to place the songs across this 2CD reissue as they were recorded - arguing that it gives the gigs used better context (March 27 and 28th at The Fillmore East and April 17th at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium). Some have already commented on how much they love it - personally I'm not that keen. But if you do want to configure the US and UK 2LP set as originally released – use the following as your playlist:

Side 1:
1. Introduction
2. Honky Tonk Women (Track 1, Disc 1)
3. Introduction
4. Sticks And Stones (Track 4, Disc 1)
5. Cry Me A River (Track 6, Disc 1)
6. Bird On A Wire (Track 5, Disc 1)

Side 2:
1. Feelin' Alright (Track 8, Disc 1)
2. Superstar - Performed by RITA COODLIDGE  (Track 7, Disc 1)
3. Introduction
4. Let's Go Get Stoned (Track 1, Disc 2)

Side 3:
1. Blue Medley:
I'll Drown In My Own Tears
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
I've Been Loving You Too Long (Track 8, Disc 2)
2. Introduction
3. Girl From The North Country (Track 10, Disc 2)
4. Give Peace A Chance (Track 7, Disc 2)

Side 4:
1. Introduction
2. She Came In Thru The Bathroom Window (Track 2, Disc 1)
3. Space Captain (Track 2, Disc 2)
4. The Letter (Track 5, Disc 2)
5. Delta Lady (Track 6, Disc 2)
The double-album "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" was released September 1970 in the USA on A&M Records SP-6002 and September 1970 in the UK on A&M Records AMLS 6002. Produced by DENNY CORDELL and LEON RUSSELL - it peaked at No. 2 on the US album charts and No. 16 in the UK.

THE BAND was:
JOE COCKER - Lead Vocals
LEON RUSSELL - Guitar and Piano
CHRIS STAINTON - Piano and Organ
DON PRESTON - Rhythm Guitar (Lead Vocals on "Further On Up The Road")
BOBBY KEYS - Tenor Saxophone
JIM PRICE - Trumpet
CARL RADLE - Bass
BOBBY TORRES - Conga
JIM KELTNER - Drums
JIM GORDON - Drums
CHUCK BLACKWELL - Drums and Percussion
THE CHOIR - Don Preston, Rita Coolidge, Claudia Lennear, Daniel Moore, Donna Weiss, Pamela Polland, Matthew Moore, Donna Washburn, Nicole Barclay and Bobby Jones

The four-way foldout card digipak has an info page attached to the rear and the 24-page booklet has new liner notes from JP BEAN of Sheffield along with random cartoons in-between the text. There’s a two-page colour photo for a massive Sunset Blvd. billboard advert using the ‘All Elements Of The Truth’ lines from the album sleeve. Niggles - "Cry Me A River" b/w "Give Peace A Chance" was issued as a 45 in the USA (A&M 1200, September 1970) and in the UK (Fly Records BUG 3, October 1970) and both came with different picture sleeves - but neither is featured here - so a trick missed there.

But all of that goes by the wall when you hear the amazing new Audio care of a team of two - HEATH CONDIOTTE who did the transfers while long-time Universal Engineer SUHA GUR did the mastering. It's like the record has been given renewed power - and at least four of those Previously Unreleased live tracks with Don Preston and Leon Russell are absolutely storming. Fans will also know that the fabulous pairing of the non-album tracks "The Letter" b/w "Space Captain" turned up on The Long Voyage Home Box and subsequent CDs as ‘Mono’ Singles Mixes. Here they’re given first-time STEREO versions and all I can say is WOW! Fans are going to chew these up...even if the "Space Captain" track has some weird echoes and spaces all of a sudden.

While I understand the thinking behind the line-up of the tracks on the DE – I quickly assembled the original double on my iTunes set up and I’d still maintain it’s a better edit and a far better listen. Opening with "Honky Tonk Women" and "Sticks And Stones" (The Rolling Stones and Ray Charles) – you’re immediately struck by the sheer power the Remaster has given the band who now seem to be occupying your living room with intent on doing some serious party damage to your carefully arranged Feng Shui. Julie London gets Funkified to a point where her signature tune "Cry Me A River" is unrecognisable – but it’s the Leonard Cohen bawler "Bird On A Wire" that moves – given a hugely Soulful take that ends Side 1 on a real high.

Dave Mason’s Traffic song "Feelin’ Alright" opens Side 2 with a elongated belter - while the Bonnie Bramlett/Leon Russell song "Superstar" is the first to feature a guest – this time Rita Coolidge. Rita's vocal range is similar to Karen Carpenter who would cover the song on their self-titled A&M album the following year (1971) – almost making it feel like The Carpenters owned the tune all along. Bobby Keys - the default Saxophonist for The Rolling Stones - requests, gets and is featured on the Ray Charles cry for a mental blitz "Let's Go Get Stoned". By now the band is simply cooking – the choir adding soulful backing vocals at choice points throughout the eight-minute work out.

But the 2LP literally goes up in live flames with the three-song Soul Medley that opens Side 3 – Brother Ray's Atlantic hit "I'll Drown In My Own Tears" - Sam & Dave's "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" (written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter) and finally the Otis Redding Stax classic "I've Been Loving You Too Long" - all rolled into one powerhouse performance. Russell intros Bob Dylan's "Girl From The North Country" which he shares with Joe as that plays fast yet soulful. We get all 'church-on-Sunday' righteous with "Give Peace A Chance" - a Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell song that feels like The Staples Singers having a rave up with the Lord while James Brown conducts the funky choir. Side 4 introduces what many wanted to hear - Joe do The Beatles - the Abbey Road nugget "She Came In Thru The Bathroom Window". But even that crowd-pleaser is trumped by a lethal three-song finale that genuinely thrills as it builds - Matthew Moore's "Space Captain", The Box Tops' "The Letter" and the Leon Russell hit that practically broke Joe Cocker - "Delta Lady" – all sounding unbelievably good on this Remaster. What a winner...

I wasn't expecting the unreleased stuff to be as good as it is - but genuine standouts include Don Preston doing a truly fantastic rocking version of the old Blues classic "Further On Up The Road" while Russell delivers the goods on both "Hummingbird" and "Dixie Lullaby" and the near mine-minute "With A Little Help From My Friends" is a virtual tour-de-force.

Universal has done some dubious DE versions over the years and some nuggets too (check out Howlin Wolf, Whiskeytown, John Martyn to name but a few) - expanded editions that genuinely bring more to the feast. "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" is one of them.

"...Learning to live together..." Joe croaks on the brilliant "Space Captain". We're just learning to live without you mate. God bless wherever you may be...and thanks to all the players for such great memories...

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