Monday, 7 September 2015

"With A Little Help From My Friends" by JOE COCKER (1999 A&M 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue - Suha Gur Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Feeling Alright…"

Joe Cocker's first two albums on England's Regal Zonophone Records "With A Little Help From My Friends" (1969) and "Joe Cocker!" (1969 and 1970) are two absolute belters (both issued on A&M Records in the USA) - and yet their 1999 American CD Reissues/Remasters seem to have gone largely unnoticed over here in good old Blighty. His debut album was also festooned with heavy hitters 'friends' of the day like Jimmy Page and Steve Winwood. Here are the helpful details...

USA released October 1999 (April 2000 in the UK) – "With A Little Help From My Friends" by JOE COCKER on A&M 069 490 419-2 (Barcode 606949041922) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster of his debut LP and breaks down as follows (45:44 minutes):

1. Feeling Alright
2. Bye Bye Blackbird
3. Change In Louise
4. Marjorine
5. Just Like A Woman
6. Do I Still Figure In Your Life? [Side 2]
7. Sandpaper Cadillac
8. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
9. With A Little Help From My Friends
10. I Shall Be Released
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "With A Little Help From My Friends" - released May 1969 in the USA on A&M SP-4182 (Stereo only) and September 1969 in the UK on Regal Zonophone LRZ 1006 (Mono) and SLRZ 1006 (Stereo). The Stereo mix is used for this CD remaster.

11. The New Age Of Lily – Non-Album Track – B-side of "Marjorine" released May 1968 in the UK on Regal Zonophone RZ 3006. Peaked at No. 48 on the UK charts.
12. Something’s Coming On – Non-Album Track – B-side of "With A Little Help From My Friends" released September 1968 in the UK on Regal Zonophone RZ 3013. Peaked at No.1 on the UK charts.
[Note: both of the above B-sides feature ALBERT LEE and JIMMY PAGES on Guitars.]

JIMMY PAGE plays Guitar on "Bye Bye Blackbird" (Solo), "Marjorine", "Just Like A Woman", "Sandpaper Cadillac" and "With A Little Help From My Friends"
STEVE WINWOOD plays Organ on "Do You Still Figure In My Life?" and "I Shall Be Released"
TONY VISCONTI plays Guitar on "Bye Bye Blackbird"
HENRY McCULLOUGH plays Guitar on "Change In Louise", "Do You Still Figure In My Life?", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "I Shall Be Released"
ALBERT LEE plays Guitar on "Marjorine" and on both of the B-sides "The New Age Of Lily" and "Something’s Coming On"
DAVID COHEN plays Guitar on "Feeling Alright"
TOMMY EYRE plays Piano on "Just Like A Woman" and "Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood" and Organ on "With A Little Help From My Friends"
ARTIE BUTLER plays Piano on "Feeling Alright"
CHRIS STAINTON plays Bass only on "Just Like A Woman", "Do You Still Figure In My Life?", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "With A Little Help From My Friends" and "I Shall Be Released"
CHRIS STAINTON plays Bass and Piano on "Change In Louise", "Marjorine" and "Something's Coming On".
CHRIS STAINTON plays Bass, Piano and Organ on "Bye Bye Blackbird", "Sandpaper Cadillac" and "The New Age Of Lily"
MATTHEW FISHER (of Procol Harum) plays Organ on "Just Like A Woman"
BRENDA HOLLOWAY, MERRY CLAYTON and PATRICE HOLLOWAY sing Backing Vocals on "Feeling Alright"
MADELEINE BELL, SUNNY WEETMAN and ROSETTA HIGHTOWER sing Backing Vocals on "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "With A Little Help From My Friends"
MADELEINE BELL, SU and SUNNY WEETMAN sing backing Vocals on "Do I Still Figure In Your Life?"
SU and SUNNY WEETMAN sing Backing Vocals on "Change In Louise"

Recorded in London throughout 1968 and originally Produced by DENNY CORDELL (owner of Regal Zonophone Records) - this zippy little CD Reissue is produced by BILL LEVENSON and features the remastering skills of two superb names in Universal's camp - THERESA MALHAM and SUHA GUR. Suha Gur has been involved in large amounts of the much-praised Hip-O Select label (in particular their Motown reissues) - and is a name I actively seek out for great sonic results. The audio quality here is fabulous - punchy, detailed, never too amped up for effect - just really well done. The 8-page inlay has rudimentary liner notes by J.P. BEAN, recording credits and some period of photos of Cocker. His November 1969 (US) and January 1970 (UK) second album "Joe Cocker" was also issued Stateside on remastered CD in October 1999 (use Barcode 606949042028 on Amazon to get the right issue) and also features two crucial bonus tracks.

The album opens with a total barnstormer – a cover of Dave Mason's brilliant Traffic tune "Feeling Alright" - recently used to devastating effect in the 2013 Denzel Washington drunk-pilot movie "Flight". If ever a song summed up the swagger of the swinging 60ts while at the same time honestly chronicling its dark druggy underbelly – then this little beauty is it. You get that irresistible funky piano from Artie Butler – Cocker's amazing voice fronting a trio of Soulful ladies anchoring the whole impossibly cool tune – what a winner. The standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" gets the full-throated Cocker arrangement and suddenly becomes epic. "Change In Louise" is the first original co-written with Grease Band stalwart Chris Stainton who adds Bass, Piano and Organ to almost the whole of the album (and the two non-LP B-sides). "Marjorine" was released as pre-LP single as far back as May 1968 – it hit No. 48 in the UK and marked his chart debut after 8 years of hawking his wares and a failed single in October 1964 on Decca. Side 1 ends with a powerful rendition of Dylan's "Just Like A Woman" - our Brummy's voice hurting like an open wound (he does Bob proud).

Written by Peter Dello of Honeybus "Do I Still Figure In Your Life?" is a genius choice – gritty, real and painful - its searching melody and message suiting Cocker's expressive voice. The second co-written original (again with Chris Stainton) "Sandpaper Cadillac" is an accomplished piece and a nugget in his past catalogue. It ends of a trio of huge cover versions - "Don’t Let Le Me Misunderstood" by The Animals being the kind of tune tailor-made for his gravelly larynx – his epic cover of The Beatles "Sgt. Peppers" classic "With A Little Help From My Friends" hit Number 1 gold in early October 1968 – and Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" became a freedom anthem and is reckoned as one of 'the' great Dylan interpretations. Both of the bonus tracks are Joe Cocker/Christ Stainton compositions – with the non-LP "Something's Coming On" being the prize – a fantastic tune with great Jimmy Page axework throughout.

So there you have it - a top album remastered to perfection and released at a budget price. Joe Cocker sadly passed away Christmas 2014 – music lovers everywhere genuinely hurt by his loss (check out his performance in the stunning "Across The Universe" movie). But this is a reminder of his extraordinary set of pipes and his way of arranging a tune.

"Feeling alright..." Check this CD remaster out and you will be. Yeah Baby!

PS: As a by the way - I've always loved the compilation LP "Cocker Happy" (pictured above) which came out in the UK in April 1971 on Fly Records HIFLY 3. If you purchase the 1999 A&M CD of his 1969 2nd album "Joe Cocker!" on A&M 069 490 420-2 Barcode 606949042028 (which also has two crucial bonus tracks - 45:44 minutes) and a "Best of" containing the Mono Single Mix of "The Letter" - you'll be able to sequence the whole album in remastered form as follows (instead of paying for highly-priced budget issues):

Side 1:
1. Hitchcock Railway (from "Joe Cocker!")
2. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (from "With A Little Help...")
3. Marjorine (from "With A Little Help...")
4. She's Good To Me (bonus track on "Joe Cocker!" CD)
5. Hello, Little Friend (from "Joe Cocker!)"
6. With A Little Help From My Friends (from "With A Little Help...")

Side 2:
1. Delta Lady (from "Joe Cocker!")
2. Darling Be Home Soon (from "Joe Cocker!")
3. Do I Still Figure In Your Life (from "With A Little Help...")
4. Feeling Alright (from "Joe Cocker!")
5. Something's Coming On (bonus track on the "With A Little Help..." CD)
6. The Letter (7" Mono Single Version) (from "Best Of" CD)

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