Wednesday, 20 April 2016

"I Can Stand A Little Rain" by JOE COCKER (1995 and 2006 A&M/Rebound Records CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...You Are So Beautiful To Me..."

Recorded amidst a whole heap of personal demonology (drugs and drink) and coupled with a hefty dose of public indifference since his halcyon days of 1969 and 1970 (especially in the UK) – Joe Cocker's 1974 outing "I Can Stand A Little Rain" remains something of a mystery in the Sheffield singer's home country - England. Yet it was a big American hit LP and is rightly remembered with real affection there. Powered by the emotive singles "Put Out The Light" (No. 46) and especially "You Are So Beautiful" (No. 5) – the album peaked at a respectable No. 11 on the US album charts but failed like its 1972 predecessor "Something So Right" (called "Joe Cocker" in the USA) to chart at all in good old Blighty.

"I Can Stand A Little Rain" by JOE COCKER has had a quietly ordinary journey on CD reissue. First version showed Stateside on A&M CD 3175 in May 1988. Then came this Rebound Records reissue – April 1995 for A&M/Rebound Records 314 520 237-2 (Barcode 731452023728) - itself reissued in September 2006. It's a basic CD transfer of the album (34:35 minutes) and the gatefold slip of paper that acts as a paltry inlay provides track-by-track credits and unfortunately little else (not even who wrote the songs).

1. Put Out The Light
2. I Can Stand A Little Rain
3. I Get Mad
4. Sing Me A Song
5. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
6. Don't Forget Me [Side 2]
7. You Are So Beautiful
8. It's A Sin When You Love Somebody
9. Performance
10. Guilty
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 6th album "I Can Stand A Little Rain" – released August 1974 in the UK on Fly Records HIFLY 18 and in the USA on A&M Records SP 3633

It appears to have been mastered by KENT DUNCAN at Kendun Recorders in Burbank (no other info). Whatever way you look at – the Audio on this baby is fabulous – aided in a big way by initial Production values that truly shined. The hero at the control-panel helm was Texan Trombone player JIM PRICE – a man whose session talent has graced legendry albums like "All Things Must Pass" by George Harrison, "Sticky Fingers" and "Exile On Main St." by The Rolling Stones and was part of Joe's own "Mad Dogs And Englishmen" ensemble back in 1970. Price would also go on to produce Joe's next album on Fly/A&M Records - "Jamaica Say You Will" - released in August 1975.

There's a huge array of talent on display on "I Can Stand A Little Rain" (big brassy band on some tracks - just man and piano on others) and the hugely skilled Price produces the lot to absolute perfection. Side 1 opens with Daniel Moore's upbeat and brassy pop song "Put Out The Light" issued June 1974 as a 7" single in the UK on Fly Records BUG 47 and A&M 1539 in the USA - with the non-album "If I Love You" as the flipside (unfortunately not included here). Fuelled by a six-strong brass section including legends like Jim Horn and Jim Price – David Paich of Toto provides those cool piano-fills with guitars supplied by a classy duo - Ralph Hammer who played on "Golden Lady" for Stevie Wonder's "Innervisions" LP in 1973 while future Arista Record star Ray Parker, Jr. had treaded the boards with Barry White back in the Love Unlimited days and would form RAYDIO in the late Seventies. Songwriter Daniel Moore himself overdubs all the backing vocals to great effect.

Jim Price wrote the title track "I Can Stand A Little Rain" with gorgeous piano playing from England's Nicky Hopkins. Other noted players on this Soulful groove are guitar-ace Jay Graydon who did the solo on Steely Dan's "Peg" and "Say You’ll Be Mine" by Christopher Cross – along with Henry McCulloch on Guitar (The Grease Band and Wings) and Jeff Porcaro of Toto on Drums. Clydie King, Venetta Fields and Shirley Matthews provide the world-class female backing vocals - women who've played with The Stones, Steely Dan and every point in-between (check out the fabulous "20 Feet From Stardom" film to get a taste of their extraordinary musical history). King, Fields and Matthews also grace "Sing Me A Song", "It's A Sin When You Love Somebody" and "Performance". Merry Clayton who dueted with Jagger on "Gimme Shelter" is in there too on "I Can Stand A Little Rain".

Price and Cocker co-wrote the spunky "I Get Mad" which features the fab licks of Jazz Funker Cornell DuPree and ace Jazz drummer Bernie Purdie. Jay Graydon provides Guitar on the Henry McCulloch-penned "Sing Me A Song" – a weary plea that feels like a musician pinning for his love while he's a long, long way from home. But Side 1 ends on the magnificent "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" – a Jimmy Webb song that he would eventually record on his own "El Mirage" LP in 1977. Webb plays piano on the song and is accompanied only by Cocker and some carefully orchestrated strings. "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" may be Joe's most eloquently Soulful vocal performance – his aching phrasing embracing a sorrow and pathos that is truly touching. After his sad loss – it often reduced me to tears...

Side 2 opens strongly with the Rock slouch of "Don't Forget Me" –a Nilsson song that wouldn't show until October 1974 on the Nilsson/John Lennon album "Pussy Cats" on RCA. Here Joe enlists Nicky Hopkins on Piano, Henry McCulloch on Guitar and Jeff Porcaro on Drums and keeps that lazy pace that Nilsson imbibed it with. Once again the trio-of-ladies give "Don't Forget Me" real punch when their combined force kicks in – even if it is weird to hear lyrics like "...when we’re older...and full of cancer..." be so lovingly sung. There can't be many Cocker fans that won't go weak at the knees at the gorgeous Billy Preston-penned "You Are So Beautiful". It's hardly surprising that Joe's Soulful vocal reading of it slaughtered all in its path and peaked at No. 5 on the US singles charts. It's the kind of song that is derided and beloved at the same time – and again a nod must be given to Nicky Hopkins who plays such great piano and those huge lush strings (bizarrely it didn't chart in Britain). Jimmy Webb provided song number two in the shape of "It's A Sin When You Love Somebody" – a mid-tempo ballad that packs more emotional punch that you would think. David Paich plays Piano, Jay Graydon and Ray Parker, Jr. while the trio of ladies bring the whole thing home sounding not unlike a female version of The Eagles.

New Orleans songwriting genius Allen Toussaint stumped up "Performance" – another ballad similar in pace and feeling to "It's A Sin When You Love Somebody" (same set of musicians). Once again the performance is Rock-Soulful and full of power. But it's trumped by the album-finisher – a barebones version of Randy Newman's "Guilty" with the great man himself provided the lone piano. A short but hurting song on his 1974 LP "Good Old Boys" which featured the guitar work of Ry Cooder and almost all of The Eagles on Vocals - Bonnie Raitt had a stab at it on her November 1973 LP "Takin' My Time". Here Cocker strips it down – just his voice and Randy Newman on piano. Caressing the "...yes baby I've been drinking...and I shouldn't come by I know..." lyrics and the dumb-behaviour pain inherent in the song - Joe sings about whiskey and cocaine and regret with an ache that can only come from being there - lost in life's lows. It's staggeringly powerful stuff and ends the album with a simple beauty...

Joe Cocker fans often cite "I Can Stand A Little Rain" as his masterpiece in a long cannon of work – an album that was all good rather than patchy. They'd be right. A bit of a lost gem really. Seek this dirt-cheap audio peach out and rediscover his talent once again...

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