August 1970: Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs & Englishmen
One of the many unique elements of the late 60’s/early 70’s music scene was emergence of artists who established their solo careers as interpreters of others’ songs. Even more interestingly to me, many of these weren’t fresh takes on 20-30 year old tunes, but contemporary ones. Richie Havens and Rod Stewart come to mind, as does Joe Cocker. The latter released his loose and rollicking live album Mad Dogs & Englishmen from his tour of the same name 50 years ago this month.
The tour and album were put together on short notice to meet a contractual obligation, with Cocker assembling his band very quickly and Leon Russell serving as musical director along with his duties on guitar, piano, and vocals. The band was another mix ‘n’ match grouping of usual suspects who appeared in those days on different projects with musicians such as Delaney & Bonnie, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton. Besides Russell they included Don Preston (guitar), Chris Stainton (keyboards), Carl Radle (bass), Jims Gordon & Keltner (drums), Jim Horn, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price (brass), Rita Coolidge (of course) and a large cast of others on backing vocals.
Mad Dogs & Englishmen captures the seat of the pants live music scene of 1970 perfectly. It sounds like a party taking place on stage. It also highlights how crucial Leon Russell’s contributions were in those years. The album is comprised of covers of well known contemporary rock and soul tracks, along with some written by Russell. Favorites of mine from the original release include The Letter, which was recorded during tour rehearsals and released as a single before ultimately finding its way on the album, Cry Me a River, Dave Mason’s Feelin’ Alright, Ashford, Simpson & Armstead’s Let’s Go Get Stoned, Lennon/McCartney’s She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, and Leon’s Delta Lady. A deluxe edition was released in 2005 with about an hour’s worth of additional music, and a year later a six-disc box with four full Fillmore East shows appeared. A concert film from the tour was released in March of 1971.
- Honkey Tonk Women
- Sticks and Stones
- Cry Me a River
- Bird on the Wire
- Feelin’ Alright
- Superstar (Rita Coolidge)
- Let’s Go Get Stoned
- Blue Medley – a) I’ll Drown in My Own Tears b) When Something is Wrong with My Baby c) I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
- Girl from the North Country
- Give Peace a Chance
- She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
- Space Captain
- The Letter
- Delta Lady