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"Anthology" shows just how much interesting material Joe Cocker has produced between his occasional monster hits. When this came out, the most-available JC collection was a Capitol best-of that reached no farther back than "Up Where We Belong," though a live version of "With a Little Help From My Friends" was thrown in to snag fans of "The Wonder Years" wanting that TV show's theme song. This package changed that, with a thoroughness unmatched by any of the other many Cocker collections released before or since.
Disc one opens with a rare 1964 single, a loyal version of the Beatles' "I'll Cry Instead." It's fine, but it wasn't a hit, so unfortunately it was back to the pubs for Joe a while (to sing, I mean). In 1969 came 2 albums from which the compilers take fourteen (14) tracks, far more than from any other albums surveyed here. "With a Little Help" is among these, as are "Feelin' Alright" and two more Beatles remakes. One of those, "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," was Joe's first top 40 hit.
The next songs offered are "The Letter" and "Space Captain." "The Letter" was Cocker's first Top Ten hit. However, the CD's versions are not the same as the 45. This could disappoint fans who want the the hit version they recall from the radio. The back cover of the CD misleads by referring to these songs as a single release rather than as album cuts from Cocker's next, and by far most famous album, "Mad Dogs And Englishmen." (I would have missed this had someone not written to ICE Magazine about it, leading to my spending a tedious half hour comparing the 45 to this disc to confirm.) J.P. Bean's excellent liner notes indicate that the single version came from rehearsals for the "Mad Dog" tour.
Also from "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" are versions of "Honky Tonk Women," "Cry Me A River" (a hit single actually taken from the LP), and "Let's Go Get Stoned." "Stoned" had been a somewhat unusual hit for the venerable Ray Charles, noted throughout the liner notes as Mr. Cocker's hero and main inspiration. As one might guess upon hearing how many of these songs blend blues and gospel elements with rock. The backing singers on many of these songs often serve as rock Raelettes, sometimes as predominant in the mixes as Cocker.
While Disc 1 focused on just 3 albums over two years, Disc 2 covers 7 spanning from 1972-82. One two-sided hit from 1970, "Midnight Rider"/"Woman To Woman," is bypassed in favor of LP cut "Something To Say." The standard of quality holds up until we get to, from the LP "I Can Stand a Little Rain" the top 5 hit "You Are So Beautiful." Back in 1975, this was the first time Joe Cocker came to my attention. As I was about 10 years old, the impression wasn't good; unaware of Joe's rock credentials, we brats failed to distinguish this from "Feelings" and mocked it just as harshly. And seeing him freakishly contort his arms and face and arms while singing on TV made it worse. As if singing it hurt him as much as hearing it hurt us. Efforts to warm up to the song over the years ultimately failed upon the realization this has no verses, just the same two lines repeated with varying levels of angst, sank it forever for...or...meee...eeee.
The remaining songs are well worth hearing if you're still reading this far. There are reggae and very slight dance influences in some. There are no disco songs here, despite the complaints of an earlier reviewer who must be a lousy dancer and so fears anything with a beat. He's probably talking about "Fun Time," a good song which is way more rock than disco. That this is the only song included from 1978's "Luxury You Can Afford," however, does not bode well for the rest of that disc.
A nice inclusion is the minor hit with the Crusaders, called "I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today". Beautiful and inspirational. No wonder radio didn't play it (it stopped "climbing" at #97 in 1981).
This ends on a high note (mmph) with the Number One, Richard Gere sweeping Debra Winger into his arms and we liked it, "Up Where We Belong" from "An Officer and a Gentleman." I liked it, in part because I think Jennifer Warnes is a woefully underrated artist and also because I am able to separate this, mentally, from the deluge of godawful power ballads that followed in its wake.
I sense this will fall out of print soon. I think if you've read this far you need to buy it. And Amazon didn't even tell me to say that (will they edit this quip?).