Joe Cocker – Heart & Soul

“Heart & Soul” may be a covers album, but when you consider that the pivotal moment in Joe Cocker’s career was an unforgettable cover of the Beatles “With A Little Help From Me Friends” this is far from a Tom Jones moment of getting down with the kids and resurrecting a career in the process. The very idea of a cover has been devalued to such an extent that a note perfect karaoke cover is now seen as an inevitable part of any pop acts career plan, whereas in the past artists such as the Rolling Stones and Joe Cocker approached songs they loved with the idea that they could add their own flavour to a standard or classic song.

Each song selected on “Heart And Soul” meant something personal to Cocker and each song drips with a passion fitting of the original. In truth though Cocker could probably sing Gareth Gates “Anyone Of Us” or Westlife’s “Bop Bop Baby” and make it sound sincere. As a child of the 80s growing up with U2 and REM the interpretations of “One” and “Everybody Hurts” respectively are beyond criticism. The former approached with such a faithful reading, yet at the same time enhanced by the impassioned gravely tones of Cocker. Long time producer CJ Vanston seems to instantly know the feel of the track and what starts off with subtle flourishes of acoustic guitar gradually builds to a crescendo. With “Everybody Hurts” it would have been foolish to recreate the production of the original and therefore they’ve gone for an early 80s soul sheen. “I Put A Spell On You”, a song which shouldn’t work due to over familiarity, fuses the Nina Simone infused jazz with a rootsy blues production of which Eric Clapton adds a somewhat restrained guitar solo compared to his work on Brian Wilson’s recent album.

On two occasions the covers don’t work for two entirely different reasons. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye is a faultless original, stuck in a place and time and while Joe Cocker can take on most songs and add something new and vital to the recording, this time it just falls flat. The songs message is a vital as ever today with world events creating such troubled times, but the original can’t be touched. “Love Don’t Live Anymore”, although a classic when originally released by Rose Royce, the song has become synonymous with late night local radio and is the sort of song wannabe’s on Pop Idol should be covering rather than a genuine legend.

In “Heart And Soul” Joe Cocker has an album that will please long-term fans and convert a new generation to his back catalogue. If I was the record company I’d be looking to release “One” as a single because when you have a great song sung by a great artist it cuts through marketing budgets, TV talent shows and manufactured boy bands. This album is a timely reminder of the sort of talent the music industry used to revel in.

Alex McCann

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