2003 - YEAR OF THE BLUES...
In recognition of The Blues ongoing impact on music and cultural history, both in America and around the world, the United States Congress has proclaimed the year 2003 as the "Year of the Blues". For more information, visit: www.yearoftheblues.org on the web.
JOE COCKER. TRUE BLUE SURVIVOR
On July 20th we took a little road trip west to see one of my all-time
favorites, Joe Cocker, in concert at the historic Val Air Ballroom in West
Des Moines. The trials and tribulations of this musical icon have long been
recorded in the rock history books. From early days in Sheffield, England
and his early blues band efforts in the pubs of Britain, on to Woodstock,
the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour that left him totally burnt out and battered
by the music business, the battles with the personal demons and beyond - Joe
Cocker is a survivor. All this will unfold for Cocker fans young and old,
in the new biography by J. P. Bean due out from Virgin Books sometime next
month. The title of the new biography is, of course (what else could it
be?), "Joe Cocker: The Authorised Biography"
Early in his career, Joe Cocker's power as a vocalist and song stylist was
described by LIFE Magazine in the following quote: (Joe Cocker is.) "The
voice of all those blind criers and crazy beggars and maimed men who summon
up a strength we'll never know to bawl out their souls in the streets." I
personally don't think anyone has ever characterized what it is that Joe
Cocker does any better than that. Whether he's roaring through a rocker,
belting out an R&B classic like the tour title track "Respect Yourself," or
whispering a tender ballad - the passions are every bit as intense.
In concert today, Joe Cocker is in complete control of his music, his
presentation, and at the top of his game. In his current ninety minutes
plus set, Cocker delivered a mix of a few new numbers and virtually all the
favorites any Joe Cocker fan would want to hear. Backed by a killer
five-piece band along with two of the hottest female back-up singers I've
ever heard (or seen), Joe sang each song with the purpose and power of a
debut performance. The flaying arms and twisting gyrations that John
Belushi once parodied on Saturday Night Live have subsided into graceful
hand gestures, refined to now more closely resemble a conductor's movements.
This fine wine continues to improve with age - fifty-nine this year, to be
From early favorites like "The Letter," "Hitchcock Railway," "Feelin'
Alright," to more recent years' tracks such as "When the Night Comes" and
"You Can Leave Your Hat On," the legendary vocalist delivered one Cocker
classic after another, smiling with sincere appreciation to the packed Val
Air Ballroom. In a tender moment, Joe gave a passionate rendition of Randy
Newman's "Everytime It Rains."
In another instant, he absolutely exploded into the opening lines of Lennon
& McCartney's "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window." The classic rock
anthem "With A Little Help From My Friends" transported us all backstage,
via dream helicopter, to that magic and manic Grease Band performance at Max
Yasgur's farm in August of 1969. Thirty-five years later - it still warms
the heart and stirs the soul.
Very special thanks to Music Circuit Presentations and Clear Channel for
presenting "An Evening With Joe Cocker" at the Val Air, and to Mr. Cocker's
personal management for the media courtesies provided to us. For more
information on the new Joe Cocker biography from Virgin Books of London,
visit www.cocker.com on the web. J. P. Bean's new book promises to tell the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in the legendary rock epic of this
true blue survivor.
New Blues Fer Youz.
"Time Will Tell," Robert Cray (Sanctuary Records) 'Young Bob' is back with
a fresh new collection that also features Sly & The Family Stone Horns, the
Turtle Island String Quartet, and Luis Conte as guests. Cray explores bold
new horizons on this disk, introducing an electric sitar to the mix - in
addition to his signature, sweet stinging Stratocaster licks. For more on
the web, visit: www.bakernorthrop.com/artists/cray2/index.htm
"Shout, Sister, Shout - A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe," Various Artists
(M. C. Records) An all-star tribute to the legendary Sister Rosetta Tharpe
features tracks from Joan Osborne, Maria Muldaur, Bonnie Raitt, Michelle
Shocked, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Odetta, Phoebe Snow, Janis Ian, Marcia
Ball, Victoria Williams, Tracy Nelson, Angela Strehli, Marie Knight, and our
old friend Joanna Connor. Joanna was quoted as saying, "Sister Rosetta is
a woman who walked with Jesus, and you can feel that reaching out to you,
the listener, through time and space, through her sweet voice and sparkling
guitar work." This very special collection brings out some the finest
ladies and top shelf talent in the blues business today, and one of the most
inspired new disks we've heard yet this year!
For more on the web, visit:
"Blues Kingpins Series" - Fats Domino, Ike Turner, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin
' Hopkins, Elmore James and B. B. King (The Right Stuff/EMI) This classic
collection of reissues features six 'best of' packages. A portion of the
proceeds will be designated to benefit the Blues Foundation. These classic
post-war releases have been reissued in conjunction with The Year of the
Blues. This is the first time that many of these historic blues recordings
have been released in CD format. The project was the brainchild and passion
of The Right Stuff's president Tom Cartwright. The Right Stuff label
introduces this collection as, hopefully, only 'the first batch in the
series!" We hope so, too - as these are legendary tracks to add to any
blues collection. For more on the web, visit:
That's plenty for you all to chew on for this month, so I'm headin' on down
the road. Until we meet again at this crossroads, peace, love & blessings
to all and.
Blues to 'ya!