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Something To Say
Joe Cocker

A&M 4368
Released: November 1972
Chart Peak: #30
Weeks Charted: 21

Joe CockerThe Cocker vindication? Well, he has in effect answered all his critics in the only way he knows, for he is essentially a doer, not an articulator, and the demarcation provided by the two sides of the new album explains it all most competently: side one being the musical rap/commentary, and side two the down-home roots blues. "'Cos that's the only thing I know," he shrieks frantically, and there it is -- the sole statement of self-explanation and definition that he really needs. Firmly establishing himself in gear at this early stage of the game leaves him both scope and time to get down to what he obviously feels to be the important business of side two.

Joe Cocker - Something To Say
Original U.S. album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
"High Time We Went," the clanker of the preliminaries, is an initial confirmation of the self-evaluative nature of the album as a whole, and a microcosmic sketch of the manner in which Cocker inflicts short shrift upon the pundits of his shortcomings. Here, it is only the strength and power that are in evidence as Cocker climbs higher and higher, alongside the lunges and plunges, crashing honks and tonks of Chris Stainton's piano. "Something To Say," however, has the most memorable intro, with a leading twang that bites into a furnace of blues, and a "Jumping Jack" patch that explodes in a choral blast from Joe and the Maidens, this number belonging to the Perfect-Transition, Immaculate-Conception species, from small, wrung-out beginning to one huge mother of a belted-out finale.

"Woman To Woman," probably the most commercial track on the album, is rawhide, rawhard, core-music -- real roots, although rarely produced in such a blitz-like fashion by the White Purveyor. Transubstantiation, maybe? Anyhow, the gutsy conclusion to all this powerhouse blues is, naturally and most appropriately, "St. James' Infirmary" -- what better gift to leave you with? "We're gonna do a blues," he tells 'em, "a blooooooooz," and off they go, Isidore on skins, Hubbard ringing out the dues on upright lead, and the rest of the assortment in fine mettle. With "St. James' Infirmary," Joe Cocker has moved into a whole different sphere of musical activity, far distant from the rip-roaring anarchism of the Mad Dogs.

This album is, when all be said and done, riddled with meaningful soul. It is damned easier than ever right now to penetrate the depths of Cocker's music, so damned easy that it worries me. He is close to performing like a veteran on this album, as if already past his peak. Well, and so Cocker has passed this particular obstacle with Dope-Flying colors, but then the whole game is just a series of obstacles... If he somehow forges the strength to rise above the dark negativism of his Detractors, then we, the real Cocker lovers, know he can make it.

Even without a little help...

- Tony Franklin, Rolling Stone, 3/1/73.

Bonus Review!

It's said that Cocker's voice is gone, and I suppose that's true -- it was never much less rough, but it was richer and more flexible. And the live "Do Right Woman" on side two is an overstated embarrassment. But the music on side one, with Chris Stainton providing the same old propulsion on piano as well as -- hmm -- collaborating with this supposed interpreter-only on some good-to-terrific songs, is as rollicking as ever, and the rest of side two is OK. The magic is gone, that's for sure, but maybe it's gone from us, not from him. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

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