Joe Cocker – Respect
Sound: B Music:
In his time, Joe Cocker was one of the great-uncompromised
voices in Rock from the Woodstock era, with his soulful, gruff, wired-out
performances of everything he sang. He
was a unique voice that was singing with honesty at its base. By 1982, he had disappeared when the theme
song from An Officer and a Gentleman became a huge hit out of
nowhere. This duet with Jennifer Warnes
became both artists biggest single ever, even winning one of two Academy Awards
for the formulaic and overrated (if well cast) film.
Suddenly, Cocker found himself with a new lease on life,
but was it at the cost of his soul?
That is of constant consideration when listening to his recent album, Respect
Yourself (2002). The eleven-track
work has the laid-back feel of many middle-of-the-road artists in Adult
Contemporary today. It also has several
remakes, typical of artists trying to find ways of sharing their favorite
songs, including the title track, which was oddly a hit back in the 1980s for
none other than Bruce Willis.
Cocker’s performance is obviously better, but far from
definitive. An odder moment comes with
his cover of the INXS hit Never Tear Us Apart, originally co-written and
sung by the late Michael Hutchence.
Cocker does find some of his most interesting moment son the album here,
even without the context of Hutchence’s passing, digging deep into the
lyrics. The irony of a survivor of Rock
covering a song by one who should still be with us is made more so by the
choice of song, one of INXS’ more thoughtful hits.
Most of the material that is new is co-written by producer
John Shanks, but it never allows Cocker to hit his stride. If a laid-back work is what they set out to
do, they did it, but that does not make it more than just professionally
competent. The style is more befitting
Randy Newman’s Every Time It Rains, the album’s next to last track. The PCM CD sound is typical of most albums
heard today, well-recorded if lacking depth, challenge, and/or character new
technology’s ease may be hurting.
There is no doubt Cocker is still a very talented man with
a voice that remains in tact, but it is going to take something more
adventuresome than Respect Yourself before he is heard en masse again.
- Nicholas Sheffo