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Category:    Home > Reviews > Pop > Blues > Joe Cocker - Respect Yourself (CD)

Joe Cocker – Respect Yourself (CD)


Sound: B     Music: C+



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


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