Joe Cocker
Hymn for My Soul

4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike JeffersonJoe Cocker’s 22nd studio album, “Hymn For My Soul,” makes ole sandy throat sound as fresh and vibrant as he did when he made his debut in 1969. One thing Cocker and his brain trust have always been good at is selecting outstanding material that suits his blast furnace emoting. For “Hymn For My Soul,” Cocker has cherry-picked material written by Lennon & McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Andy Fairweather-Low, Daniel Moore, John Fogerty and the Neville Brothers, among others.

Joe Cocker’s career has been comprised of a touch of luck, strokes of good timing and a heap of talent. Cocker’s abilities were touted by Mike Harrison of Spooky Tooth, who used Joe as a back up singer on the rock gospel shout out “Feelin’ Bad” on “Spooky Two.” (And why not, the two sound very much alike.) Like Harrison, Cocker was a student of Ray Charles and American R & B and had a talent for taking a song and making it his own. For his debut album, 1969’s “With A Little Help From My Friends,” Cocker was given access to the best studio musicians, including Steve Winwood, Jimmy Page, Procol Harum’s Matthew Fisher and B.J. Wilson, and in a stroke of irony, Spooky Tooth members Mike Kellie and Chris Stainton were also asked to participate. Cocker did a high profile gig at the original “Woodstock,” then teamed up with keyboard impresario Leon Russell, who arranged his self-titled second album and assembled a 30-member touring band appropriately referred to as “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.” Cocker joked he earned a little over $10 after the small army of singers and roadies were paid, but the die was cast. With his arms flailing as if in the thrall of an epileptic seizure, Joe Cocker became a rock icon barely a year after his debut album was released.