Monday, May 27, 2013

Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen - DVD

I've just started reading a Bobby Keys book and he mentioned being on this tour, which reminded me that I had this DVD and never reviewed it. I loved early Joe Cocker, when he was a rock'n'rollin' r'n'b singer with high quality, high energy bands, and this band was one of his best (the Grease Band being one of the others).

This film is a documentary of his 1970 tour with the group that replaced the Grease Band, which was known as Mad Dogs and Englishmen (from Noel Coward, of course). This was a stellar, star-studded line-up, some recruited from the fall-out of the break-up of Delaney & Bonnie's band by Leon Russell as the Master of Time & Space (arranger, keys and guitar), with Chris Stainton on keys, Don Preston on guitar, Carl Radle on bass, Jim Gordon & Jim Keltner on drums, Bobby Keys (sax), Jim Price (trumpet), and a host of vocalists, including the fabulous Rita Coolidge and the stunningly talented Claudia Lennear, among others - and lots of hangers-on and kids.

Songs include a laid-back, sing-along of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", stage numbers like Leon's fantastic "Delta Lady" (with multiple false endings, which Keys alludes to in his book), "Feelin' Alright", and then there is some hotel footage of the cats smoking and rolling dope,  a practice with bits of John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon" - but watch out - some of the tunes listed on the back of the DVD case are simply bits & pieces of numbers acapella on the plane of backstage, so don't anticipate full takes of everything.

There is a fair amount of interview footage, lots of clips of streets, cities, shows, groupies, some Texan jackasses and so on. Then we get back to concert numbers for a bit, with songs such as "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window", and Claudia Lennear soloing on "Let It Be", looking and sounding wonderful, some random travelogues and then a terrific "The Letter", "Sticks and Stones" set to a montage of images from the tour, a really fun jam at a bar or something, shots at a picnic, then we get down to business with a superbly gritty, r'n'b take on "Honky Tonk Women", led by Leon, followed by "Space Captain", "Something" and, of course, "With a Little Help From My Friends".

While the random shots do give you a feel for the tour, it would be nice to see a full concert - or at least a set of songs in the order of the show. But, still a very cool doc of a unique band and of Cocker at the top of his game. There is also a beautifully done booklet with lots of info and photos, so a nice package all around.