Back in 2005, I wrote the following:
I was just watching some of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, the film of Joe Cocker's 1970 tour of America. We loved that album back in the day, and loved the movie as well, but we couldn't bring ourselves to admit we liked Joe Cocker, who was just plain weird, so we'd say "what a great album, but it's only because of the band, not because of that singer." (When I say "we" I probably mean "I".)
And it was quite a band. There were the people who played with Delaney and Bonnie, some of whom ended up being the Dominos to Eric Clapton's Derek. There was Rita Coolidge as a backup singer, and Claudia Lennear who inspired lust in a lot of young men and who was rumored to have been Mick Jagger's "brown sugar" and David Bowie's "lady grinning soul" ... she ended up doing a layout in Playboy. There was saxophonist Bobby Keys, who went on to the Rolling Stones, and of course there was Leon Russell trying to steal the show. In total there were more than 30 people in the band ... no wonder if we might have missed the singer.
Except it's so obvious in retrospect that Joe Cocker is pretty much the whole show. The big-band-rock concept is interesting, there's nothing wrong with it, but what makes the whole thing special is Joe Cocker. I couldn't have been more wrong back in the day.
Ten years later, I’d say I was a bit hard on the band and the arrangements. Yes, it’s Cocker’s show, but the band is great, too.
“Cry Me a River” ... I love the joy on the backup singers at the end.
“The Letter” ... no video here, just the audio, as the video versions are awkwardly truncated:
The Woodstock version of “With a Little Help from My Friends” is iconic, but it turns up in Mad Dogs as well. The differences in the two versions are instructive ... you get a sense of how the Mad Dogs and The Grease Band differed.