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Articles Home » 1984 Articles » Cocker, Joe - 1984 Civilized Man
Cocker, Joe - 1984 Civilized Man

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ARTIST: Cocker, Joe
ALBUM: Civilized Man
LABEL: Capitol
SERIAL: 240139 1 (LP), CDP 7 46038 2 (CD)
YEAR: 1984


LINEUP: Joe Cocker - vocals * Steve Lukather, Reggie Young, Larry John McNally, Dann Huff, Dean Parks, Domenic Troiano, Jon Goin, Pete Bordonali - guitars * Nathan East, David Hungate, Bob Wray - bass * Jeff Porcaro, Larrie Londin, Jim Keltner, James Stroud - drums * Paulinho da Costa, Starz Vander Lockett - percussion * David Briggs, Rob Mounsey, David Paich, Greg Phillinganes, Bob Telson, Shane Keister, Randy McCormick - keyboards * Lenny Pickett, Jim Horn, David Tofani - saxophone * Dave Bargeron - trombone * Randy Brecker - trumpet

TRACK LISTING: 01 Civilized Man * 02 There Goes My Baby * 03 Come On In * 04 Tempted * 05 Long Drag Off A Cigarette * 06 I Love The Night * 07 Crazy In Love * 08 A Girl Like You * 09 Long Drag Off A Cigarette * 10 Even A Fool Would Let Go


As one of the great vocalists in rock it only seemed natural that Joe Cocker would take a stab at full-fledged AOR during the 80's. It made sense commercially, as Cocker had burned out years earlier, preferring a cocktail of booze and drugs to making music apparently. 1982 saw Cocker soaring once more with the hit 'Up Where We Belong' with Jennifer Warnes, but his album that year 'Sheffield Steel' went almost unnoticed. The album showed Cocker moving into melodic territory, relying as always on covers and outside writers. The Steve Winwood written 'Talking Back To The Night' was the AOR highlight and indicated the glory to come two years later. In fact just scanning the lineup involved on 'Civilized Man' shows how seriously Cocker took his foray into AOR, with all the session greats making appearances. If that doesn't whet your appetite then nothing will, very much the epitome of the genre at its peak.

The Songs
Side one finds Toto providing most of the backing, instantly noticeable on the title track, which is a superb way to introduce Cocker's melodic manifesto. There's a hefty dose of organ, which leaves me cold, but the melodic guitar work is prime stuff, especially the Lukather solo. This has nothing to do with Molly Hatchet's 'Satisfied Man' yet I can't help but hear similarities between the two. Maybe the phrasing? Cocker's love of classic covers appears with the 50's chestnut 'There Goes My Baby' from The Drifters. Cocker's powerful pipes are made for a track like this, but it doesn't seem to belong here and is easily skipped. Making up for this is the pure West Coast of 'Come On In' which was written by Bob Telson. This is vintage material, showing what a natural fit Cocker is for AOR, similar in tone to the best of a guy like Robbie Dupree. Unfortunately another cover is hot off the press, this time Squeeze's 'Tempted.' I've never cared for this track so it's hardly essential listening. The Larry John McNally penned 'Long Drag Off A Cigarette' is relatively dour, this one conjuring up images of classic fellow English vocalist Joe Fagin, with a sparse acoustic background.

Cocker springs back into life with 'I Love The Night' which amps up the synths and dramatic melody lines to fever pitch, a great slice of AOR. This one is well worth seeking out to get an idea of how complete Cocker's transformation into an AOR impresario was. Almost as great is 'Crazy In Love' which would later be a hit for Kim Carnes. This is a touching ballad of sorts, with overtones of Kenny Rogers (who covered it also). Cocker recorded the second half of the album in Nashville, which explains the country factor. The upbeat 'A Girl Like You' is tremendously catchy, with funky keyboards and bass work, not to mention sax tossed in. It still falls within the AOR framework, a tidy workout. Things get even more charged with the sublime melody of 'Hold On (I Feel Our Love Is Changing)' which is AOR to the very hilt and could be Greg Guidry in disguise. The guitars chime away in grand fashion and Cocker assumes a sultry vocal role. This is indispensable as far as classic AOR is concerned. Tom Snow provides closer 'Even A Fool Would Let Go' with Cocker turning in another burning set of vocals, to a highly orchestrated background, a textbook ballad which still manages to throw in another perfectly realized guitar solo.

In Summary
As you may have discerned this is an essential listen or purchase. Whether it's highly regarded among the AOR world I'm unsure, but I've never seen mention of it in any discussion over the years. Granted there's several missteps with the popular covers, but that's all. It's as polished and melodic as AOR gets and it's a shame the album didn't make waves. Of course he made a huge resurgence however and 1986's 'Cocker' and 1987's 'Unchain My Heart' are also worth hearing for some slick late 80's AOR moves. This is the late, great man's definitive expedition into AOR mind you and one which goes into my hall of fame.

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