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Music Video Distributors presents
Joe Cocker Live (1981)

"Joe Cocker's ability to take a song, rework it from his soul and make it entirely his own is a talent that few performers have. His career has been full of ups and downs but he continues to be one of rock music's strongest assets. Cocker could sing the alphabet and make it sound exciting."
- Kim Lyon

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: October 29, 2002

Stars: Joe Cocker
Other Stars: Mitch Chakour, Cliff Goodwin, B.J. Wilson, Howie Hersh, Larry Marshall, Beverly Bloomfield, Maxine Green
Director: Gowers, Fields & Flattery Inc.

Manufacturer: Digivision
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some alcohol use)
Run Time: 00h:58m:00s
Release Date: September 10, 2002
UPC: 022891032199
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+CB- B-

DVD Review

Joe Cocker has certainly seen his share of success and failure. His singing career started out with a bang in the 1960s and he made a strong comeback in the late '80s, but the '70s were nothing more than a clouded haze perpetuated by drugs and alcohol. The 1981 performance in Italy on Joe Cocker Live finds Cocker somewhere on middle ground. Though he is still drinking beer on stage, he never gets to the point of vomiting, as he did during a 1972 concert in Australia. His raspy vocal style is strong, and his band exudes great talent. Yet, Cocker seems burnt out and overly tired. While Joe Cocker fans will certainly enjoy this performance, I cannot help but feel that there is much more interesting material to be heard and seen from this unique entertainer.

As a Joe Cocker fan, I certainly enjoyed this concert, but not nearly as much as I should have. The music is fresh and invigorating throughout the entire show, but the lack of stage presence gets old very quickly. For a front man, Cocker is dismally unanimated on stage. Not only is he visually uninteresting, but his strange expressions almost prove uncomfortable to watch. When belting out particularly demanding high notes, he often winces as if he were in pain while flailing his arms like a psychotic penguin. Between songs, he shows his shy side, often mumbling about how he has nothing to say and even mentioning that the only reason he is introducing these songs is because that is what he is supposed to do. During instrumental passages, he stands around with a blank gaze in his eyes, almost as if he were lost.

Though the concert has its rocky moments, Cocker's unique voice and the diverse collection of songs keep the entertainment level high. The music is rooted in rock and roll, but there are many other genres thrown into the mix, including reggae, blues, gospel, and a bit of jazz. Each song has a distinct personality and style that provide for an exciting musical experience. Cocker and his band perform many rock classics, including Whiter Shade of Pale, The Letter, and Feelin' Alright, while mixing up the evening with a laid back reggae groove on The Jealous Kind, and the straight ahead blues number, Watching the River Flow. Even with his grating, throaty voice, Cocker finds the perfect amount of delicacy when singing the ballads Just Like Always and You Are So Beautiful. Closing with a seven-minute rendition of the Beatles-penned With a Little Help From My Friends proved to be the perfect touch. I will go out on a limb to say that I strongly prefer Cocker's treatment to The Beatles version. If that is considered blasphemy, then so be it.

Overall, Joe Cocker Live is an enjoyable concert of unique songs by a talented singer, but I cannot overlook the unsatisfactory elements. In addition to the aforementioned shortcomings, the running time is dreadfully short. I find a one-hour concert with no encore to be a bit ridiculous. I am not certain if this was the actual length of the concert, or if it has been shortened for home video, but either way, it is a disappointment. Nevertheless, Cocker fans will undoubtedly enjoy this musical extravaganza.

Track List:

Feelin' Alright
Look What You've Done
Whiter Shade of Pale
Sweet Little Woman
Just Like Always
The Jealous Kind
Hitchcock Railway
Watching the River Flow
Delta Lady
The Letter
You Are So Beautiful
With a Little Help From My Friends

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: While the 1.33:1 image transfer is suitable, many problems are evident. It appears as if the concert was recorded on shoddy videotape and digitally transferred to DVD. Unfortunately, many of the video deficiencies from the source material remain. The overall aesthetic is dingy and dull, with detail that appears soft and fuzzy. Color is unbalanced throughout, while black level is consistently deep. I often detected a bothersome jumping effect, as if the source tape was skipping. While the image transfer does not play a major role in the overall enjoyment of this concert, it would have been nice to see a cleaner presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: While not as distracting, the stereo mix exhibits many similar problems as those found on the image transfer. There is a slight warbling noise that sounds as if the soundtrack were mastered from a poor quality tape. A low level, static buzz also proves irritating during quiet moments. Though distortion is minimal, the overall sonic characteristic is dated and lacking in fidelity. With surround decoding turned on, the soundtrack lies predominately in the center channel, with minor separation between the left and right mains. Upon switching the surround decoding off, I was surprised to find that dynamic range did not improve much, and stereo separation was only slightly more refined. Most importantly, Joe Cocker's voice is strong and clear, as are the instruments. Though fidelity is decent throughout, I would have been happier if more restoration effort had gone into this aged soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 13 cues
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Music Loop
  2. Interactive Quiz
  3. Discography
  4. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Though mostly text-based material, Joe Cocker Live offers an admirable set of special features for Joe Cocker fans, both new and old.

The music loop is a strange feature that merely plays the audio from the concert over a static menu track listing. The only benefit I can find in this feature is the ability to see what song is currently playing. Otherwise, if the desire arises to listen to the audio only, simply play the concert and turn off the TV, since the static menu may cause burn-in on some televisions.

The interactive quiz put my Joe Cocker knowledge to the test. Though I did not fare all that well, I enjoyed a good laugh when my incorrect answers were answered with an ear-piercing Cocker scream.

Next, is a comprehensive and informative text biography. While I typically find DVD biographies a waste of time, this is an extremely well written and fascinating read.

A welcome inclusion is the Joe Cocker discography, which shows all of Joe Cocker's albums complete with artwork and song titles.

The brief picture gallery is dull and unnecessary, but there are several unique photos of the eccentric singer.

Woodstock 1969 is a one-page write up on Cocker's contribution to the legendary concert. Ultimately, most of the information here is also found in the biography.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

With mediocre video quality and the visually frightening stage presence of Joe Cocker, Joe Cocker Live is not a DVD with repeat viewing value. However, the music excels and will make a wonderful addition to anyone's home audio collection. I recommend this DVD as a one-time sit down viewing, and an endlessly repeatable audio disc.


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