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"Mad Dogs and Englishmen" is the account of Joe Cocker's 1970 American
There is lots of great music, but the impression the film left me is what
joy there is when good music is being made.
It was made in the same vein as "Woodstock" the 1970 Oscar winner for Best Documentary. "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" is even better than "Woodstock". I don't want to sound like a spoiled sport, but the best parts of "Woodstock" were the musical sequences and "MDAE" is loaded with songs, 21 to be exact.
Cocker exudes a kind of kinetic energy rarely seen anymore. His body moves with the music. He isn't just singing; he feels it. And when the band finishes up with an exceptional take, we see the joy they feel. It was a highlight in "Woodstock" and here, with a 2 hour running time, you can't help but feel exhilarated after it ends. I know I did.
Sadly, "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" is not as well known as "Woodstock", mostly due to the rights being in limbo for so long. Now, A&M Video preserves the film on tape, with the multi-image widescreen images intact and the result is a unearthed treasure. The album only covers some of the bases. The film covers them all.
**** out of 4 stars
Charming, messy documentary of Joe Cocker's 1970 American tour. Some really fun performances are captured here (and, gratefully songs are allowed to pay out at their full length). At the same time, we get a pretty fascinating voyeur's peek into the odd, wild commune like life of Cocker's tour; a huge number of musicians, girlfriends, wives, babies, roadies and the occasional groupie. And, perhaps funniest of all, the off-screen Cocker who's on stage energy and almost spastic movements famously make him look like a man possessed off-stage seems like a quiet, likable, thoughtful, even somewhat shy fellow. Not a particularly deep film, but an enjoyable two hours if you're at all interested in Cocker and his hard edged rock-blues-gospel approach to some great classic rock tunes.
MAD DOGS & ENGLISHMAN: A great film and is a statement of Rock History because of the people involved. Joe Cocker asked Leon to get some mates together as this tour was to get off the ground right away. For the most part Leon just pulled Delaney & Bonnie's Band right out from under them. Jim (not John) Price, Bobbie Keys, (who both later went with the Rolling Stones and then the Blues Brothers), Rita Coolidge,(who did a solo "SUPERSTAR" which was cut from the first video issue because of A&M problems) She has since recorded out of Japan and Canada and sings with her sister Priscilla and her niece Laura Satterfield in a group called Walela. Jim Gordon, (who co-wrote LAYLA) Carl Radle and of course sometimes Leon. All were with Delaney and Bonnie. There group just fell apart after that. Bonnie did play Bonnie the waitress on the Roseanne Show and sometimes sang on that show with David Crosby. I might add at this time that Claudia Linnear who solo's on Let It Be is the girl who Mick Jagger wrote Brown Sugar about. If you listen to the sound of Delaney & Bonnie's albums you will here the Mad Dogs sound. Donna Wiess is a great writer of music and has worked with Rita Coolidge off and on over the years.
First off, if you're looking for some good music and classic concert footage, this movie is a hit. I'm sorry that I'm too young to have made it to this show. Unfortunately, I think the movie falters is in its storytelling. This was a band of some 30 people put together for a tour with Joe Cocker. It would have been nice to get a glimpse of how it all came together. The movie does drag from time to time, and I found it difficult to make it all the way through the 2 hours. Now with that said, there are still some great scenes, including one that I swear Rob Reiner flat out stole for "Spinal Tap". I'd say it's worth a look. The music alone is worth it, but keep your finger close to the fast forward button.
JOE COCKER: MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN (1971) Few films capture the grimy, jazzy feel of what it was like to be in a rock and roll band than this documentary gem. One particularly revealing scene shows what a recording session was like: ten people crammed in a smoke-filled room playing loudly and in one take. No over dubbing or fancy equipment. Just some men and women (or, as the final song shows, hermaphrodites) with passion and raw musical talent. The famous performance of "The Letter" with Joe Cocker in a lei is the one you hear on the radio today. The Mad Dogs, headed by Cocker and Leon Russell, rework several well-known songs to fit their own groovy, down and dirty style. "With a Little Help from My Friends" becomes a choir backed extravaganza, while The Box Tops' "The Letter" is fashioned into a R/B piece with an immortal horns riff; You know the "da da da dadada" when you hear it. The technical aspects are solid as well, with split screens, frame coloration, and the like. The film doesn't tell you in voice over what the road was like, it shows you. In a camp out scene, Joe can be seen looking at his contemporaries embracing while he sits off-kilter by himself. It's always suggesting, never telling. I saw this with my grandpa and he had lots to say about what he remembered about those days. He enjoyed it thoroughly and I was surprised how much I did as well; more so than even "Woodstock". "Woodstock" was too sprawling, too colossal to love. This one is a brief, piercing look at a band that wasn't necessarily the best, but had a hell of a time trying to be.
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