The inimitable Joe Cocker tonight. The band and the tour that put Joe on the Musical map and made Leon Russell a household name, not to mention a cast of luminaries who came along to lend licks and notes and turned this concert tour into a rolling circus. It was immortalized on film and became one of the biggest selling albums of the 1970s. If anything, this tour and this album kicked off the 70s.
Tonight, it’s the first set of the first night at The Fillmore, March 27, 1970. In a way, it’s a dress-and-tech rehearsal, because, as the story goes – this tour was put together only 13 days earlier and it hit the road only on March 20th.
With Leon Russell as Musical Director, a cast of all-stars was assembled as well as a horn section, three drummers. Russell pulled favors and got friends to pitch in. His years as one of the go-to session musicians on the West Coast certainly paid off handsomely with connections.
The rest, as they say, is history. However, when the album was released in August of that year, it was initially met with some negative comments – Rolling Stone’s Pete Nartez commented that the whole album sounded like the band was “formed on a few days notice to meet contractual obligations and sounds like, well, like a group that was formed on a few days notice to meet contractual obligations”.
History has proven a bit kinder, and the negative reviews didn’t hamper the album from becoming one of the most played on FM-Underground at the time, and several cuts were issued as singles and got considerable top-40 airplay. The album went to Number 2 on the Billboard Album charts, so it did pretty well for an album whose band was once referred to as “a pickup orchestra with Saloon-Soul swagger”.
You no doubt have heard the album and probably have seen the movie – here’s one of the performances you might have missed.
Crank it up and enjoy.