Joe Cocker - vocals; Leon Russell - guitar, piano; Don Preston - guitar, background vocals; Chris Stainton - piano, organ; Carl Radle - bass; Chuck Blackwell - drums, percussion; Jim Gordon - drums; Jim Keltner - drums; Bobby Keys - tenor saxophone; Jim Price - trumpet; Bobby Torres - congas; Sandy Konikoff - percussion; Rita Coolidge - vocals; Claudia Linnear - vocals; Daniel Moore - vocals; Donna Wiess - vocals; Pamela Polland - vocals; Matthew Moore - vocals; Donna Washburn - vocals; Nicole Barclay - vocals; Bobby Jones - vocals
1969 had been a monumentally successful year for Joe Cocker, who along with the Grease Band, had engaged in a grueling tour schedule in support of Cocker's first two albums. Following their devastatingly intense performance of the Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends" at Woodstock and its subsequent inclusion in the hit film, Cocker's career had taken a meteoric trajectory. Relentlessly touring continued through the early months of 1970, at which point Cocker and the Grease Band parted ways, intent on pursuing separate paths. Cocker landed in Los Angeles in early March for some well-deserved rest, intending to relax while he began assembling a new band. However, this was not to be, as just a mere 24 hours after settling in, Cocker's management informed him that another seven week tour was all set to commence in just eight days. If that wasn't daunting enough, the tour itinerary had been set up for 52 performances in 48 days! Although adamantly against the idea, Cocker was caught between a rock and a hard place, as his management informed him that immigration authorities and concert promoters would turn against him should he not agree to the tour and he would likely be barred from re-entering the United States to tour in the future. So, he reluctantly agreed, despite being worn out from the previous year of relentless activity.
To help with this daunting prospect, Cocker's friend Leon Russell was recruited as the tour's musical director. A gifted musician, songwriter, and producer, Russell quickly assembled a band that included a stellar roster of musicians, including Chris Stainton from the Grease Band, several alumni of Delaney & Bonnie's band (future Derek and the Dominoes Carl Radle & Jim Gordon), Taj Mahal's drummer Chuck Blackwell, and the future horn section for the Rolling Stones, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price. Russell further fleshed things out with several members of his own band and recruited a large roster of talented singers, who would grow even larger as the tour progressed.
They immediately began rehearsals and hit the studio to record a single ("The Letter" b/w "Space Captain"). Despite being so hastily organized, Cocker and this massive entourage, now going under the collective moniker, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, embarked on a tour that would go down in history as one of the most ambitious undertakings ever to hit the road, not to mention a career defining moment for many of the participants.
Just eight days into the tour, Mad Dogs & Englishmen headlined four concerts at Bill Graham's Fillmore East, which were recorded and later edited to become the now legendary double album set. They also filmed along the way, intent on making a movie of the tour. With such a large revue, tour profits were not part of the equation, but the album and movie would both become quite successful, helping to defray the high costs.
As great as the four-show Fillmore East run was near the beginning of the tour, the performances became even more diverse as the tour went on, with Cocker adding additional choice material to the repertoire and featuring more guest vocal appearances throughout the show, giving him a chance to periodically rest his voice. Midway through the tour, Cocker's rock 'n' roll revue hit San Francisco for another four-show run, featuring Van Morrison as the opening act. This would begin with a Thursday night debut at Fillmore West, continue with Friday and Saturday night performances at the much larger Winterland, and conclude with one last blowout on Sunday evening, returning to the more intimate Fillmore West. This final night would be recorded in its entirety (including the Van Morrison set) and later broadcast on local radio.
Here we present that final night of the San Francisco run, with Cocker and Mad Dogs & Englishmen live on stage at Fillmore West. Fans of the album will be familiar with much of the material here, as the set includes many of the same highlights, including Cocker's high intensity covers of "Cry Me A River", "The Letter", "Feelin' Alright", "Sticks And Stones", "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window", "Space Captain", and his incredible "Blue Medley" of "I'll Drown In My Own Tears/When Something Is Wrong With My Baby/I've Been Loving You To Long." Russell's "Delta Lady" is also included, as is a snippet of Rita Coolidge taking on Russell and Bonnie Bramlett's "Superstar."
However, it is the material not featured on the original double live album that will be of greatest interest, including Cocker's penetrating takes on the Band classic "The Weight", and John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon." The recording also features guitarist Don Preston leading a romp though "Further On Up The Road" and ex-Ikette Claudia Linnear belting out a deeply soulful reading of the Beatles' "Let It Be."
In fact, there are no less than four Beatles songs covered in this set, and Cocker proves that he may indeed be one of the greatest interpreters of their songs. In addition to the rocking "Bathroom Window", he also delivers a dazzlingly soulful read on George Harrison's "Something" and closes the set with a devastatingly powerful "With A Little Help From My Friends" that becomes even more monumental with such a huge musical entourage backing him.
At a time when the rock 'n' roll revue style had long since died, Cocker, Russell, and friends breathe new life into the format. Just as rock music was beginning to become homogenized and many high profile singers were heading in the direction of tightly choreographed performances lacking in spontaneity, Cocker headed in the opposite direction, embracing a loose, raw approach that was thoroughly in the moment and all the more potent for it.