Issued in 2009, the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, the most famous rock music festival in history, Joe Cocker's performance at the festival turns out to be one of the defining moments of his career thus far. Who knew? Cocker's turn on the stage came on Sunday afternoon, August 17, 1969. He had issued his brilliant debut album, With a Little Help from My Friends, the previous February, and his sophomore follow-up -- not as dynamic a recording but a more consistent one overall -- would be issued in December. Backed by the Grease Band (not to be confused with the vanguard U.S. outfit the Hampton Grease Band), his 11-song show included six cuts from the debut, two from his then upcoming album (including a dynamite cover of Bob Dylan's "Dear Landlord" that opened the gig), a stellar reading of Ashford & Simpson's "I Don't Need No Doctor," and "Something to Say,"an original that didn't appear officially on one of his own sets until 1973. From that opening Dylan cut throughout his 62-minute outing, Cocker never really let up in energy or graciousness toward the crowd. The ballads, such as "Do I Still Figure in Your Life," are delivered with soul and as much fire as harder-driving rhythm & blues-inflected numbers such as "Feelin' Alright" and "Hitchcock Railway." The summation of the show is that utterly in-the-red performance of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends," well-known to fans of Cocker and the Woodstock musical and cinematic offerings. This is easily one of the finer offerings to come from the Woodstock anniversary recordings. While the documentation on the disc is rudimentary -- such as who the backing vocalists in fact were -- the sound is terrific.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek