When the Internet-based audio boutique Hip-O Select issued its Complete Fillmore East Concerts (2006) by Joe Cocker and the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, they also offered each of the respective two evenings -- March 27 and 28, 1970 -- separately. This triple-disc package gathers both sets from the latter of the two nights at the Fillmore East in New York City. However, the back-story as to how Cocker and company made it onto the stage of the venerable venue is worth noting. In brief, after gaining international acclaim via his riveting appearance in the Woodstock (1970) documentary, the artist found himself contractually bound to tour for the better part of a year. Shortly after Woodstock, Cocker's backing unit, the Grease Band, dissolved, leaving him with a cross-country North American tour -- beginning in under 14 days -- and no band. Enter Leon Russell, whose Rolodex of musicians proved vital as he collected the likes of Chris Stainton (keyboards), Don Preston (rhythm guitar), Carl Radle (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), Jim Keltner (drums), Chuck Blackwell (percussion), Sandy Konikoff (percussion), Bobby Torres (congas), Jim Price (trumpet), and Bobby Keys (sax) to support both Cocker and himself. Equally as impressive is the ten-member vocal "choir" with Rita Coolidge, Claudia Lennear, Daniel Moore, and Nicole Barclay (aka Nickey Barclay). For the two shows that were recorded for the meat of the Mad Dogs & Englishmen project, the set list reflects a definite similarity of material emphasizing a wide range of rock, folk, and pop music covers.
While most would have been familiar to the average concertgoer, over time many of the tunes became synonymous with Cocker. Primary among them would be Traffic/Dave Mason's "Feelin' Alright," the Box Tops' "The Letter," Leonard Cohen' s "Bird on a Wire," and the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" (with lyrical augmentation from Cocker himself), as well as the Beatles' "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Something" -- not to mention Claudia Lennear's touching solo performance of "Let It Be." Not appearing on this particular program are Russell's "Hummingbird" and "Dixie Lullaby," which had been done the previous night. However, within this evening's contents there are more than a handful of selections that would become staples in Cocker's live repertoire. Chief among them are the Russell/Cocker rocker "Delta Lady," "Let's Go Get Stoned," "Sticks and Stones," and "I'll Drown in My Own Tears" -- which were obviously a nod to "Brother" Ray Charles. And in the case of the latter, it is part of a "Blue Medley" alongside "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby" and "I've Been Loving You Too Long." All said, the contents of 2006's Mad Dogs & Englishmen: Fillmore 3/28/1970 are inspired and the multi-track tape remix has resulted in a fresh "stereoscape" with full dynamic range. In terms of packaging, the CDs themselves are housed in a specially designed eight-panel foldout digipack that has a brief liner essay and original artwork. Complementing this collection is Mad Dogs & Englishmen at the Fillmore: March 27, 1970, anthologizing the following evening, as well as Complete Fillmore East Concerts, with both limited-edition releases in a single place.