One of Leon Russell's greatest songwriting creations, "Delta Lady" is also one of Joe Cocker's defining moments. Using gospel and funky R&B as a base for the entire song, the record is a virtual mini-suite and is easily the most ambitious song Cocker ever cut. An ascending piano riff introduces the down-home, swampy groove -- the first part climbs and falls with a subtle and dramatic grace. A gorgeous, pop bridge introduces an element of Broadway-inspired pop, which alone is unique for a Russell or Cocker recording. The verses are a full-blown three-chord rock blowout, featuring a fabulous performance from both Cocker and the background vocalists. A very odd but effective, neo-classical bridge breaks the song up in the middle with great drama before returning to the gospel and rock & roll of the final, bone-crunching verse and chorus. Lyrically, it's a love song that was purportedly inspired by Russell's then-girlfriend, Rita Coolidge. As tight and great as this studio version is, the extended live version from Mad Dogs and Englishmen may even be more effective. Russell also cut a great version himself on his Leon Russell album in 1970, and this is worth seeking out.