With his unique approach to songwriting and recording, and of course his uniquely gruff, bluesy voice, it’s difficult to fully encapsulate the late Joe Cocker’s legacy. But that’s exactly what his posthumous album, The Life Of A Man – The Ultimate Hits, attempts to do: condense the English musician’s career into a double-cd anthology of skilfully selected and compiled hits.
The compilation spans songs from Cocker’s entire career, from his debut (including the self-penned Marjorie and the groundbreaking cover of With A Little Help From My Friends) right up to live recordings from 2013. Also included are titles from Cocker’s final albums, 2007’s Hymn For My Soul and his 22nd and final studio album, 2012’s Fire It Up. Although not quite as iconic as his earlier hits, these tracks bring a satisfying sense of context and closure to the album, rounding out an exploration of Cocker’s career. A crucial part of Cocker’s discography was his sheer ingenuity in his covers, and the inclusion of such classic rearrangements as She Came In Through The Bathroom Window and You Can Leave Your Hat On is practically mandatory to the album.
The necessitation of this release is debatable – since 1970, Cocker has released 25 compilation albums, and the tracks on The Life Of A Man have not been altered or remastered, but simply compiled – but as a posthumous celebration of Cocker’s music, it has merit. It presents a satisfying retrospective for fans as well as providing an engaging starting point for those less familiar with Cocker’s work. While not exactly groundbreaking, this album is a well-curated curtain call for one of the greatest rockers of the 20th century.