Album Review: Joe Cocker, 'Hard Knocks'


"Hard Knocks"
Producer: Matt Serletic
429 Records
Release Date: Jan. 24

Joe Cocker got a kind of subliminal boost with young TV viewers last year when Josh Krajcik took Cocker's gravelly vocal style to the runner-up spot on "The X Factor." Now Cocker (whose version of "With a Little Help From My Friends" once served as the theme song for TV's "The Wonder Years") appears to be capitalizing on that renewed next-gen awareness with a studio album helmed by Rob Thomas/Matchbox Twenty producer Matt Serletic and featuring songwriting input from the likes of Kara DioGuardi and Marc Broussard. Serletic mostly keeps the focus on Cocker's still-handsome vocals, though several cuts do seem a bit desperate to hold the attention of listeners accustomed to today's quick-cut top 40 thrills. The synthed-up "Runaway Train," for example, lives up to its title all too well. Hard Knocks is better in a closing cover of the Dixie Chicks' "I Hope" and the low-down title track, in which Cocker brags of having the "bumps and the bruises" to prove where he got his education.

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