By WL Low
Sheffield Steel has got to be one of the most underrated albums by the venerable blues-folk, Brit rocker, Joe Cocker. His earliest albums were so memorable that many felt this was not his finest hour, at the time of its release in 1982. However, time has been kinder to this classic rock album than many others.
Thanks to my buddy Jepson at Perfect Hi-Fi, this oldie but goldie has been rediscovered. He had used the opening track, titled Look What You’ve Done during the recent KLIAV demo of the KEF LS-50 speakers with great success. This is a track with propulsive bass guitar played as its musical foundation. Cocker’s voice is at its roughest best with lots of vocal texture but a little dry like a Martini.
The third track, Sweet Little Woman, is reggae influenced interlaced with pop sensitivities. The fourth track on the album, Seven Days, opens with great drums panning effect in the recording and lots of slick guitar licks on the side to good effect. I can go on and on about every track in this album, because all are enjoyable, and each a gem on its own, but Cocker really shines when he is doing ballads. Tracks like Marie, Many Rivers To Cross, So Good So Right and Just Like Always put Joe in his natural element, a hardy man whose voice can do ‘softie’ songs that melt one’s heart.
Though not an actual audiophile recording, this album is well recorded, with very little studio and mastering tricks like compression, phase compensation or echo added. The CD’s playback volume is somewhat on the low side, which makes turning up the volume necessary during play back. There’s some tape hiss, but overall it’s not too bad. With the volume up, the drums and bass guitar dynamics become the driving rhythm of the music content. This CD is all about music rather than hifi-ness of the recording quality, but I’ve heard some say the LP format is the best sounding way to enjoy the songs presented here.
I’ve inadvertently infected quite a few people into getting this CD/LP already. Perhaps you wanna find out? Some of the songs can actually be sampled on www.youtube.com , all you need to do is search!