Sometimes an old dog can learn a couple of new tricks. In an obvious attempt to appeal to and stay relevant with today’s younger generation Joe Cocker has widened his bag of tricks. He has brought on Rob Thomas/Matchbox Twenty’s producer, covered a Dixie Chicks song and gotten Kara DioGuardi (American Idol) to write him some tunes. The voice is still up to the challenge of making Top 40/radio friendly tunes even after 40 years in the music business. His singing voice is still oozing passion and intensity. Ten tracks long (9 originals, 1 cover), Hard Knocks is definitely a more poppy sound than we are used to from this rock/blues veteran. He does pull it off pretty well, though. I didn’t find myself laughing that a man his age has some electronic elements and overdubs on some of his songs. “Unforgiven”, “So It Goes” and “Thankful” are the strongest tracks on the CD.