Off Topic Messages

An incredible live cd

Tue Feb 14, 2006 12:22 am

On Saturday I finally picked up Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club. I am completely blown away! Those who do not own this should get it asap. For years I was aware of this album's reputation, and DJC has recommended it on this mb a number of times, but I just never got around picking it up. I even had it in my hands a few times in the record stores, but ended up putting it back.

Suffice it to say that Cooke's vocal performance is absolutely ferocious! I love this kind of old school r&b and soul, but this is a different Sam Cooke from the smooth voiced pop artist. What an amazing performance!

Thu Feb 16, 2006 12:51 am

Yeah it's an essential piece of Cooke and far from the supper club performer his detractors would paint him as, although he was a first rate supper club performer. The new reissue is modestly priced, has good sound for the period and of course Peter Guralnick's notes. That this sat unreleased for 20 odd years is impossible to comprehend. When it was released for the first time in 1985, it made the lower regions of the pop charts and led to a reppraisal of Cooke's work. His classic singles should have solidified his legend on their own but this dose of grittiness was needed to establish him in that rock happy world.

It's much like the 1961 Hawaii show with Elvis in that it captures a legend at the peak of his youthful form. Like that show it is also chock full of classics many of which at the time were current or near current hits. Look at the Cooke show and it seems like he's rolling through most of his classic hits. At the time the show was taped though few of these hits were older than two years old. It's cool to hear the hits live because Cooke's other live album "At the Copa" contains precious few Cooke originals.

A difference between Elvis' show and Cooke's show was that Cooke was playing for a mostly adult audience. There was a show for teens earlier but among African-Americans Cooke's music resonated beyond the teenage audience. They were more used to these type of sounds than their counterparts in white America, even in early 1963.

Another big difference is that Cooke is playing what is basically a night club, a big nightclub but a nightclub nonetheless. Today it is unthinkable for a front line contemporary star to headline such a small venue. Elvis was really the first star who outgrew those type of bookings. The industry has changed a lot.