Sam Cooke had probably the best voice in soul music before he was killed at far too young an age. And it stands as one of the best still. You probably know this. If not, you can get acquainted. This is where I’d recommend starting with his music:
- Portrait of a Legend A greatest hits of sorts, it’s got all the songs you know and a handful you don’t and will grow on you.
- One Night Stand! Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 A hot live and hard-hitting live recording from his peak. He brings new energy and a new perspective to each song in the set.
- Keep Movin’ On
For the most part, Keep Movin’ On–which I finally picked up recently–isn’t the hits and it has some overlap with Portrait but once you get more into his music, this the next place to go. It’s a number of recordings he did for Abkco in his last year or two, including the masterpiece “A Change is Gonna Come.”
The style is all over the place as Cooke seemed to be trying to figure out his next direction. He’s got jazzy numbers, orchestrated ballads, soul dance tunes, and pop songs. I’m not going to say it’s without its misses, but the missteps are easily forgivable given the quality of the music overall.
“Rome (Wasn’t Built In a Day)” Classic Sam Cooke. His voice settles in a swinging soul groove in this pop song. When he wails “give me time” near the end of “The Riddle Song” This is a version of an English/ Appalachian ballad dating back to the 15th century. Concentrate on his voice–forget the orchestration for a minute–on this one. It’s just amazing.
Not all of the songs are on the softer side–I’d love to share them all with you. “Sugar Dumpling” is a great song.
Keep Movin’ On is available from insound.