Sam Cooke – Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 (1985)

June 26, 2008 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Album Review, Albums Rated 7/10 | 1 Comment
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RATING:  7/10

Here we have one of the greatest voices in music playing to a small live audience. The fact that he is singing live doesn’t have an affect the quality of his sound. This is such an enjoyable performance to listen to, full of soul, energy, enjoyment and banter. Recorded only about one year before his death, this is Mr. Cooke at his best.

One can only wonder what it would have been like to be there that night, to see him in person, to get involved in the show. The people there must have treasured that experience forever. Not all the tracks are the best from his career, but it is the pure quality of his voice, performance and the atmosphere of the audience that makes this album stand out.

1. Feel It: After getting the crowd warmed up he leaps into his first song which just carries flawlessly to the end. ‘Don’t fight it, don’t fight it, don’t fight the feeling’ he sings and it’s hard not to. Such an easy track to get into, nothing amazing, but the beat and the soul that pours forth sets up the mood for the rest of the album.

2. Chain Gang: One of his more well known tracks is next and the transition to live performance is great. Sam has the chance to really get into his zone, grunting and ‘Ah’-ing and the crowd responds to it as you would expect. Listen to Chain Gang

3. Cupid: One of my favourite Cooke songs, Sam here makes it a little funkier and it works. Probably his best vocals of the night.  Listen to Cupid

4. Medley: It’s All Right/ For Sentimental Reasons: This is a lesson from Sam to guys about how to talk to your woman. After a brief intro he cracks into this gentle and soulful tune, his vocals as perfect as ever. A seamless link into the second half, as he sings you can imagine him picking out certain women and singing directly to them. He then gets the whole crowd to sing along. Throughout the album he is constantly talking throughout the songs, at the right times, getting the crowd involved and showing us that he is enjoying himself.

5. Twistin’ The Night Away: My favourite Sam Cooke song of all time, this is perfect for a live performance and he delivers it with style and class. What a showcase for his vocals and his ability to sing live and retain that quality in his voice. If the dance floor was sparse before then this song would have guaranteed it to be packed be the end. One of the highlights of the album. Listening to Twisting The Night Away

6. Somebody Have Mercy: A cool sax, upbeat rhythm and a great voice carries this so-so track through and makes it fit.

7. Bring It On Home To Me: There is a slow intro that lasts just under 3 minutes, it’s not really something that fits but when the song begins we have the groove and soul back. It feels as though this may be one of Sam’s favourites to sing live, something in his voice and interaction with the crowd shows that there is something more there. Then the track ends with the crowd getting involved once again, they clearly love their evening.

8. Nothing Can Change This Love: Again, top-notch singing is the highlight of this enjoyable track. Not the strongest track on the album but the performance is one of the strongest.

9. Having A Party: This song aptly sums up this album. Everybody’s singing, dancing to the music and they certainly were having a party. Everyone gets involved, you can also picture them swinging away with their friends and partners. A fitting end to a great performance.

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1 Comment »

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  1. Sam Cooke is one of the great voices of all time. I’m going to search for this album right now. Thanks for the post. I live up in Harlem and would have loved the chance to see this.

    -Stal


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