Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 album cover

Sam Cooke, Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963

RCA, 1963, soul

B, 1966: Fun album, captures a moment in time with a more raw entertaining — versus performing — Sam Cooke than I have heard before. Have to go with “Chain Gang” here for the track.

C, 2002: Great fun energetic album. Every song on here is great but “Twistin the night away” is the best on the album. It must’ve been crazy to be in the audience for a show like this.

H, 1951: There are a few live albums that seem to transcend the usual issues concerning the quality of the singer’s voice and the fidelity of the recording and move beyond any possible comparisons to the studio versions of the songs. Albums like this exist in a special space, valued because they somehow capture the unique energy of a particular performer, playing for a particular audience, on a particular night. These sorts of recordings capture a singer and band laying it all out, making real an unseen bond between performer and listeners. Cooke’s performance here has nothing to do with trying to reproduce the sound of his records on stage, and everything to do with using these songs as a sort of communal gospel that forms the basis for the soul sermon he feels moved to deliver on this particular evening. Those of us lucky enough to hear such a recording feel privileged to know a little bit of what it must have been like to feel part of such a community. This is one of those albums. Recorded in 1963, first released in 1985, 21 years after Cooke’s untimely death. Invaluable.

Published 15 Dec 2019

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