SAM COOKE One Night Stand! Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club (RCA/Legacy)
Although recorded at a January 1963 date at a Miami night club with the express intention of being released as Sam Cooke’s next album (press ads for the show even proclaimed “Sam Cooke’s Newest R.C.A. Album Called “One Night Stand” Will Be Recorded Live At The Harlem Square”), partly as a response to James Brown’s self-financed taping of an Apollo show the previous October, and partly to document Cooke’s new live show, inspired by an English tour with Little Richard, “One Night Stand! Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club” remained unissued until 1985.
This album practically sweats atmosphere from its opening seconds onwards, through the MC’s introduction, Cooke’s between song banter, a band that includes saxophonist King Curtis and somehow sounds simultaneously ragged and disciplined and an overheated, overcrowded audience reduced to a quivering puddle of hormones by Sam’s soulful emotional manipulation. It’s hard to pick highpoints amidst the hysteria, as Cooke uncorks a succession of legendary songs (almost all his own handiwork, incidentally) that includes “Chain Gang”, “Cupid” (which he introduces almost like a hustler or a carnival barker as a “Very nice little song…nice and sweet”), a thunderous “Twistin’ The Night Away”, “Bring It On Home To Me” worked into an act of dramatic musical theatre and “Having A Party”.
Although a somewhat slender set, clocking in at just under 40 minutes, you do fear for the health and safety of all those involved had it lasted much longer. As Rod Stewart comments on the back cover, “It captures the true energy of this staggering, passionate talent. It’s such an intimate recording – you can hear cracks in his voice, the madness of the crowd who are so with him, encouraging him, shouting for him in each song”.
This is one of the better examples of Sony Legacy’s current 180 gram vinyl reissue series to reach my ears, capturing this gritty evening to raucous, thrilling effect. It’s not exactly hi-fi, despite the cover’s claim to being “a “New Orthophonic” High Fidelity Recording”, but that hardly matters.
SAM COOKE Night Beat (Analogue Productions)
Placing Sam “Mr. Soul” Cooke in a small group setting, his 1963 album “Night Beat” has a smoky, after hours feel. The track list mixes standards with self-penned material, all bound together with Cooke’s velveteen, imploring sob of a voice.
He channels his gospel roots through a searching, yearning “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”, a spiritual that seems, in part at least, to be a calm acceptance of imminent death. The arrangement of “Lost And Lookin’” is deliciously tactile and understated, just Sam’s voice and a double bass thrumming to one side of him, a cymbal swishing to the other. “You Gotta Move”, here mysteriously credited to Cooke himself rather than writers Fred McDowell and Rev. Gary Davis, is a world away from arguably its most famous incarnation, the Stones’ foggy cover on “Sticky Fingers”.
The album’s at its best at its most upbeat moments, though. “Little Red Rooster” is jawdroppingly astonishing, practically soaked in the Hammond organ contributions from Billy Preston, then a mere 16 years old, who makes his instrument bark and howl as the lyrics require. The band finally cut loose, and Sam’s smooth vocals rise to the neighbourhood of a scream. Crackling with rumbustious gang vocals “Shake Rattle And Roll” almost matches it, so volatile a party starter it’s hard to fathom why it’s been tucked away at the far end of the album.
Predictably, Analogue Productions’ 45 rpm reissue, spread over two discs of dense, heavy vinyl, is as satisfying sonically as it is musically, although at the premium rate of £1.30 a minute, it should be.