Whether Sam really was the first soul singer, I'm not sure, though he has a strong claim to the title. In any event, this is an excellent collection of his music.
Sam made his breakthrough with You send me, which went all the way to number one in America (where it sold a couple of million) though it barely made the top thirty in Britain. In the fifties, when music was often racially segregated, this was quite an achievement. Sam was well aware of the problems, as is clear from his song, A change is gonna come. The change did come (to some extent, at least) though Sam, murdered aged just 33, did not live to see it.
Another important American hit, Only sixteen, fared slightly better than You send me in the UK despite being covered by Craig Douglas who took the song to the very top of the UK charts. Sam's version of Wonderful world, another huge American hit, again only registered in the UK top thirty at the time of its original release, though Brits grew to love this song, with Herman's Hermits also having a big hit with it in the sixties. Sam's version made number two in the UK when re-issued in 1986.
Sam finally achieved success in the UK when Chain gang, Cupid and Twisting the night away all made the top ten. Only two more UK hits followed - Another Saturday night (which Cat Stevens covered in the seventies) and Frankie and Johnny (not included here), both of which made the top thirty. However, Sam had many more (and bigger) hits in his homeland, where his music was better appreciated. There are many other great songs here, too numerous to mention.
I bought this originally on vinyl and later replaced it with the CD. It provides a great selection of Sam's music but there is now an even better compilation titled Portrait of a legend, featuring extensive liner notes and even better sound quality. Many of the songs are the same but there are a few differences, although all the essentials are on both collections.