The release of "SC Live at the Harlem Square Club" has sadly dminished the reputation of this album. On "Harlem Square" (recorded a year earler but considered too raw for release by RCA until 1985), Sam was performing juke joint gut-bucket R&B for a ghetto audience and was in RARE form. This consists of a smoothed out supper club performance for a (presumably) upper-crust white audience at NYC's Copa, which was released at the time.
Sam fans today almost to a one prefer "Harlem Square" to this. But on it's own, this is not a bad album. This sounds like the kind of thing Sam would have done on the "Ed Sullivan show" at the time. Pretty polished stuff with his own band mixed with the house orchestra. But it's actually quite good. "Bill Bailey" and "The Best things in Life are free," etc. may come off a bit stiff, but improves with repeated listening. He really starts to cook as the CD goes on. The sing-alongs to "If I Had A Hammer," and "This Little Light of Mine," and "Blowing in the Wind," (all songs then associated with the civil rights movement, BTW) are quite charming. The guitar parts in "When I Fall in Love" are simply beautiful, as is the song itself. So when Sam trots out the old chestnut "Tennessee Waltz," it's okay because you have already been entertained and uplifted.
Yeah, comparing the two Live albums is like pitting "Soul Train" vs. "The Ed Sullivan Show," but give this album a chance without comparing it to "Harlem Square" and you'll be alright.