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THE PERFECT SAM COOKE COMPILATION IS STILL TO COME!
on 22 February 2004
There is so much more Sam Cooke coming on the market these days - so why do I feel so irritable about most of the CDs I see?
I have no quarrel with "Portrait Of A Legend", an excellent 30 track overview in glorious re-cast sound; but the problems begin with the 4CD box set, "The Man Who Invented Soul". This contains a lot of great stuff,some rarish curiosities, quite a lot of filler, and unforgivably halts at the end of '62, before the wonderful peak of Sam's last two years.Whatever the reasons, they can make no sense at all in artistic terms.
"Keep Movin' On" seems to be an attempt to rectify the omissions of the box set by focusing on '63-'64. Unfortunately, the album includes a number of late classics that appeared on "Portrait", plus blatant filler like "The Riddle Song" and "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You", which surely only a lifelong Cooke fanatic like me could listen to politely!
However, if you're new to Sam, bought "Portrait" and want to dip your toe in a little further, there are at least three solid reasons to get this CD.
First, there is the previously unreleased title track, a delightful, swingalong piece which Sam throws off so casually (it sounds like a demo)that it's awhile before you realise what an unpretentious little beauty it is. But that's nothin'. There are two further gems which have been criminally ignored by Cooke-compilers over the years and which may be appearing on CD for the first time....
"Yeah Man!" must be one of the most joyful secular songs Sam ever cut. It's pure party, taken very fast with Sam giggling all the way through it and a big vocal chorus yelling him on. It's up there with "Twisting The Night Away, "Shake," and "Having A Party." It sounds like a huge hit single, and was apparently intended for release and then pulled. Otis Redding saw its potential, and reworked it with Arthur Conley as "Sweet Soul Music", to huge late '60s success. "Yeah Man!", of course, just blows it away.Well, what do you expect?
Finally, my hobby-horse, the magnificent "(Somebody)Ease My Troublin' Mind", which came out as a b-side just after Sam's death and was then virtually forgotten - until now (credit where it's due). If you think "A Change Is Gonna Come" is one of the greatest, most spiritually moving songs you've ever heard (if you don't, where are your ears, where are your emotions?)then "Ease My Troublin' Mind" will take you to the same place: it has a slightly bluesier feel than "Change", and the "trouble" in question is more generally expressed, but this is Sam's voice at full throttle, reaching for the moon. Who needs more?
To return to my initial grumble - but with a positive suggestion.Sam Cooke deserves a fitting memorial:it hasn't happened yet. The people who can produce such great sounding CDS in the SACD format should be well able to come up with a double-CD, 60 track set containing absolutely no filler, just outright masterpieces known and unknown. This would allow all the famous classics to sit cheek by jowl with the songs I've highlighted, plus other rare marvels like "Talkin' Trash","Ain't Gonna Cheat On You", the wildest moments of the incomparable "Harlem Square"
set, and even freaky novelties like "Farewell, My Darling" (b-side of "Cupid", scratched to bits, forgotten by everyone but me?)- ALL ON THE ONE DEFINITIVE RELEASE! If ABKCO lack the confidence to make the selection, please apply here.
And where's the film of his life??