Recorded across 3 nights in February 1963, "Night Beat" is an unusual album for Sam Cooke in that it features slowed-down, paired-back Blues tunes with a slightly Soul-Gospel tint - and man does it work. Originally released September 1963 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-2709 - the piano and organ centre a lot of the songs - each with a midnight-lounge languid feel that suited his voice to a tee. And of the 12-tracks there's barely a clunker in sight. In fact it feels like you're listening to "Elvis Is Back" from 1960 - an album that's good all the way through - rather than being just patchy. Here are the CD details...
US-released in September 2005 - "Night Beat" by SAM COOKE on RCA/Legacy 82876 69551 2 (Barcode 886919858624) is a straightforward transfer/remaster of the original 1963 Stereo LP and comes in a repro card digipak with an attached 11-page booklet (37:57 minutes). PETER GURALNICK (author of the acclaimed "Dream Boogie: The Triumph Of Sam Cooke") supplies the well-written and hugely affectionate liner notes - while the CD itself rather prettily reflects the original coloured 'Dog And Gramophone' RCA Victor label of the original LP - complete with the 'Hugo & Luigi Production' logo just below it (nice touches). The LP's rear sleeve artwork is pictured beneath the see-through CD tray. Pretty as it looks and feels - that's chump change to the astonishing Audio...
BOB LUDWIG remastered the first generation tapes and the sound quality can only be described as BEAUTIFUL. It's always been a famous Audiophile treat on original 'Living Stereo' vinyl (180-gram reissues of it are available to this day) - but little prepares you for the full range and clarity on offer here. Originally produced to perfection by RCA's resident experts Hugo & Luigi, the instruments are razor sharp - as is his angelic voice. His phrasing and holding of notes is classy, effortless and smooth as a newborn's smooth parts. Cooke's voice on this album is fabulous - the stuff of legend - and this CD allows you to enjoy it to the full.
1. Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen 2. Lost And Lookin' 3. Mean Old World 4. Please Don't Drive Me Away 5. I Lost Everything 6. Get Yourself Another Fool 7. Little Red Rooster [Side 2] 8. Laughin' And Clownin' 9. Trouble Blues 10. You Gotta Move 11. Fool's Paradise 12. Shake Rattle And Roll
Highlights include his own three compositions - "Mean Old World", "Laughin' And Clownin'" and "You Gotta Move" all of which feature the wonderful piano-playing of RAY JOHNSON with BILLY PRESTON slinking it up on Organ. There are four Charles Brown cover versions (a Forties & Fifties R&B artist on Aladdin and King Records) - one of which is the gorgeous "Get Yourself Another Fool". The remaster has kept the slight hiss at the beginning and throughout - it's 'not' been compressed out of existence or removed with a no-noise effect - which is good news because it allows the sound to breath - it's 'so' good.
Side 1 keeps it slow and languid (beautiful double-bass clarity on "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" and "Lost And Lookin'") while Side 2 ups the tempo only slightly. "Lost And Lookin'" was written especially for Cooke by his SAR Records associates J.W. Alexander and Lowell Jordan and apart from a lone bass line and single cymbal tapping - it's practically Acapella Blues. It's a stunning vocal turn by Cooke. The cooler-than-mister-cool groove achieved in Willie Dixon's classic "Little Red Rooster" (a hit for Howlin' Wolf) is enhanced by Billy Preston wittily aping the sound of dogs barking and hounds howling on his barking organ. The album ends on an upbeat high - a cover of Big Joe Turner's wonderful "Shake, Rattle And Roll" - a version that doesn't dilute down the saucy lyrics of the 1954 Atlantic Records original as Bill Haley's Decca remake did a year later (title above).
"Night Beat" is the kind of album you can play on a Sunday morning and just drift away on its Mad Men cool and Church-like warmth. In 2013 it'll be 50 years old - and yet it still sounds fresh and thrilling. Check out his gorgeous vocals on "Fool's Paradise" set against that sloppy back beat - beautiful stuff.
"Night Beat" is a criminally overlooked classic that should be in your life. No less than Ray Charles called Sam Cooke "...the one and only..." and on the evidence presented here - Brother Ray was right...
PS: I've also heard the Music On Vinyl LP Reissue from 2010 (MOVLP161 - Barcode 8713748980665). It uses the Stereo Master and the 180 Grams Pressing is virtually hiss-free and glorious to listen too - especially the whole of Side 2. The original artwork graces front and rear. A beautiful thing to own.
Having bought the Portrait of a Legend CD I saw the reissue of this album and took a flyer. The only song shared by both albums is Little Red Rooster and this song is a good indicator of the mood of Night Beat - you only have to look at the titles to get the idea.
The singing is of a very high calibre but with less pop type hits and a more bluesy, gospel approach especially on the first track and the second track which is almost unaccompanied.
The only song that doesn't really fit is the last track "Shake Rattle & Roll" but it's still worth listening to.
As the late, great critic Robert Palmer wrote in the liner notes to the 1995 edition of "Night Beat," this beautiful album is something of an anomaly in Sam Cooke's career, which evolved from the Soul Stirrers' classic gospel through a series of mostly terrific hit singles (see "The Man and His Music") and a pair of very different live albums (get the "Harlem Square Club" set) and his own record label (which issued sides by Bobby Womack and the Valentinos, Johnnie Taylor, and many others, collected on the excellent "SAR Records Story"). Until shortly before his death in December 1964 the market for Cooke's music would have been almost exclusively a singles market, but by then the artist had become aware of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, and as "Night Beat" reveals would certainly have adapted to the emerging emphasis on the album as artistic statement.
Music: 10/10 This is truly a wonderful CD. If it has crossed your mind to buy it just do it. You won't regret it. It is a masterpiece! Sam at his best.
Recording: 10/10 It is hard to believe that this was recorded in 1963. The sound quality matches anything else I have purchased recently. Audiophiles, if you want an album to show off your system, here is one for you. It is that good.
Beautiful high quality soul-record that defines soul music. It's starts off with a traditional arranged, gospel-style-turned-into-soul "Nobody knows the Trouble I've seen", but then guided by a rougher acoustic guitar and a rambling soulpiano. The second song opens with a pure singing Sam Cooke. The whole song it's his vocals are leading, pushing the other instruments gentle, but oh-so powerful to the background.During the whole record, it's his voice and pure, delicacy style of singing that keeps your attention: it becomes a guide for every singer. His technique is so stong, that you accept Sam Cooke is singing a bluesstandard and rock-'n-roll-standard, while you accept he is turning them into soulmusic.Even his humming on "trouble blues" is in tune...
The atmosphere of the record is still strong after decades. The way the piano has been recorded helps. It's like the songs have been recorded at the end of the night, somewhere someplace in a little bar, hardly any people present, but those who are are listening with 100% focus.
Night Beat is the record where Sam Cooke integrated all his not too smooth, pure soul experience from different styles into this one, strong pure soul style. Gone is the too smooth interpretation created for the white follks, entering is the definition of Sam Cook.
Now, Sam Cooke is not one I have listened to, other than the occasional tracks on compilation albums so this was a first for me. Well I'm going to say its an "absolute gem of an album". I have played it many times and never once felt I had to turn it off due to overkill. The tracks vary in style and presentation but what each of them does is present Sam at what I feel might have been his best. He sounds so relaxed and his voice is clear as a bell. His use of timing and tone is sublime, even in his singing of the words "when and where". The emphasis upon the pronunciation is there to be felt not just heard. The mood is soft for the most part and the inclusion of Shake Rattle and Roll and Little Red Rooster make for interesting listening. I really do like this album. So much so that I also purchased it on CD to listen to in the car. I made recommendation to friends and colleagues about this album (as you pretty much tend to when you buy any new one). They have all commented positively on it and interestingly each of them have chosen a different favourite track which reflects the variation in the songs on the album and personal preferences.
The music and his singing is as good as ever, although this SACD is recerded in multi channel it is not very dynamic, in that there is not much seperation of the back channels, overall it is good but the engineering could have been better although it must be said that the original recordings were possibly in mono.
There can't be much to say about this CD that hasn't been said before. What a great voice, full of feeling when singing, No "squealing and screaming" like a lot of modern day singers. Every word sang is plain to hear. A young Billy Preston on keyboards adds to the great musical backing.