dinosaur sentiment

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Q. Am I doing anything besides listening to an album a day and going on about it? A. Not of particular interest, no.

And today's is the new reissue of Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club, recorded in January 1963, just a few months after my beloved Live at the Apollo, but not released until 1985 (with a cover that looks like it had actually been released 22 years earlier). This is the Cooke album I've wished existed--Night Beat is pretty and sort of formally unified and all, but the Cooke stuff I like best is his Soul Stirrers recordings, where he's scraping that smoothness to a pulp. Here he's raw all the way (maybe it's partly the microphone distorting), an impression helped along by the band (led by King Curtis!) being a bit sloppy and out of tune. As the liner notes point out, this was a recording of a "new act" that he'd developed after touring the U.K. with Little Richard (and, very possibly, seeing JB at the Apollo) (are the between-song speak-sung transitions standard operating procedure for soul singers in the early '60s, or something that he picked up from JB?): treating his pop material as if it were his gospel material. He's trying very hard to Put On a Show--the patter is flowing a little frantically. It's working, though, and the singing is awe-inspiring, even when he's justly embarrassed about the material he's been singing. (When he introduces "Cupid" as "a nice little song, very sweet," or something along those lines, you can feel the RCA execs wince from half a continent away.) If somebody had given me this as a bootleg, I'd have played it for everyone I know.

Other notes: the bit in "Chain Gang" about the provenance of the "Uh! Ah!" sounds like it belongs in quotation marks more than ever; the audience at the Harlem Square Club (in Miami!), carrying the melody of "For Sentimental Reasons" while Cooke blazes away, sings better than any audience I've heard in person; the way he sings "Don't you know that I laughed--HA! HA! HA!--when you left" in "Bring It On Home To Me" should have spawned entire schools of singing, philosophy and politics.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on October 6, 2005 11:41 PM.

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