Sam Cooke: Portrait of a Legend 1951-64 (Abkco)

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Sam Cooke: Just For You
Sam Cooke: Portrait of a Legend 1951-64 (Abkco)

It seems a shame that this great soul singer -- who was shot in strange and sad circumstances in late '64 -- should be relegated to classic hits radio and soundtracks on the basis of a few of his hits: You Send Me, What A Wonderful World, Bring It On Home To Me, Another Saturday Night . . .

Cooke's wonderful gospel-into-pop sound of 1959-65 was covered on the excellent double disc box set Sam Cooke's SAR Records Story (Abkco) which came out in the mid 90s. It is essential listening.

This single disc of his subsequent pop-soul career adequately covers a lot of ground -- 30 tracks which are bookended by the gospel of Touch the Hem of His Garment and Jesus Gave Me Water, and hidden track at the end is Cooke talking about soul then humming a beautiful brief melody.

Between times all those hits (and more) mentioned above are covered, but there is also his great A Change is Gonna Come (which became an unofficial anthem for the civil rights movement), some country music and many gentle ballads.

Cooke's velvet and melodious voice sounded unbeatable on the ballads, ached with soul elsewhere, and could coil around a melody like no other.

For anyone not up for a box set but wanting those great hits and more then this disc -- with good liner notes on each song by Peter Guralnick -- is a fine collection.

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