I really been goin' back into time and checking out some 50s music in the past few weeks. The main corporates have been Jackie Wilson, Clyde McPhatter, Johnny Ace, Hank Ballard, Dee Clark, early James Brown, early Joe Tex and Sam Cooke.
Clyde McPhatter's music has been real interesting as has Johnny Ace's short career.
While I have always known of Sam Cooke's music I never really studied his music, I just listened to it. Listenin' and studying is a whole different world. I been "studying" my disc of his Portrait of a Legend and I am really blown away. None of the songs on those 30 track compilation are bad.
I think I will purchase his complete discography (if available.)
Wasn't Cooke criticized at the early on for being too cheesy and pop? Which later forced him to change what kind of songs he recorded?
I'm not 100% sure on this, but I remember reading something of the sort, and I'm pretty sure it was about Cooke.
You're kind of misremembering the story around one of his live albums. His singles were always smooth. However live, he could get a little wilder.
He recorded two live albums in front of two different type of audiences.
One at the Copacabana (remember Goodfellas where they walk in through the kitchen?) and one at the Harlem Square Club.. Live at the Copa came out right after his death. Live at the Harlem Square came out 20 years afterwards. What changed? The audience's taste had changed. In particular, white audiences who heard Southside Johnny and Rod Stewart doing Sam Cooke material could deal with grittier soul music. But it's totally anachronistic to say that in his day, he was criticized for being pop or cheezy
Cooke’s singles on the other hand, never offered a hint of the power he would display on Live at the Harlem Square Club. Even his other live album Live at the Copa sounds stuffy in comparison. Live at the Harlem Square Club is the live album that Cooke made for his own audience – the ones that truly like to dance – instead of people dressed in suits and ties. And from the moment it begins, you know that you’re in for a party.
Every single song is transformed into an entirely different animal. “Chain Gang” and “Twisting the Night Away” are played at breakneck speed, but with a precision and looseness only a seasoned band could pull off. The original version of “Chain Gang” sound kind of cheery, but here the song shows its skin and Cooke’s non-verbal grunts only add to the drama (or add sexual tension) depending on your viewpoint. On “Cupid” when Cooke laments that he’s in distress and doesn’t want to bother the fabled God of Love, there’s a sense of irony that was never present in the studio version. ”Having a Party” turns into the musical party of the century. About 30 seconds in, Cooke laughs into the microphone and even without seeing the smile on his face it’s totally infectious. ”Everybody’s dancing to the music!” Cooke declares, “On the radio!”. It’s impossible to hear this song and not want to get onto your feet.
To put it another way, on his records he was Motown, but he could be Stax live.
Twisting the Night away Live at the Harlem Square club.