Monday, May 01, 2006

Sam Cooke Rocks The House!

Sam Cooke - Bring It On Home To Me (live)

Last week my bosses gave me a copy of Peter Guralnick's Dream Boogie, a biography of Sam Cooke and, when I have not been preparing / writing exams I have been reading portions of it. Guralnick's high-quality writing, evidenced earlier in Sweet Soul Music and other books, presents a great picture of the music legend and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in music history or in Sam's life and career.

With Sam on my mind I present today's selection, taken from the Live at the Harlem Square Club album. The discovery of this album some years ago was a heralded event because it presented a snapshot of Sam performing live for a black audience (the more pop-slanted Live at the Copa was the erstwhile only live album). As I mentioned in a post in November on Gene Chandler's "Rainbow '65", Arthur Kempner, in his book, Boogaloo, accurately discusses how this live album isn't as hot as you would think it would be. Yes, Sam's in front of a black audience and therefore there is more of a R&B-gospel flavor in his sound than usually shown in his recordings, but most of the album finds Sam almost on auto-pilot, slinging pretty stale stage patter and doing his hits. With "Bring It On Home" he literally brings it on home, with a great gospelly introduction and then a strong reading of the song. Kempner accurately points out that it's still somewhat less soulful than you'd think it would be (Sam keeps doing this fake-sounding laugh, and the when he goes into a "let me hear you say yeah" call-and-response with the crowd, the audience shouts rather than sings), but the magic of Sam's performance still shines through. Sam on auto-pilot was better than many performers' singing for their lives, so it's a worthy listen.

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