Tag Archives: Sam Cooke

Acclaimed Albums – Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963 by Sam Cooke

Like I mentioned with the switch over to the Top 1000 list, there are a number of older albums that I listened to as part of a previous blog. This was back in 2009 … and I think my views on music have changed somewhat. Or maybe not, but hey it’s good to keep crossing these off so for these three weeks will be playing a game of catch-up.

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 304/1000
Title: Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963
Artist: Sam Cooke
Year: 1985

Yes ladies and gentlemen this is another live album that I am reviewing. When I saw that this was another in a long list of live albums the question did dawn as to why there are so many essential ones during this time. After all, it is not as if artists don’t produce live albums anymore. While I have some understanding as to why live jazz albums appear on this list, due to the largely improvisational nature of their craft, but those of other genres just didn’t make sense to me.

Then the idea dawned on me as I began to listen to Live At Harlem Square Club. Maybe it is because in their studio recordings the artists just as Sam Cooke, as well as others like Sarah Vaughan, they become so restrained by the needs to sell records to the masses that so many compromises that it is in these live albums that some artists finally reach their full creative potential and produce their best work. So, the album today is Live At Harlem Square Club by Sam Cooke, and with this is the first true soul album to appear on the 1001 list.

If there is one thing that needs to be said about Sam Cooke it is that this guy had charisma by the shed-load. If the recording is to be believed, as it should be, then he had this audience feeding out of the palm of his hand. When he says to scream and shout by Jove do they scream and shout. When he says twist you just know that the entire crowd is there in front of the stage twisting away. The second thing that is needed to be said is that he is able to make one hell of a show. He has single-handedly raised the bar for all the albums on this list.

With his soulful voice and his electric performances Sam Cooke has made sure that Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You didn’t hold the title of ‘Best Album So Far’ for anything more than a day. But what is it makes Live At Harlem Square Club the best album on the list so far? So far this is the only album that is without a duff track. ‘Chain Gang’ makes you want to get up and do dance like Johnny Bravo whilst ‘Cupid’ is just one of those immortal songs that really does mean as much nowadays as it did back then.

Timelessness in an album is pretty much a rarity since every album has a telltale sign of the times whether it be a musical style, a particularly used instrument or cultural references that have become lost in the quagmire of a shared consciousness, yet this doesn’t have any of this. A factor to this may be that we recently had a sixties musical resurge. This has taken the forms of Amy Winehouse, Christina Aguilera’s Back To Basics and Duffy, who tries and fails to replicate the wondrous Dusty Springfield, so an album like this doesn’t sound too alien. However, these all tend to have a better production value compared with those of the sixties, including Live At Harlem Square Club. So why doesn’t this factor date this album? Pure and simple, it’s a live album.

It’s production values are pretty much the same as those of Bjork’s Live Box or Madonna’s attempts that proved she couldn’t sing live. Thus Sam Cooke, likely through sheer accident has given an album of class, genius and timelessness that all artists dream of

1001 Songs – 1964

1964 may be the last year for a while that I attempt in one sitting. At 15 songs it’s stretching it a bit, but let’s do this!

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Leader of the Pack – The Shangri-Las

We start out with a tragedy song. These were so in vogue at the time. I guess it was something to do with the rise of the teenager and the need to rebel. You could see them as either warnings or aspirations depending on your age.

‘Leader of the Pack’ is arguably the most famous of these teenage tragedy songs and even reached number 1. The screeching of the tyres at the end just highlight this tragedy element. This is a girl group song in the same way that ‘Sally, Go Round The Roses’ was.

For some reason this song reminds me of Ruby Wax. I don’t know why.

Les copains d’abord – Georges Brassens

Meanwhile in France we are still in the world of chanson. This one is very peppy and yet it is about someone dying on a fishing trip with friends.

What is it with the French chanson music and using a peppy melody to hide a darker message! Granted this is no ‘La Gorille’, as that was moderately upsetting, but this is still someone drowning. It’s like how you have lovely happy music in the French film Partie de la Campagne and it’s actually quite upsetting.

Then again he could be singing about having dysentary and it would still sound lovely. Language *jazz hands*

Samba Malato – Nicomedes Santa Cruz

Another different song here. A samba by Peruvian singer Nicomedes Santa Cruz.

It’s an interesting pick for the 1001 list. This is on here in order to highlight a different kind of music – this being an Afro-Peruvian movement.

The song itself appears to be a song about back home, in this instance areas such as Angola and the wider Congo area. So basically this another instance of happy music hiding a darker message.

Walk On By – Dionne Warwick

This marks the first appearance of Burt Bacharach on the list. By this time he had already written songs like ‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa’ and ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, but those are probably more well known because of their Dusty Springfield covers.

Dionne Warwick was the perfect voice for the combination of Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. Most of her early songs came from this pairing (and this is back when two albums a year was the norm). Amazing how as a three they were able to churn out a song of this quality.

Don’t Gimme No Lip Child – Dave Berry

Interesting pick as this was actually a B-side (people younger than me will have no idea what this is) to his song ‘The Crying Game’.

It makes the list because of how it influenced punk bands, like the Sex Pistols who used it in rehearsals, who would not be releasing music for about a decade. Talk about reach.

E se domani – Mina

Mina is one of those big singers from the European continent that didn’t make waves in the UK. ‘E se domani’ is one of her biggest selling singles and, despite being a failed attempt to enter Eurovision. Italy won that year anyway so no harm no foul.

It’s a sweet song, but very much a slow Eurovision song. Enjoyable, but not memorable.

The Girl from Ipanema – Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto

One of the most famous songs of all time as well as being one of the most recorded of all time.

Astrud Gilberto, singing the English lyrics, managed to get the gig because she was the only one of them who knew English. It also helped that she was the wife of Joao Gilberto. Still, her rough and relaxed vocals worked perfectly for this archetypal bossa nova track.

Perfectly relaxing for a summer’s day like today… even if this is going up in February.

A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

One of those big songs of the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. It’s an incredibly stirring track that is ultimately made all the more tragic after his death a year later having been shot by a motel manager.

You listen to this and you can hear exactly where singers like Marvin Gaye got their inspiration from. Especially when you listen something pretty seminal like What’s Going On.

Just… moving.

Dancing in the Street – Martha & The Vandellas

Now for a complete change in tact and yet Marvin Gaye is still a useful reference as he was one of the writers on this song.

Where ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ was specifically written to be part of the movement ‘Dancing In The Street’ found itself associated despite being a regular party song.

It’s one of those songs that just makes you want to get up and dance. Not protest though. I can’t dance when I’m angry.

I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself – Dusty Springfield

Most people will know this song because of the White Stripes cover.

It’s another Bacharach/David song, but this had to go through a few hands before reaching Dionne Warwick. Interestingly this was originally sung by a man and yet this song is remarkably feminine when it comes to the lyrics.

You also have songs like this and the next one being the start of blue-eyed soul aka white people singing rhythym and blues and soul (seen then as black music). When you think about it… it’s a bit of a racist idea for a genre.

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling – The Righteous Brothers

Now this is possibly the song that caused the term ‘blue eyed soul’ to be coined.

Listen to that production. We are back in the world of Phil Spector and doesn’t that just feel like being wrapped up in a blanket made up of meticulous music. Also, there’s Cher in the background.

You Really Got Me – The Kinks

If ‘Don’t Gimme No Lip Child’ was an influence on punk music then this has got to be the first chapter of the punk rock cookbook.

It’s one of the few pure rock songs that has been encountered so far and has really gotten me to thinking about how many famous songs we are starting to get in this list.

For the first time it feels like rock, as we know it, has arrived and dropped the ‘and roll’ part of its title.

The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

‘The House of the Rising Sun’ is actually a traditional folk song (I didn’t know that either) that had been sung by many people, including Bob Dylan, for years and years.

It takes a lot to make a song like this feel as if it belongs to you as the cover singer, but this re-arrangement by The Animals found a way to do this.

Every now and then there is a ‘keystone’ song in this list. Something that is so different from what preceeded it and managed to influence music afterwards. ‘You Really Got Me’ was pretty close to this when I think about it.

Because of my Acclaimed Albums list I have been spending a lot of time listening to psychadlelic rock and with this I think I finally found THE song that managed to bring them into prominance. It’s haunting, it’s fantastic and shows you how to arrange a folk song.

Go ‘Way from My window – John Jacob Niles

Well… this probably shouldn’t be one of the closing songs in what has been a bumper year. Then again, singing this at 72 years old and being a massive influence on the American folk revival movement does get you a place here.

Similar to how I can hear some notes of Joni Mitchell’s ‘My Old Man’ in the delivery here.

72 years old and still able to hit the high notes. Wow.

Amsterdam – Jacques Brel

I adore this song. When I saw that I would finally be listening to this as part of the 1001 songs list… well that’s why all 15 have been done in one post rather than being split and I’d get to this whenever.

I love a big song and a big bit of production and this song just will not stop building. It’s a mini epic at 3 minutes plus applause that brings tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my body every single time that I hear it.

It’s the perfect song to finish a year off to. Just magnificent.

Progress: 165/1021

1001 Songs – 1957

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

What a short year! One more like this and then it’s all going to have to be split posts.

Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On – Jerry Lee Lewis

The first of two Jerry Lee Lewis tracks in a rather short year. We are still in the throes of rockabilly, but that is undoubtedly a boogie woogie piano line going on in the background. As 1950s go this is a bit more on the risqué side. Compared to Elvis he does not have the distinctive vocals, but they’re a lot cleaner and have a lot more energy.

That’ll Be the Day – Buddy Holly & The Crickets

This is the only song that I know by Buddy Holly. Since we are less than two years from the famous ‘The Day That Music Died’ plane crash the title feels oddly ominous. There’s not much to say about this song. Compared to the previous song it actually feels dated.

Little Darlin’ – The Diamonds

First thing to say, goddamn this song puts a smile on your face. These first three songs are all examples of the branches that rock and roll had taken by 1957. This song, a cover from an original by The Gladiolas, is far more on the doo wop side. Doo wop, yet painfully white. Interesting thing to note is the lack of drums (because it was 4am and the drummer had gone home), instead there are castanets and, I think, a cow bell.

Weird thing of note, the spoken word bridge inspired ‘Monster Mash’.

Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis

Not even two minutes long. That’s incredibly strange to note. In fact a lot of the songs that we have coming up are in the 2-3 minute mark. This song feels like a distillation of ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On’ to the point that it just oozes sex. It makes you wonder what music would have been like if we had gone down the more piano driven rock of Jerry Lee Lewis rather than the guitar-driven rock of Elvis.

When I Fall in Love – Nat King Cole

Hands up time. I knew the Celine Dion version of this first, by about 20 years. What can I say – my music taste was very gay back then. It’s not totally straight now, but it’s more bi-curious.

Anyway, don’t listen to the Celine Dion and Clive Griffin version. This works so much better as a solo song (even if the strings are a bit much). Also, you don’t have Cliff Griffin going over the top in his delivery towards the end… despite having a rather weak voice.

Nat King Cole, for me, is Christmas. So hearing other songs from his repertoire is an eye opener. I half-expected ‘The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot’ to be following on from this to be honest.

You Send Me – Sam Cooke

Doing this list, I have begun to notice sea changes. Tracks like ‘Rum and Coca Cola’ stand out because they are different to anything else on the list. ‘You Send Me’ feels like a progression towards something different rather than a development of an established genre.

I like Sam Cooke. I even did a review of Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963 for a university newsource as a part of ‘Have You Heard…’ section. This is the start of soul. By the time we finish this song list we will have reached the neo soul stylings of Erykah Badu and we’re going to be picking up funk and disco along the way. What a journey it’s going to be.

Progress: 89/1021