Sam Cooke - Live At The Harlem Square Club - Review
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critics' view

Recorded live at the Harlem Square Club, Miami, Florida on January 12, 1963 with the clear intention that it’d be released as “One Stand Night”. Amazingly, the recording was deemed unsatisfactory, the project was shelved, and lay unreleased until 1985. And yet it is absolutely, unquestionably and undoubtedly, Sam Cooke’s finest album release. And this comes from a man who generally detests the live album concept. Go figure. Sam had toured England in late October of 1962 with Little Richard. The feverish nature of the King’s performances clearly had gotten to him. From here on he was a changed man in concert.

From the off, “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” sets the tone rhythmically, lyrically and spiritually. This working class crowd are going to get a new, hard edged, rootsier, grittier and wilder Sam Cooke. Sam Cooke, the ecstatic gospel screamer, working that crowd into a frenzied state of pleasure. Sam Cooke as James Brown in fact. On the crucial “Somebody Have Mercy”, Sam digs deep into black blues roots “I’m standing here wondering, will a cotton-picking matchbox hold my clothes?” This may not be his default territory but, by god, he seems a past master all the same. And that band can sure thwack a back beat. They’re with him every step. As are the crowd.

This leads directly into the single greatest soul recording that has ever been captured on tape, the spine tingling “Bring It On Home To Me”… "you know I’ll always be your slave, ’til I’m buried, buried in my grave, oh honey, bring it to me, bring your sweet loving, bring it on home to me, yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah)" What female in her right mind could possibly resist? The call and response between Sam and audience makes my knees cave in with excitement.

This album of passionate madness, recording warts and all, stands as Sam’s finest hour. An absolute must have…

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