Aug 8, 2015

RhoDeo 1531 Grooves

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Today an American recording artist, singer-songwriter and entrepreneur generally considered among the greatest of all time. Influential as both a singer and composer, he is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocals and importance within popular music. His pioneering contributions to soul music contributed to the rise of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Billy Preston and popularized the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown.Cooke was "the inventor of soul music", and possessed "an incredible natural singing voice and a smooth, effortless delivery that has never been surpassed.   ... N'joy

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Sam Cooke was the most important soul singer in history -- he was also the inventor of soul music, and its most popular and beloved performer in both the black and white communities. Equally important, he was among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of the music business, and founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. Yet, those business interests didn't prevent him from being engaged in topical issues, including the struggle over civil rights, the pitch and intensity of which followed an arc that paralleled Cooke's emergence as a star -- his own career bridged gaps between black and white audiences that few had tried to surmount, much less succeeded at doing, and also between generations; where Chuck Berry or Little Richard brought black and white teenagers together, James Brown sold records to white teenagers and black listeners of all ages, and Muddy Waters got young white folkies and older black transplants from the South onto the same page, Cooke appealed to all of the above, and the parents of those white teenagers as well -- yet he never lost his credibility with his core black audience. In a sense, his appeal anticipated that of the Beatles, in breadth and depth.

He was born Sam Cook in Clarksdale, MS, on January 22, 1931, one of eight children of a Baptist minister and his wife. Even as a young boy, he showed an extraordinary voice and frequently sang in the choir in his father's church. During the middle of the decade, the Cook family moved to Chicago's South Side, where the Reverend Charles Cook quickly established himself as a major figure in the religious community. Sam and three of his siblings also formed a group of their own, the Singing Children, in the 1930s. Although his own singing was confined to gospel music, he was aware and appreciative of the popular music of the period, particularly the melodious, harmony-based sounds of the Ink Spots, whose influence could later be heard in songs such as "You Send Me" and "For Sentimental Reasons." As a teenager, he was a member of the Teen Highway QCs, a gospel group that performed in churches and at religious gatherings. His membership in that group led to his introduction to the Soul Stirrers, one of the top gospel groups in the country, and in 1950 he joined them.

If Cooke had never recorded a note of music on his own, he would still be remembered today in gospel circles for his work with the Soul Stirrers. Over the next six years, his role within the group and his prominence within the black community rose to the point where he was already a star, with his own fiercely admiring and devoted audience, through his performances on songs like "Touch the Hem of His Garment," "Nearer to Thee," and "That's Heaven to Me." The group was one of the top acts on Art Rupe's Specialty Records label, and he might have gone on for years as their most popular singer, but Cooke's goal was to reach audiences beyond the religious community, and beyond the black population, with his voice. This was a tall order at the time, as the mere act of recording a popular song could alienate the gospel listenership in an instant; singing for God was regarded in those circles as a gift and a responsibility, and popular music, rock & roll, and R&B were to be abhorred, at least coming from the mouth of a gospel singer; the gap was so great that when a blues singer such as Blind Gary Davis became "sanctified" (that is, found religion) as the Rev. Gary Davis, he could still sing and play his old blues melodies, but had to devise new words, and he never sang the blues words again.

He tested the waters of popular music in 1956 with the single "Lovable," produced by Bumps Blackwell and credited under the name Dale Cooke so as not to attract too much attention from his existing audience. It was enough, however, to get Cooke dropped by the Soul Stirrers and their record label, but that freed him to record under his real name. The result was one of the biggest selling singles of the 1950s, a Cooke original entitled "You Send Me," which sold over two million copies on the tiny Keen Records label and hit number one on both the pop and R&B charts. Although it seems like a tame record today, "You Send Me" was a pioneering soul record in its time, melding elements of R&B, gospel, and pop into a sound that was new and still coalescing at the time.

Cooke was with Keen for the next two years, a period in which he delivered up some of the prettiest romantic ballads and teen pop singles of the era, including "For Sentimental Reasons," "Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha," "Only Sixteen," and "(What A) Wonderful World." These were extraordinarily beautiful records, and in between the singles came some early album efforts, most notably Tribute to the Lady, his album of songs associated with Billie Holiday. He was unhappy, however, with both the business arrangement that he had with Keen and the limitations inherent with recording for a small label -- equally to the point, major labels were knocking on Cooke's door, including Atlantic and RCA Records; Atlantic, which was not yet the international conglomerate that it later became, was the top R&B-oriented label in the country and Cooke almost certainly would have signed there and found a happy home with the company, except that they wanted his publishing, and Cooke had seen the sales figures on his songs, as well as their popularity in cover versions by other artists, and was well aware of the importance of owning his copyrights.

Thus, he signed with RCA Records, then one of the three biggest labels in the world (the others being Columbia and Decca), even as he organized his own publishing company, Kags Music, and a record label, SAR, through which he would produce other artists' records -- among those signed to SAR were the Soul Stirrers, Bobby Womack (late of the Valentinos, who were also signed to the label), former Soul Stirrers member Johnny Taylor, Billy Preston, Johnnie Morisette, and the Simms Twins.

Cooke's RCA sides were a strangely schizophrenic body of work, at least for the first two years. He broke new ground in pop and soul with the single "Chain Gang," a strange mix of sweet melodies and gritty, sweaty sensibilities that also introduced something of a social conscience to his work -- a number two hit on both the pop and R&B charts, it was his biggest hit since "You Send Me" and heralded a bolder phase in his career. Singles like bluesy, romantic "Sad Mood," the idyllic romantic soul of "Cupid," and the straight-ahead dance tune "Twistin' the Night Away" (a pop Top Ten and a number one R&B hit), and "Bring It on Home to Me" all lived up to this promise, and also sold in huge numbers. But the first two albums that RCA had him do, Hits of the Fifties and Cooke's Tour, were among the lamest LPs ever recorded by any soul or R&B singer, comprised of washed-out pop tunes in arrangements that showed almost none of Cooke's gifts to their advantage.

In 1962, Cooke issued Twistin' the Night Away, a somewhat belated "twist" album that became one of his biggest-selling LPs. He didn't really hit his stride as an LP artist, however, until 1963 with the release of Night Beat, a beautifully self-contained, dark, moody assembly of blues-oriented songs that were among the best and most challenging numbers that Cooke had recorded up to that time. By the time of its release, he was mostly identified through his singles, which were among the best work of their era, and had developed two separate audiences, among white teen and post-teen listeners and black audiences of all ages. It was Cooke's hope to cross over to the white audience more thoroughly, and open up doors for black performers that, up to that time, had mostly been closed -- he had tried playing the Copa in New York as early as 1957 and failed at the time, mostly owing to his inexperience, but in 1964 he returned to the club in triumph, an event that also yielded one of the most finely recorded live performances of its period. The problem with the Copa performance was that it didn't really represent what Sam Cooke was about in full -- it was Cooke at his most genial and non-confrontational, doing his safest repertory for a largely middle-aged, middle-class white audience; they responded enthusiastically, to be sure, but only to Cooke's tamest persona.

In mid-1963, however, Cooke had done a show at the Harlem Square Club in Miami that had been recorded. Working in front of a black audience and doing his "real" show, he delivered a sweaty, spellbinding performance built on the same elements found in his singles and his best album tracks, combining achingly beautiful melodies and gritty soul sensibilities. The two live albums sum up the split in Cooke's career and the sheer range of his talent, the rewards of which he'd finally begun to realize more fully in 1963 and 1964.

The drowning death of his infant son in mid-1963 had made it impossible for Cooke to work in the studio until the end of that year. During that time, however, with Allen Klein now managing his business affairs, Cooke did achieve the financial and creative independence that he'd wanted, including more money than any black performer had ever been advanced before, and the eventual ownership of his recordings beginning in November of 1963 -- he had achieved creative control of his recordings as well, and seemed poised for a breakthrough. It came when he resumed making records, amid the musical ferment of the early '60s. Cooke was keenly aware of the music around him, and was particularly entranced by Bob Dylan's song "Blowin' in the Wind," its treatment of the plight of black Americans and other politically oppressed minorities, and its success in the hands of Peter, Paul & Mary -- all of these factors convinced him that the time was right for songs that dealt with more than twisting the night away.

The result was "A Change Is Gonna Come," perhaps the greatest song to come out of the civil rights struggle, and one that seemed to close and seal the gap between the two directions of Cooke's career, from gospel to pop. Arguably his greatest and his most important song, it was an artistic apotheosis for Cooke. During this same period, he had also devised a newer, more advanced dance-oriented soul sound in the form of the song "Shake." These two recordings heralded a new era for Cooke and a new phase of his career, with seemingly the whole world open to him.

None of it was to be. Early in the day on December 11, 1964, while in Los Angeles, Cooke became involved in an altercation at a seedy motel, with a woman guest and the night manager, and was shot to death while allegedly trying to attack the manager. The case is still shrouded in doubt and mystery, and was never investigated the way the murder of a star of his stature would be today. Cooke's death shocked the black community and reverberated far beyond -- his single "Shake" was a posthumous Top Ten hit, as were "A Change Is Gonna Come" and the At the Copa album, released in 1965. Otis Redding, Al Green, and Solomon Burke, among others, picked up key parts of Cooke's repertory, as did white performers, including the Animals and the Rolling Stones. Even the Supremes recorded a memorial album of his songs, which is now one of the most sought-after of their original recordings, in either LP or CD form.

His reputation survived, at least among those who were smart enough to look behind the songs -- to hear Redding's performance of "Shake" at the Monterey Pop Festival, for example, and see where it came from. Cooke's own records were a little tougher to appreciate, however. Listeners who heard those first two, rather poor RCA albums, Hits of the Fifties and Cooke's Tour, could only wonder what the big deal was about, and several of the albums that followed were uneven enough to give potential fans pause. Meanwhile, the contractual situation surrounding Cooke's recordings greatly complicated the reissue of his work -- Cooke's business manager, Allen Klein, exerted a good deal of control, especially over the songs cut during that last year of the singer's life. By the 1970s, there were some fairly poor, mostly budget-priced compilations available, consisting of the hits up through early 1963, and for a time there was even a television compilation out there, but that was it. The movie National Lampoon's Animal House made use of a pair of Cooke songs, "(What A) Wonderful World" and "Twistin' the Night Away," which greatly raised his profile among college students and younger baby-boomers, and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes made almost a mini-career out of reviving Cooke's songs (most notably "Having a Party," and even part of "A Change Is Gonna Come") in concert.

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As Keen's marketing was limited, Sam Cooke began to shop around to other labels in February 1960. Interest was immediate from labels such as Atlantic and Capitol, but Cooke signed with Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore at RCA Victor, who offered a $100,000 advance.
Cooke's Tour, recorded on March 2 and 3, 1960, is an "adventurous travelogue" that explores various territories around the world. Glen Osser wrote arrangements and conducted the album’s orchestra, which was a R&B rhythm section and a fifteen-piece string ensemble. Cooke was closest to the album’s final track, "The House I Live In," as he had just moved into his dream home in Leimert Park, Los Angeles.



Sam Cooke - Cooke's Tour (flac 224mb)

01 Far Away Places 3:28
02 Under Paris Skies 3:10
03 South Of The Border (Down Mexico Way) 3:10
04 Bali Ha'i 3:17
05 The Coffee Song (They've Got An Awful Lot Of Coffee In Brazil) 2:02
06 Arrivederci, Roma (Goodbye To Rome)  2:47
07 London By Night 3:34
08 Jamaica Farewell  2:32
09 Galway Bay 3:00
10 Sweet Leilani 2:48
11 The Japanese Farewell Song 2:57
12 The House I Live In 3:19

Sam Cooke - Cooke's Tour (ogg 87mb)

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Sam Cooke's second RCA album is mostly a missed opportunity, in terms of representing much about Sam Cooke as an artist or singer -- having him cover pop hits of the previous decade wasn't a terrible idea on its face, but Cooke was still getting accustomed to working at RCA, and he wasn't inspired by the material or the way it was chosen, and the result is an album aimed at what the label thought the white teenage market was all about (and what the company thought the parents of those kids would be most comfortable with them buying from a black recording artist), that's a lot less interesting than some of the singles, including "Chain Gang" and "Wonderful World," that he was doing around the same time. His versions of hits associated with Nat "King" Cole, Johnnie Ray, and the Platters should have made for a more interesting record. Hits of the Fifties is still an improvement over its immediate predecessor, Cooke's Tour, but it's also one of the records that for many years -- in the absence of his best material being available -- blighted Cooke's reputation as a soul singer.



Sam Cooke - Hits Of The 50's (flac 200mb)

01 Hey There 2:32
02 Mona Lisa 2:34
03 Too Young 2:08
04 The Great Pretender 3:02
05 You, You, You 2:45
06 Unchained Melody 3:24
07 The Wayward Wind 3:10
08 Secret Love 2:46
09 The Song From Moulin Rouge 2:30
10 I'm Walking Behind You 2:45
11 Cry 2:13
12 Venus 2:53

Sam Cooke - Hits Of The 50's (ogg 82mb)

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Sam Cooke began his career as a gospel singer, and after two pop-oriented LPs, the label and Cooke's producers, Hugo & Luigi, decided to play to that side of his repertoire and reputation for this, his third album. Certainly opening the album with the traditional spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and using it as the title track was an acknowledgment of his history. Despite some intersections with his gospel roots and his past history with the Soul Stirrers, however, this album isn't quite what one would expect from its title -- most of Swing Low consists of pop repertoire (including Broadway material), albeit songs that have a devotional, reflective aspect, or a spiritual tone, and the production is very full, if not quite as overblown as some of the songs recorded elsewhere in Cooke's RCA library. The choir and brass are slightly overdone on the title song, but almost everything else is a study in understatement that plays to the quiet strength in Cooke's voice -- "I'm Just a Country Boy," "They Call the Wind Maria" (from Paint Your Wagon), "Twilight on the Trail," and "If I Had You" combine with the title song and the single "Chain Gang" to make side one of this album a masterpiece of subtlety, and one of the high points of Cooke's early LP output. If parts of his other early-'60s RCA albums represent a tragedy of wasted opportunities, through bad song choices or worse arrangements, Swing Low falls on the other side of that line, bringing home what could (and should) have been -- one hears a phenomenal talent moving in almost precisely the right direction. Side two is a little weaker in focus, digressing back to a trio of 19th century chestnuts, "Grandfather's Clock," "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," and "Long, Long Ago," which Cooke's voice does elevate. And then we get to Johnnie Taylor's "Pray," the highlight of the album in Cooke's hands, and a song and performance that bring the focus back where it should be. The album closes with "You Belong to Me," an original by Cooke and J.W. Alexander, and the Antonin Dvorák-spawned spiritual "Goin' Home" -- the arrangement of the latter almost swings a little too much, but finally comes off well, and both can be counted among the finest things Cooke ever cut for a long-player and, along with "Pray," among his must-own performances. In contrast to many of the singer's early RCA LPs, where one must pick and choose the jewels from among weaker moments, Swing Low is the man and the voice in much of their glory across most of the album.



Sam Cooke - Sam Cooke (Swing Low)  (flac  224mb)

01 Don't Get Around Much Anymore 3:10
02 Little Girl Blue 2:55
03 Nobody Knows When You're Down And Out 3:20
04 Out In The Cold Again 2:25
05 But Not For Me 2:29
06 Exactly Like You 2:05
07 I'm Just A Lucky So And So 3:10
08 Since I Met You Baby 3:00
09 Baby, Won't You Please Come Home 2:08
10 Trouble In Mind 2:55
11 You're Always On My Mind 2:12
12 The Song Is Ended 2:07

 Sam Cooke - Sam Cooke (Swing Low) (ogg  93mb)

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Sam Cooke's voice is justifiably legendary, but most of his RCA albums are astonishingly little-known today, and My Kind of Blues explains why this is so, at least in part. The singing is superb throughout, but the repertoire, even in 1961, was not terribly well defined or the recordings well arranged. The basic problem lay in the nature of Cooke's career arc, which probably straddled too many styles and musical worlds for his own good -- the spiritual and the secular, pop and rock & roll, and pop and soul, all as defined in his time (which was, effectively, from the early '50s to the early '60s). The "blues" as a label on an album had a much wider meaning than it would have had at the other end of the decade, or any time since -- Cooke was part of a world where adult pop still held sway and seemed, at least for the LP market, a more attractive target than the teenage or even collegiate audiences of the time. Thus, the "blues" heard here would have been appropriate for a mainstream singer -- say, Sinatra, or Nat King Cole -- circa 1961 (or, really, about 1957 -- Cooke's producers were very conservative) -- rather than what most listeners today would call blues. Brassy, big-scale orchestrations abound, and even the leaner textured songs, such as "Little Girl Blue" and "You're Always on My Mind," rely on a reed or horn section, respectively, to augment the electric guitar, piano, bass, and brushed drums at the core of their arrangements. Some of this works beautifully, as on "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," which was a good enough song to make it into Cooke's set at his Copa appearances, and, along with a handful of other tracks here, also onto the compilation The Rhythm and the Blues (and the box set The Man Who Invented Soul). All of this is what would probably be called "smooth blues" (assuming it is defined as blues at all in a modern sense); it's more soul of a pop variety. But Cooke's voice carries it -- even the weakest arrangements and material get elevated, as the best of Cooke's interpretive instincts overcome the worst of his producers' instincts. Given its limitations, My Kind of Blues was never going to be a defining album in Cooke's output, and had he lived past 1964 it almost certainly would have been relegated to his "early period" in a full career. Its strongest moments, of which there are many, stand on their own, however, and the leanest of the arrangements point the way toward greater things that were to come, including the best parts of Mr. Soul and the whole Night Beat album.



Sam Cooke - My Kind Of Blues  (flac  216mb)

01 Don't Get Around Much Anymore 3:10
02 Little Girl Blue 2:55
03 Nobody Knows When You're Down And Out 3:20
04 Out In The Cold Again 2:25
05 But Not For Me 2:29
06 Exactly Like You 2:05
07 I'm Just A Lucky So And So 3:10
08 Since I Met You Baby 3:00
09 Baby, Won't You Please Come Home 2:08
10 Trouble In Mind 2:55
11 You're Always On My Mind 2:12
12 The Song Is Ended 2:07

 Sam Cooke - My Kind Of Blues (ogg  78mb)

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love this guy. Potential not well used.
Are these the samme files?

Sam Cooke - Sam Cooke (Swing Low) (ogg 78mb)(flac 216mb)
Sam Cooke - My Kind Of Blues (ogg 78mb)/(flac 216mb)

Rho said...

hello Anon, i forgot to adjust filesize that's all