SAM COOKE, LIVE AT THE HARLEM SQUARE CLUB, 1963
Unrelenting in it’s energy, Sam Cooke’s live album, performed at the Harlem Square club (in Miami) circa 1963, is a prime example of a performer, at the height of his game, giving a live and intimate performance that ignites the audience to rapturous levels. Cooke barely takes a pause between songs, as his soulful classics come belting out to an audience, that at first are warm but become feverishly excited, listen for the screaming to start (and never stop) in the medley of It’s All Right/For Sentimental Reasons below. Maybe it’s Cooke’s dialogue, ranging from relationship advice (“when somebody comes and tells you something about what your girlfriend has done…I want you to remember one thing…don’t go home and hit her…go home and shake her and wake her up…look her dead in the eye and say ‘it’s s’all right’”) to his invitations for audience call and repeat participation (“oh I like this song…everybody come on…EVERYBODY”). This audience involvement, however, was the exact reason the album got shelved until 1985. RCA Victor decided the album might be too “gritty”, and the crowd too “raw and raucous”, that it might damage Cooke’s finely honed pop image. Greg Geller, who discovered the tapes and issued it again, put it this way, “he was doing a different kind of show (on the road) — a much more down-home, down-to-earth, gut-bucket kind of show than what he would do for his pop audience.” Well, I have to say, this is an album unparalleled in it’s soulful craft and contagious energy, I dare you to sit still while listening. Cooke unfortunately would be shot a year later, under what still remains mysterious causes, involving Bertha Franklin, the manager at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles.
You can hear the whole album on Spotify, and a couple of tracks below. Honestly, one of my all time favorite albums.