Tuesday, April 8, 2008

No. 443: Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963

Band: Same Cooke
Album: Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Sam Cooke's albums were great, but he was truly in his element in the Harlem Square Club. His interactions with the crowd are fantastic and the record remains one of the great live albums of all time.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I'm satisfied with this placement. I imagine it should be a little higher.
Best song: "Having a Party" is the best.
Worst song: "Somebody Have Mercy" is good, but not great.
Is it awesome?: It is.

Sam Cooke's studio-recorded work is pretty amazing, but this disc shows off what kind of charismatic singer Cooke could be. He works with the Harlem Square Club audience like a patriarch addressing his extended family.

Many of the great hits are here. He starts the record with "Feel It" and brings the screaming crowd to its feet. He rocks "Bring It On Home To Me" with the fervor of a man possessed. "Twistin' the Night Away" starts with Cooke's almost preacher-esque odes to the crowd, when he then hits the song out of the park.

Of course, he ends the set with his greatest song, "Having a Party," as the crowd nearly explodes out of the club. They sing along, breathlessly, as Cooke eggs them on. King Curtis' sax works off Cooke's graveled-voice soul perfectly. While the crowd erupts, Cooke feeds off its energy.


Sam's Neph said...

I take it you meant you were NOT satisfied with this placement if you feel it should be a little higher...

I agree with your overall assessment, though. This live album was pivotal in showing a gritty side of Sam that most of America never knew existed. He aimed most of his pop songs at the crossover market, but on this album, showed he could get "down and dirty" with the best of them.

RCA so misunderstood the value of this "other" side of Sam, it took them 22 years, until 1985, to release this live album.

Erik Greene
Author, "Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family's Perspective

SoulBoogieAlex said...

This, to me, is one of the best live albums ever recorded. On par with Live At The Apollo. I love this record to death!