cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs
cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"The golden voice of Sam Cooke thrilled and enchanted millions of listeners on the hit recordings “Shake,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” “Chain Gang.” - (msbluestrail.org) . . . "Sam Cooke reached down deep with pure soul. - (Rolling Stone) . . . "I'm gonna sing, and I'm going to make me a lot of money" - (Sam Cooke - aged 9)

This is album retro-review number 129 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!

This weeks artist has been in my crate in one form or another since around 1965, that makes the artist someone who has been on my play list for 50 years!

The artist is the utterly fabulous Sam Cooke and the album is the 1995 CD, 16 Most Requested Songs.

The CD album was produced and released on the local Castle Communications Australia Limited label with the code 481072-2.

cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Now this is not the best Sam Cooke album in my collection, that credit goes to a very beaten up copy of the 1962 vinyl LP, Twisting The Night Away.

Sadly like many albums that I have managed to keep, despite the many, many I have lost /had stolen over the years, the album is almost unplayable but I keep it because this man released far too few albums before his untimely death, which I will come too later.

So while this was released just on 31 years after his death, it does represent one of the better albums that contains those tracks that Sam Cooke is most remembered for.

Born in Clarksville Mississippi in 1931 [strangely the CD liner notes claim he was born in 1935!], Cooke was the son of a Baptist minister.

So it is of no surprise to learn that he sang regularly with the church choir and in fact he started out doing that from the age of six.

At the age of 15 he became the lead singer for a group called the Soul Stirrers and remained with them from 1950 through to 1956.

His real surname was in fact Cook and in 1957 he made the controversial move to “cross over” from religious to secular music, adding an “e” to his surname to establish a new identity as a rhythm & blues and pop singer.

In fact it was in 1957 when Sam’s career was given a major boost when producer “Bumps” Blackwell encouraged him to record some pop songs. As a result a number of ballads were released of which only one, “I’ll Come Running Back” was notable.

However later in 1957 Sam recorded and released You Send Me.

Now this was remarkable because it was written by Sam Cookes brother and when written down looked for all the world like it was penned by an inarticulate teenager. It really only consists of two lines: You send me, you thrill me, honest you do – which is endlessly repeated.

This could never work!

It was a massive hit!

 

cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs
Sam Cooke – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

As a result of the success of this track Sam Cooke started his own label, SAR Records, and he was writing both profusely and successfully.

Over the next four years he had a succession of unbroken hits including “Wonderful World” (not on this CD), Twisting The Night Away, Chain Gang and Bring It Home To Me.

In 1963 he released what may be one of his finest recordings – Little Red Rooster.

Yet, it got even better when in 1964 he recorded Shake, however, and sadly, he never got to see its success.

On 10th December 1964 at the age of 33 when he was just hitting his peak, he was shot and killed in a Los Angeles motel.

No one knows for certain what exactly happened in the early hours of December 11, 1964.

Cooke had been out the night before, reportedly drinking at a Los Angeles bar where he met a woman named Elisa Boyer. The pair hit it off and eventually ended up at the Hacienda Motel.

There the couple had some type of altercation in their room and Cooke then ended up in the motel’s office. He reportedly clashed with the motel’s manager, and the story is that the manager shot Cooke.

He died from his injury, which the manager claimed was inflicted in self-defence. It was later ruled justifiable homicide.

His family has continued to dispute this finding ever since.

Track Listing

1. You Send Me

2. Bring It on Home to Me

3. Little Red Rooster

4. You Were Made for Me

5. Wonderful World

6. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons

7. Nothing Can Change This Love

8. Only Sixteen

9. Chain Gang

10. Cupid

11. Twistin’ the Night Away

12. Another Saturday Night

13. Shake

14. Send Me Some Lovin’

15. Having a Party

16. Summertime [From Porgy and Bess]

 

The album kicks off with You Send Me.

This was his first real “hit” and as I wrote of previously, the lyrics are incredibly simple but across that simple foundation, Sam Cooke improvises in such a way that the apparent limitations of a song with just nine words are just that, only apparent.

In Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Times issue, Art Garfunkel said: “I must have sung ‘You Send Me’ to myself walking up and down stairwells at least a thousand times.

It was on the charts right when I was having my first little success with Paul Simon as Tom and Jerry. I was just a kid, calling on radio stations for promotional purposes, and all I heard was ‘You Send Me.’ Sam was great to sing along with.

He was my hero.”

What Cooke managed to do was to record a most beautiful love ballad that exists purely because of his innate ability to project feeling and emotion despite the lack of lyrics.

It was a massive commercial success, becoming a number one hit on both Billboard ’​s Rhythm & Blues Records chart and the Billboard Hot 100.

It was also named as one of the 500 most important rock and roll recordings by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

There are some 26 cover versions of the track but what is important, is to remember that when this track was released there was very much a barrier against “black” singers getting access to the white audiences, especially through the mainstream pop charts.

Sam Cookes You Send Me, did that and was instrumental in breaking that barrier down.

To call it as it is, this is a beautiful, beautiful love ballad.

You Send Me

 

cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs
Promotional Poster

 

 

Track number 3 is Little Red Rooster.

On this track Sam was joined by a man who was already a legend, Ray Charles who played the piano and, a man who would a few years later be feted by many of the best musicians in the world including The BeatlesBilly Preston, who played organ.

This is really a most fine track by Cooke!

The track is what is classified as a “Blues Standard”, that is to say it is one of those pieces of blues music that no one can actually attribute to any one writer.

It appears in several blues songs from the 1920s and 1930s, with two particular songs identified as precursors.

Firstly Influential Delta blues musician Charlie Patton’s 1929 “Banty Rooster Blues” contains the verses “What you want with a rooster, he won’t crow ‘fore day” and “I know my dog anywhere I hear him bark”.

Then there is Memphis Minnie’s 1936 acoustic combo blues “If You See My Rooster (Please Run Him Home)” also similar.

For example, she sings “If you see my rooster, please run ‘im on back home“.

Now the Cooke version was arranged by none other than the also legendary Willie Dixon who was associated with Blues great Howling Wolf.

In fact Wolf’s 1961 version of this track was the first Chicago Blues style version, giving the track yet another dimension.

Then along comes the Sam Cooke version, which incorporates Dixon’s changed lyrics but has such a different spin on it. In what has been described as a far more “respectful” version, the lyrics are clearly articulated and indeed, include an additional verse.

I got a little red rooster
Too lazy to crow for day
I got a little red rooster
Too lazy to crow for day
He keeps everything in the barnyard
Upset in every way

The dogs begin to bark now
The hounds begin to howl
The dogs begin to bark now
The hounds begin to howl
Watch out all you kin folk
My little red rooster’s on the prowl

I tell you that he, keeps all the hens
Fighting among themselves
Keeps all the hens
Fighting among themselves
He don’t want no hen in the barnyard
Laying eggs for nobody else *

Let me tell everybody, now if you see my red rooster
Send him home
Said, “If you see my red rooster
Send him home”
I had no peace in the barnyard
Since my red rooster’s been gone

* These are the additional lyrics

Little Red Rooster

 

There really are so many tracks that are deserving of discussion but I’m moving down to track number 11Twistin’ The Night Away.

It reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962 and number 1 on Billboard’s R&B Chart.

One of the factors that “doomed” the track to success and popularity was due to the involvement in the recording by the Wrecking Crew.

The Wrecking Crew was a nickname coined by drummer Hal Blaine for a group of studio and session musicians that played anonymously on many records in Los Angeles, during the 1960s.

cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs
Some of the “Wrecking Crew”: Hal Blaine on drums and the incredible Carol Kaye on bass – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The “Crew” backed dozens of popular singers, and were one of the most successful groups of studio musicians in music history and were the group used by Phil Spector, who used the “Crew” to create his trademark “Wall of Sound“.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs

 

It’s a song that could be seen as Cooke’s observations of the people he saw in the clubs that he played.

It is upbeat and uptempo track supplemented by simple hand claps and was released by Cooke about the time that “society”, particularly in New York, at last caught up with the dance phenomena called the “twist”.

This was despite Hank Ballard writing and recording The Twist in 1959, and Chubby Checker popularising it in the early 1960’s.

The lyrics in part go –

Here’s a man in evening clothes, how he got here I don’t know
But man, you ought to see him go, twistin’ the night away
He’s dancing with a chick in slacks, she’s moving up and back
Oh man, there ain’t nothing like twistin’ the night away

They’re twistin’, twistin’, everybody’s feeling great
They’re twistin’, twistin’, they’re twistin’ the night, let’s twist, go on

It was at the time of its release a great party track, and really, would not be out of place in a party today.

Twisting The Night Away



The final track for comment is track number 13 Shake.

This was recorded in his last ever recording session prior to his untimely and tragic death in 1964. It was a posthumous hit reaching number 7 in the Top 10 Charts in February 1965.

The track has Bobby Womack playing guitar and in fact Cooke launched Womack’s career, signing and promoting Womack and his brothers who played as The Valentinos.

After Cooke’s death, Womack married Cooke’s widow, Barbara Campbell.

cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

It’s hard to describe this track any any way other than it’s a brilliant up-tempo track that showcases Sam Cooke’s amazing vocal abilities.

It sure doesn’t hurt when it has such a brilliant beat!

Shake was also one of a number of Sam Cooke’s great tracks that were also so successfully covered by other artists, both black and white.

It has it all, pulse, rhythm, the simple word “shake” becomes a vocal hook and, it has an amazing instrumental backing with the brass playing a dominant role.

Shake

 

cream of the crate: album review # 129 – sam cooke: 16 most requested songs
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

Without Sam Cooke’s contribution, this soul ballad could hardly have been the major and vital element in the development of popular mainstream music.

Many of his ballads became the new material for the fast developing “Soul” music.

The sheer quality of the songs Cooke wrote, produced and sang is hard to beat and he left behind a lasting and memorable musical legacy. We can only wonder where his career would have gone if not for his untimely death.

This album is among a number of great Sam Cooke releases but it is hard to get past if what you are looking for is a Sam Cooke album that has most of his really popular tracks. It is readily available on Ebay for between $10.00 and $12.00, shop around and you can get postage thrown in.


VIDEOS:

There are very few Sam Cooke live performances captured and presented on Youtube, so here are the one’s that I find best show his talent.

 

You Send Me

 

Cupid

 

Twisting The Night Away


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:

#101:  Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (Live)

#102:  Les Paul and Mary Ford – The World Is waiting For The Sunrise

#103:  Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

#104:  Los Fronterizos – Misa Creole

#105:  Bobby Bright – Child Of Rock And Roll

#106:  The  Nylons – One Size Fits All

#107:  Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come [Soundtrack from the film]

#108:  Paul Simon – Graceland

#109.  The Ventures – The Very Best Of

#110.  The Pardoners – Indulgences

#111.  Atlantic R&B: Volumes 1 – 3 [1947 to 1957] 

#112.  Atlantic R&B Volumes 4 & 5 [1957 – 1965]

#113.  Roots of Rock: Vol.12 – Union Avenue Breakdown

#114.  David Fanshawe – African Sanctus

#115.  A Reefer Derci – Various Artists

#116.  Dr. John – Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch

#117.  The Walker Brothers – The Walker Brothers

#118.  Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel

#119.  Curved Air – Airconditioning

#120.  The Delltones – The Best of The Delltones

#121.  Hound Dog Taylor – Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers

#122.  Bessie Smith – Queen of The Blues

#123.  The Shadows – The Shadows Greatest Hits

#124.  Gil Scott Heron – Reflections

#125.  The Dingoes – Five Times The Sun

#126.  Bert Jansch and John Renbourn – Bert and John

#127.  Nat King Cole – The Complete After Midnight Sessions

#128.  Various Artists – The Rock and Roll Collection [A Box Set]