This album is pretty awesome. It’s 50s-style soul. I don’t know if I’d put it on outside the context of this project, but I did enjoy it. It’s another one of those albums you kind of have to be in the mood for. Good stuff, nonetheless.
I was actually introduced to Sam Cooke by a female DJ at a strip club in FL. As usually happens with me in strip clubs, I end up getting into a discussion about music with either the DJ or a stripper. Which basically means I either have no business patronizing strip clubs or I would do well as a DJ at one. Or both. Anyway…
Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 is the second live album by the American singer-songwriter Sam Cooke. The album was released in June 1985 in the United States by RCA Records. Initially recorded to be released as a live album entitled One Night Stand, the concert at the Harlem Square club (in Miami’s historically African American neighborhood of Overtown) was not released until 1985. RCA Victor, at the time, viewed the album as too gritty and raw and possibly damaging to his pop image, and quietly kept the recordings in their archive.
The album is generally considered among the best live albums by contemporary music critics, and has been ranked in “best-of” music lists, including on Rolling Stone ’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Three mixes of the record exist: the 1985 issue, a version included on the 2000 box set The Man Who Invented Soul, and a 2005 remaster from RCA.
In 1962, RCA Victor decided it was time for Cooke to record a live album, and a warm January night at the Harlem Square Club in Miami was picked to record. The Harlem Square Club was a small downtown nightspot in Miami’s historically African American neighborhood of Overtown, and was packed with the singer’s most devoted fans from his days singing gospel. RCA found the results too loud, raw and raucous — not the Cooke the label was trying to break as an international pop star — and shelved the recordings for over two decades.
In 1985, executive Gregg Geller discovered the tapes and quickly issued Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 that year. “Sam was what we’ve come to call a crossover artist: He crossed over from gospel to pop, which was controversial enough in its day. But once he became a pop artist, he had a certain mainstream image to protect,” Geller said in 2013. “The fact is, when he was out on the road, he was playing to a predominantly, almost exclusively black audience. And he was doing a different kind of show — a much more down-home, down-to-earth, gut-bucket kind of show than what he would do for his pop audience.”
Three mixes of the album exist. The original 1985 mix contains a louder audience response, creating a “claustrophobic, frenzied power”, while the version included on the 2000 box set, The Man Who Invented Soul, turns these elements down, cleaning up Cooke’s vocals as well as the music. The 2005 remaster generally splits the difference between these two releases.
(2005 reissue) link
Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 has generally been considered among the best live LPs ever released. In the year of its release, it was ranked at number 11 on The Village Voice ’s Pazz & Jopcritics poll, as well as being named one of NME ’s albums of the year. Bruce Eder of Allmusic wrote in 1985 that “it’s one of the greatest soul records ever cut by anybody, outshining James Brown‘s first live album from the Apollo Theater and easily outclassing Jackie Wilson‘s live record from the Copa.” Another Allmusic review in 2005 from Steve Leggett writes, “Not only is this one of the greatest live soul albums ever released, it also reveals a rougher, rawer, and more immediate side to Sam Cooke that his singles only hinted at, good as they were […] the crucial key is and was always Cooke’s vocals, and while he was a marvelously smooth, versatile, and urbane singer on his official pop recordings, here he explodes into one of the finest sets of raw secular gospel ever captured on tape. It is essential listening in any version.”
In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked the album at number 439 on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. “Cooke was elegance personified, but he works this Florida club until it’s hotter than hell, while sounding like he never breaks a sweat […] when the crowd sings along with him, it’s magic,” said Rolling Stone. The album appears in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
- “Feel It” (Sam Cooke) – 3:46
- “Chain Gang” (Cooke) – 3:11
- “Cupid” (Cooke) – 2:46
- “Medley: It’s All Right/For Sentimental Reasons” – 5:11
- “Twistin’ the Night Away” (Cooke) – 4:19
- “Somebody Have Mercy” (Cooke) – 4:45
- “Bring It On Home to Me” (Cooke) – 5:37
- “Nothing Can Change This Love” (Cooke) – 3:45
- “Having a Party” (Cooke) – 4:09
Total Time 37:29
2000 The Man Who Invented Soul version
- “Intro/(Don’t Fight It) Feel It” (Sam Cooke) – 3:46
- “Chain Gang” (Cooke) – 3:12
- “Cupid” (Cooke) – 2:45
- “It’s All Right/For Sentimental Reasons” (Cooke; Watson/Best) – 5:13
- “Twistin’ the Night Away” (Cooke) – 4:17
- “Somebody Have Mercy” (Cooke) – 7:16
- “Bring It On Home to Me” (Cooke) – 3:04
- “Nothin’ Can Change This Love” (Cooke) – 3:46
- “Having a Party” (Cooke) – 5:25
(actually tracks 13 through 21 on the CD)
Total Time 38:44
- “Soul Twist/Introduction” (Curtis Ousley) – 1:23
- “Feel It (Don’t Fight It)” (Sam Cooke) – 2:54
- “Chain Gang” (Cooke) – 3:11
- “Cupid” (Cooke) – 2:44
- “Medley: It’s All Right/For Sentimental Reasons” (Cooke, Ivory “Deek” Watson, William “Pat” Best) – 5:11
- “Twistin’ the Night Away” (Cooke) – 5:18
- “Somebody Have Mercy” (Cooke) – 6:18
- “Bring It On Home to Me” (Cooke) – 4:08
- “Nothing Can Change This Love” (Cooke) – 2:39
- “Having a Party” (Cooke) – 5:03
Total Time 38:49
All credits adapted from The RCA Albums Collection (2011) liner notes.