Sam Cooke


Phases and Stages

Sam Cooke

Keep Movin' On (Abkco)

Sam Cooke

At the Copa (Abkco)

Sam Cooke

Portrait of a Legend, 1951-1964 (Abkco)

Sam Cooke

Legend DVD (Abkco) Sam Cooke was the "architect of soul music," begins the narration of the Legend DVD. "He combined gospel, pop, and rock & roll to create the model 1,000 singers would follow." Peter Guralnick has spoken. The celebrated music historian, who wrote Legend as well as the liner notes to Keep Movin' On, At the Copa, and Portrait of a Legend -- three of six Sam Cooke titles reissued by Abkco -- authoritates the ultimate tale of sweet soul music in anticipation of his upcoming Cooke biography. If it weren't for Allen "Abkco" Klein's jackpot with the Rolling Stones remasters last year, the Sam Cooke restoration project might look suspiciously like a vanity project for Guralnick. After all, 1994's exquisite, 2-CD Sam Cooke's SAR Records Story, 1959-1965 was revelatory enough the first time around to not necessarily demand reissue. Same for last year's Keep Movin' On collection, which lumps together effortless, bare-boned Cooke creams ("Cousin of Mine") and standards ("Basin Street Blues") with strangled strings ("I'm Just a Country Boy") and familiar favorites ("Another Saturday Night") -- almost all of them recorded in the year preceding Cooke's killing in 1964. "Yeah Man," rewritten to classic effect by Arthur Conley as "Sweet Soul Music," stands out amid the potpourri. Ain't That Good News is an older comp already redundant, and rendered more so by the new Portrait of a Legend, 1951-1964, which bests Abkco's 1986 CD career summation, The Man and His Music, with two more tracks (30), 10 more minutes (79), and a smoother flow. At the Copa captures Cooke just six months before his death, aching to cross over from pop to adult contemporary and failing miserably despite rave reviews; his stage patter is forced, his mirthless laugh grating. The sound of clinking dinnerware doesn't help. Tribute to the Lady, Cooke hitting on Lady Day, remains unavailable in the U.S. The Legend DVD, a 70-minute VH1 Legends segment from 2001, bulks up with two hours of uncut interviews from the special. "He was a cool dude," rumbles Lou Rawls in Legend. "Sam the Man. He was the man."

(Portrait of a Legend) ****

(Legend DVD) ***

(Keep Movin' On) **.5

(At the Copa) **

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