Sam Cooke ‘Cupid – the Very Best of Sam Cooke 1961-1962’ (Jasmine) 4/5

Less of a ‘Best of’ and more of a part two in-depth re-investigation of Sam Cooke’s work that follows on from the earlier and excellent, ‘Wonderful World 1957-1960’. This new compilation picks up on the various 45s (‘A’ and ‘B’ sides) and adds a few singles previously unavailable on CD. It is notable both for a major hit single of the era in, ‘Send Me’, and for a change in geographical location from the early west coast recordings to New York where Sam Cooke’s ambition was clear: to create more hits under his SAR label, as well as being on the major label, RCA Victor. That change in studio was accompanied by a new writing partnership that was formed from 1959 onward with James W. Alexander and this compilation showcases just some of those creative writing duos. As a whole, this new compilation sources material from a variety of albums, and it should be remembered that the concept album had yet to surface in earnest, and certainly not for the then emerging soul music or rhythm and blues. Thus, this particular CD gains over the original vinyl in being necessarily selective, dispensing with album filler tracks, and leaving the listener with the quality cream of the crop. The music reveals, in part, a socially conscious Cooke as displayed on, ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’ and ‘Somebody Have Mercy’. Moreover, Cooke’s love of the blues is beyond doubt and his rendition of ‘A Whole Lotta Woman’ and ‘Talkin’ Trash’, are both penned with the aid of writing partner Alexander. However, Sam Cooke is especially loved for his love songs and there are plenty of fine examples featured here, from ‘Cupid’, ‘Baby Won’t You Please Come Home’ and ‘Sugar Dumpling’. Dancefloor action and new stylistic moves are alluded to on ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’, ‘Movin’ And A-Groovin’ and again on ‘Twistin’ In The Kitchen with Dinah’, quite possibly a reference to Dinah Washington. As a left-field offering, the classical music to Dvorak’s ‘Goin’ Home’ has added lyrics by William Fisher, demonstrating Sam Cooke’s love of good music irrespective of genre, and ripe for his own personalised interpretation. Excellent graphics include photos of the singer and 45 covers. With Sam Cooke’s canon of work now becoming more widely available beyond the obvious best sellers, this is an easy way to delve that little bit deeper into his impressive songbook.

Tim Stenhouse