Because he died at such a young age we really only caught a glimpse of the enormous talent of Sam Cooke. Sam began his career as a gospel singer and spent six years years as lead singer of the legendary gospel group The Soul Stirrers. But in 1957, Sam Cooke decided to pursue a solo career and signed a recording contract with Keen records. Within a very short period of time Sam would notch his first big hit with a tune called "You Send Me". The record would go all the way to #1 and a major star was born. "Sam Cooke: Portrait of A Legend 1951-1964" is probably the most comprehensive Sam Cooke anthology issued to date. You will quickly discover why Sam Cooke is one of the most revered singers in the history of rock and roll and why he was one of the very first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"Sam Cooke: Portrait of A Legend 1951-1964" offers up a remarkable total of 30 of Sam's biggest hits and most memorable recordings. Sam Cooke was an extremely versatile vocalist who was just as comfortable singing a ballad as he was belting out a rock and roll or gospel number, Over the years Sam Cooke would place more than 40 tunes on the Billboard Hot 100. You will find all of his major hits in this collection including his monster 1962 hit "Chain Gang", "Twistin' The Night Away", and "Another Saturday Night". One of my favorite Sam Cooke records is a tune called "Win Your Love For Me" from back in 1958. Might I also recommend such terrific pop classics as "Having A Party" and "Only Sixteen" which are both included here as well.
"Portrait of A Legend 1951-1964" also offers you a chance to sample Sam as a gospel singer. Be sure to check out both "Touch The Hem of His Garment" and "Jesus Gave Me Water". But if I had to single out my very favorite Sam Cooke recording I would have to choose his moving 1965 recording of "A Change Is Gonna Come". I think many Sam Cooke fans would agree that this just might be his finest vocal performance ever.
Collectors will appreciate the fact that "Sam Cooke: Portrait of A Legend 1951-1964" includes some outstanding liner notes by Peter Guralnick. And while there are several outstanding Sam Cooke collections available in my judgement this is clearly the best of the bunch. Very highly recommended!
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Sam Cooke could sing anything. Within the span of a few months in 1963, he recorded Night Beat, a wonderful collection of Sinatra-style late-night crooning, and Live At The Harlem Square Club, a raw, down and dirty R&B set for a hard-partying crowd. The 31 tracks on Portrait of a Legend impressively capture Cooke's range on a single disc. Beginning with "Touch the Hem of His Garment," his own classic gospel composition, the collection winds through such irresistible hits as "You Send Me," "Cupid," and "(What a) Wonderful World." Cooke's voice, filigreed but never showy, reinvents songs from innocent pop ("Tennessee Waltz") to gutbucket blues ("Little Red Rooster)," climaxing in his incomparable final statement, "A Change is Gonna Come." Many artists are called "legends," but Sam Cooke truly earned this title.