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R&B - Released January 1, 1964 | ABKCO Music and Records, Inc.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The last of his studio albums released in his lifetime, Sam Cooke's Ain't That Good News offers a lot of superb material, pointing in several directions that, alas, were to go largely unexplored. The central number is, of course, the earth-shattering "A Change Is Gonna Come," with its soaring gospel sound and the most elaborate production of any song in Cooke's output. The rousing though less substantial title track also came out of a gospel tradition, as does Cooke's treatment of "Tennessee Waltz," which is one of his finest adaptations of contemporary pop material. "Falling in Love" was the work of Harold Battiste, an old friend of Cooke's who had recently re-entered his orbit and was partly responsible for encouraging the singer in exploring the New Orleans sound that was evident on "Rome Wasn't Built in a Day" and "Meet Me at Mary's Place." And then there's "Good Times," a bittersweet, introspective party number, and the pensive successor to "Twistin' the Night Away." There are a few moments where the spell is almost broken by the intrusion of what seems like pop material, but even Cooke's version of "The Riddle Song" is worth owning as a glimpse at how he could turn a folk song into a something so quietly soulful that its origins disappeared. With the exception of "Another Saturday Night," which had been released as a single early in the previous year, Ain't That Good News comprised the first material that Cooke had recorded in the six months following the drowning death of his 18-month-old son Vincent; it was also the first album that Cooke recorded and released under his new contract, which gave him greater freedom in choosing repertory and sidemen than he'd ever had, and so it offered a lot of pent-up emotional and musical expression, and, as it turned out, was tragically unique in the singer's output. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Soul - Released September 26, 2000 | RCA Records Label

This set is near essential to fans of Sam Cooke, despite the fact that it contains none of his gospel recordings for Specialty Records or any of the work from the final year of his career (owned by ABKCO Records). Scattered every few minutes across this four-disc collection are reminders of just how far ahead of all existing musical forms Cooke was, creating sounds that stretched the definitions of song genres as they were understood and created completely new categories. Indeed, he was so successful that it's easy to underestimate the impact and importance of many of his early triumphs. "You Send Me," which opens this set, may seem today like the safest, tamest pop music, but in 1957 it was a genre-bending single, a new kind of R&B/pop music hybrid and one that quietly shook the foundations of the music business when it hit number one. Disc one offers a fresh appreciation of the best of the early Keen Records sides, drawing on the best of nearly two years of singles and the strongest of Cooke's LP tracks in the best account to date of his early career in popular music. Disc two begins Cooke's RCA years, and the quality of his singles, which clearly and easily bridge the gap between genres, races, and generations, improves dramatically. The development of Cooke's writing and singing and his growing confidence and range culminate with disc four, which encompasses the Night Beat album and Cooke's live performance from the Harlem Square Club. The sound is extraordinary throughout, expansive, rich-textured, and vividly detailed; a choice earlier CD release, The Man and His Music, by comparison, sounds thin and tinny. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1960 | Abkco Music & Records, Inc.

Some 46 years after his first pop hit, and 39 years after his death, comes only the second attempt at a comprehensive Sam Cooke collection. Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964 eclipses RCA's early-'80s The Man and His Music, going it better in running time but losing some important recordings -- "That's Heaven to Me" and "Soothe Me," arguably one of Cooke's most important songs -- in the process of summing up his career. From 1951's Soul Stirrers' gospel classic "Touch the Hem of His Garment" through to 1964's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "Shake," we get highlights of Cooke's career presented in state-of-the-art digital audio; superior in every way possible to the audio quality of The Man and His Music. What's more, this is a hybrid disc with SACD capability, and the sound on that layer is almost as much of a jump above the quality on the CD layer as this remastering is from the old The Man and His Music disc; and either the standard CD or the SACD playback makes that 1980s-issued compilation sound faint and anemic. There's also annotation here -- which was totally lacking on the earlier CD -- by Peter Guralnick, which delves very effectively into the background of each song. And the producers have taken the trouble to be a little inventive in the programming -- it would have been easy enough to follow a strict chronological approach, but instead the disc opens and closes with tracks that reveal Cooke's gospel roots, which is pretty much where his music started and where it ended up, bookending his first hit with songs from his first session ever. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Soul - Released August 16, 1963 | RCA - Legacy

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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. Working with a merged band that included guitarist Cliff White and drummer Albert "June" Gardner from Cooke's regular touring outfit and saxophonist King Curtis and his band, Cooke brings a gospel fervor to these whirlwind versions, which are fiery, emotionally direct, and hit with uncommon power. Every track burns with an insistent, urgent feel, and although Cooke practically defines melisma on his single releases, here he reaches past that into deeper territory that finds him almost literally shoving and pushing each song forward with shouts, asides, and spoken interactions with the audience, which becomes as much a part of this set as any bandmember. "Chain Gang" is stripped down to a raw nerve, "Twistin' the Night Away" explodes out of the gate like a runaway rocket, and Curtis' sax breaks on "Somebody Have Mercy" make it sound like the saxophone was invented for this one song alone. Throughout Cooke's voice is a raspy laser that makes it obvious what Rod Stewart picked up from this recording, and it is impossible not to hear Cooke's voice looming behind Stewart's once you've heard this amazing live set. Although recorded January 12, 1963, at the Harlem Square Club in Miami in 1963, RCA didn't release it as an album until 1985. The set was remixed from the original first generation three-track tape for 2000's The Man Who Invented Soul box, and while the music (and Cooke's vocals in particular) sounded much cleaner, much of the crowd noise from the 1985 mixes was toned down, robbing the recording of some of its claustrophobic, frenzied power. The mix used here seems to more or less split the difference, but 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. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1964 | ABKCO Music and Records, Inc.

ABKCO Records made the most of Barack Obama quoting Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" in his 2008 Election Day victory speech--the week of Obama's inauguration, they released a five-song EP, headed by and titled after the aforementioned tune. The other songs are among Cooke's most optimistic and inspirational, perfectly capturing the dawn-of-a-new-era mood that prevailed when Obama took the reigns. Oh, and all five tracks happen to be grade-A soul classics, too. © TiVo
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Soul - Released February 1, 1958 | Abkco Music & Records, Inc.

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Soul - Released February 7, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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Pop - Released February 19, 2016 | RCA - Legacy

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Jazz - Released February 11, 2018 | Resurfaced Records

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R&B - Released July 9, 2019 | Rarity Music

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Soul - Released February 7, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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Blues - Released June 30, 2021 | Sambluco Music Records

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Soul - Released February 7, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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Soul - Released February 7, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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Jazz - Released February 11, 2013 | Le Chant du Monde

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Soul - Released February 1, 1958 | Abkco Music & Records, Inc.

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Soul - Released January 24, 2020 | Abkco Music & Records, Inc.

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Pop - Released April 23, 2017 | Finestar Records

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Soul - Released March 9, 2018 | Jasmine Records

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Soul - Released February 7, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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Sam Cooke in the magazine