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C.A.T.: At The Copa

Sam Cooke – At The Copa (1964)

I don’t think there’s any denying the fact that Sam Cooke is my favorite vocalist of all time.  He had a voice that seemed to be heaven-sent, and Cooke knew how to use it to reach the highest highs in a way that seemed effortless.  However his reputation as an artist lies in his singles, which makes him a bit hard to pay tribute to in CAT form.  Fortunately, he released one hell of a swingin’ live album with At The Copa, recorded the same year as his untimely death.

Recorded at New York City’s famous Copacabana, the performance shows Cooke and his band in true firing form, as there’s an undeniable energy in the room.  It’s a little odd to hear how much of a jazzy/swing sound there is to Cooke’s band, but for the most part it works with Cooke’s signature brand of gospel-infused soul.  And also surprisingly, you can really feel that the crowd’s into it, despite the fact that I’m sure Cooke was playing to a fairly posh group of people at the Copa.

Considering Sam Cooke was one of soul’s first great singer/songwriter’s, it’s a little strange to see that Cooke’s set is made almost entirely of old standards and covers of more contemporary artists’ songs.  But leave it to Sam Cooke to put his stamp all over these songs, and the way he attacks these songs with such energy really shows what a true talent the man was.  I mean this album might have the best versions of “If I Had A Hammer” and “This Little Light of Mine” I’ve ever heard, and those are two songs I’d usually have a hard time getting excited about hearing.

There were a lot of icons of ’60s music that died far too young, but Sam Cooke is probably the one that really gets to me the most.  He had just come off of a huge artist breakthrough with the single “A Change Is Gonna Come” just months before his death, and I can only imagine what he could’ve done next.

Favorite Tracks: “If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)”, “Twistin’ The Night Away”, “Tennessee Waltz”


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