Sam Cooke

Pioneering soul legend's back catalogue finally gets respect it deserves

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Aged 33, Sam Cooke was shot to death at an LA motel in a dispute with a Eurasian prostitute. He was the first black singer to dominate the charts, his beautiful face, voice and songs inspiring everyone from Otis Redding to The Rolling Stones. Portrait Of A Legend is a 30-track compilation that ranges from gospel to his civil rights anthem “Change Is Gonna Come”. At The Copa is a fine live album, although it does demonstrate Cooke’s tendency to sing supper-club standards. Final album Ain’t That Good News (released in 1964) finds Cooke mixing in adventurous self-penned material?which marks him out as Marvin Gaye’s precursor?with more ordinary fare. Keep Movin’ On is a 23-track collection of his more R&B-oriented material?it rocks!?while Tribute To The Lady is Cooke singing Billie Holiday: well intentioned, but Cooke’s too slick to convey any of the emotional force of Lady Day. Dead too young, these albums show Cooke’s strengths and weaknesses. Beginners should start with Portrait Of A Legend. Fans will want to own them all.

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