One Night Stand! Live at the Harlem Square Club
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2005, Volume 12, #11
Written by John Metzger
There’s no telling what Sam Cooke could have accomplished had he not been killed just shy of his 34th birthday during an altercation at a dilapidated motel in Los Angeles in December 1964. Though he already had conquered the gospel, pop, and R&B markets, his restless spirit kept him grappling for his next big breakthrough. He had reached a white audience through his incandescent singles, but his concerts, as evidenced by the antiseptic At the Copa, were sometimes too polished, tempered, and tame. Part of the reason is that Cooke had a tendency to deliver precisely what his audience wanted to hear; on the other hand, he was still searching for a way to reveal his true identity to the entirety of his fans without undermining either his commercial aspirations or his relationship with his record label.
Although the meshing of Cooke’s two worlds was realized fully within the powerful, civil rights anthem A Change Is Gonna Come — a song that became a massive, posthumous hit — the foundation for his transformation initially was laid in October 1962 when he embarked upon a tour of England with Little Richard. Indeed, after witnessing his co-headliner’s unbridled energy, Cooke immediately revamped his own stage show in order to incorporate the gospel fervor upon which he was raised. Working with an ensemble that combined his regular accompanists (guitarist Clifton White and drummer Albert Gardner) with saxophonist King Curtis’ collective, Cooke took Miami’s Harlem Square Club by storm on January 12, 1963, but while the concert was recorded, it inexplicably was shelved until 1985.
In its latest incarnation, One Night Stand! Live at the Harlem Square Club is stripped of the overdubs that refined, however slightly, some of the original album’s harsher edges, and the material is now presented exactly as it was meant to be heard. With a slight rasp to his voice and an urgency to his delivery, Cooke is positively transfixing as he employs a snippet of You Send Me to launch into a rapturous rendition of Bring It On Home to Me. Similarly spurred by a frenzied give-and-take with his audience, well-known singles — such as Twistin’ the Night Away, Cupid, and Chain Gang — shed the sweetness inherent in their studio counterparts to become gritty, hard-driving, emotional tempests. Simply put, One Night Stand! Live at the Harlem Square Club magnificently captures a side of Cooke of which many people regrettably remain unaware.
Of Further Interest...
One Night Stand! Live at the Harlem Square Club is
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box