Thursday, 8 September 2011

"Night Beat" by SAM COOKE (2005 Sony/RCA/Legacy CD Reissue - Bob Ludwig Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...Don't You Love It...Make You Feel Good..."

Recorded across 3 nights in February 1963, "Night Beat" is an unusual album for Sam Cooke in that it features slowed-down, paired-back Blues tunes with a slightly Soul-Gospel tint - and man does it work. Originally released September 1963 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-2709 - the piano and organ centre a lot of the songs - each with a midnight-lounge languid feel that suited his voice to a tee. And of the 12-tracks there's barely a clunker in sight. In fact it feels like you're listening to "Elvis Is Back" from 1960 - an album that's good all the way through - rather than being just patchy. Here are the CD details...

US-released in September 2005 - "Night Beat" by SAM COOKE on Sony/RCA/Legacy 82876 69551 2 (Barcode 886919858624) is a straightforward transfer/remaster of the original 1963 Stereo LP and comes in a repro card digipak with an attached 11-page booklet (37:57 minutes). PETER GURALNICK (author of the acclaimed "Dream Boogie: The Triumph Of Sam Cooke") supplies the well-written and hugely affectionate liner notes - while the CD itself rather prettily reflects the original coloured 'Dog And Gramophone' RCA Victor label of the original LP - complete with the 'Hugo & Luigi Production' logo just below it (nice touches). The LP's rear sleeve artwork is pictured beneath the see-through CD tray. Pretty as it looks and feels - that's chump change to the astonishing Audio...

BOB LUDWIG remastered the first generation tapes and the sound quality can only be described as BEAUTIFUL. It's always been a famous Audiophile treat on original 'Living Stereo' vinyl (180-gram reissues of it are available to this day) - but little prepares you for the full range and clarity on offer here. Originally produced to perfection by RCA's resident experts Hugo & Luigi, the instruments are razor sharp - as is his angelic voice. His phrasing and holding of notes is classy, effortless and smooth as a newborn's smooth parts. Cooke's voice on this album is fabulous - the stuff of legend - and this CD allows you to enjoy it to the full.

1. Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen
2. Lost And Lookin'
3. Mean Old World
4. Please Don't Drive Me Away
5. I Lost Everything
6. Get Yourself Another Fool
7. Little Red Rooster [Side 2]
8. Laughin' And Clownin'
9. Trouble Blues
10. You Gotta Move
11. Fool's Paradise
12. Shake Rattle And Roll

Highlights include his own three compositions - "Mean Old World", "Laughin' And Clownin'" and "You Gotta Move" all of which feature the wonderful piano-playing of RAY JOHNSON with BILLY PRESTON slinking it up on Organ. There are four Charles Brown cover versions (a Forties & Fifties R&B artist on Aladdin and King Records) - one of which is the gorgeous "Get Yourself Another Fool". The remaster has kept the slight hiss at the beginning and throughout - it's 'not' been compressed out of existence or removed with a no-noise effect - which is good news because it allows the sound to breath - it's 'so' good.

Side 1 keeps it slow and languid (beautiful double-bass clarity on "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" and "Lost And Lookin'") while Side 2 ups the tempo only slightly. "Lost And Lookin'" was written especially for Cooke by his SAR Records associates J.W. Alexander and Lowell Jordan and apart from a lone bass line and single cymbal tapping - it's practically Acapella Blues. It's a stunning vocal turn by Cooke. The cooler-than-mister-cool groove achieved in Willie Dixon's classic "Little Red Rooster" (a hit for Howlin' Wolf) is enhanced by Billy Preston wittily aping the sound of dogs barking and hounds howling on his barking organ. The album ends on an upbeat high - a cover of Big Joe Turner's wonderful "Shake, Rattle And Roll" - a version that doesn't dilute down the saucy lyrics of the 1954 Atlantic Records original as Bill Haley's Decca remake did a year later (title above).

"Night Beat" is the kind of album you can play on a Sunday morning and just drift away on its Mad Men cool and Church-like warmth. In 2013 it'll be 50 years old - and yet it still sounds fresh and thrilling. Check out his gorgeous vocals on "Fool's Paradise" set against that sloppy back beat - beautiful stuff.

"Night Beat" is a criminally overlooked classic that should be in your life. No less than Ray Charles called Sam Cooke "...the one and only..." and on the evidence presented here - Brother Ray was right...

2 comments:

Jerm said...

i found his first album at a flea market 6 bux lp!

Mark Barry said...

Bit of a bargain. You never see the original in the UK. Reissues turn up - but that's it.

There's a box set coming 1 Nov 2011 which repro's 8 of his albums on RCA - can't wait for that.

Mark

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