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Monday, 1 March 2021

"The Complete KEEN Years: 1957-1960" by SAM COOKE – Featuring Five Albums – "Sam Cooke" (January 1958, Mono Only), "Encore" (November 1958, Mono Only), "Tribute To The Lady" (April 1959, Mono and Stereo Mixes Included), "Hit Kit" (October 1959, Mono Only, Eight Bonuses, Seven In Stereo) and "The Wonderful World Of Sam Cooke" (October 1960, Mono Only, Six Bonuses all in Mono) (January 2020 US ABKCO 5CD Clamshell Box Set with Oversized Mini LP Repro Card Sleeves, 36-Page Booklet and Teri Landi Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...You Send Me..."

I'm 62 years of age and will be 63 come 28 September 1958. 

I mention these numeric milestones, because by the time I was 2 months old in November 1958 (swivelling no doubt in a very aromatic terry towel), our handsome hero over in a highly segregated Americas had already clocked up two whole albums on Keen Records. And in September 1957 (the year prior) at the suited-and-booted age of only 26, Samuel Cook (he added the 'e') had already launched that label with a genuine sensation - the sublime "You Send Me" – a song which some say started what we now affectionately call SOUL MUSIC. What are you doing today Sam? Oh, I'm just inventing Soul Music Mark. Ok bro. 

The sophisticated sway and lilt in "You Send Me" was a ballbreaker – the Cooke original smashing down genres walls everywhere. It topped the Pop and R&B charts in the States selling 2-million copies in the process and in November 1957 would see his first UK 45/78 on London reach No. 29 on the fledgling NME charts. You could (and should) of course argue that Ray Charles had already done R&B that bordered on Soul Music on Atlantic Records (and had been since 1953, no deference meant). But Sam Cooke will always be the man in my books – the Man who took Gospel and Secular Music to the next level and invented Soul in the morphing process. Which brings us to this truly gorgeous splurge from ABKCO of America.

Truth be told (and apart from the rather maudlin crooner tunes Keen and RCA Victor both foisted on him to appeal to a white market that bought LPs), Cooke's 'Keen' recordings have been out of the 50-year copyright parameters for some years now, so you can pick up variants of the 65-tracks contained within this January 2020 release elsewhere for say eight quid. I paid £32 for my "Complete KEEN Years..." in an Amazon reduction, but it can go for nearer £40. So why pay more? 

All the right reasons - the care given this Box Set is exemplary starting with five beautifully reproduced oversized Mini LP Card Sleeves (see photos supplied) of those staggeringly rare Fifties and 1960 originals (two offering you both Mono and Stereo mixes while two others lop on the straggler singles and stand-alone stuff as Bonuses). They can be lifted out of the Clamshell Box Set by a white ribbon and a very smart move is to supply each with an inner protective bag like those Japanese issues (classy). The 36-page oversized booklet is gorgeous too, comprehensive new liner notes by Cooke expert MICHAEL CORCORAN, black and white and colour photos (a proof sheet of shots holds the centre pages), master-tape boxes, trade adverts, singles and LP discographies (US and UK), session details and so on. 

But the real deal is the stunning transfers and mastering courtesy of a team at ABKCO headed up by TERI LANDI. In a nutshell, this Box Set features Five Albums – "Sam Cooke" (January 1958, Mono Only), "Encore" (November 1958, Mono Only), "Tribute To The Lady" (April 1959, Mono and Stereo Mixes Included), "Hit Kit" (October 1959, Mono Only, Eight Bonuses, Seven In Stereo) and "The Wonderful World Of Sam Cooke" (October 1960, Mono Only, Six Bonuses all in Mono). As you can see, two of the CDs give you both MONO and STEREO Mixes of the albums while some of the Bonus Tracks have rare STEREO-Only 45 Mixes and there are two exclusives from the 1960 Various Artists "I Thank God" LP. 

Unlike dodgy budget issues, these tapes have been given a dust off that will make even the most weary fan sit up and grin, maybe even (like me) shed a wee Soulful tear. To say that these are actually Audiophile (especially given their vintage) isn't an understatement - they will wow you. And if there's ever a VINYL variant of this set, collectors will need to grab that sucker with both hands because playable copies of the original US or UK LPs are so hard to locate. Loads to discuss - let's pay tribute to the great man...

US released 24 January 2020 - "The Complete KEEN Years: 1957-1960" by SAM COOKE on ABKCO Records 018771850328 (018771850328) is a 5CD 65-Track Clamshell Box Set with Mini LP Repro Card Sleeves and New Remasters that plays out as follows: 

CD1 "Sam Cooke" (34:01 minutes): 
1. You Send Me [Side 1]
2. The Lonesome Road 
3. Tammy 
4. Ol' Man River 
5. Moonlight In Vermont 
6. Canadian Sunset 
7. Summertime (Part 2) [Side 2]
8. Around The World 
9. Ain't Misbehavin'
10. The Bells Of St. Mary's 
11. So Long 
12. Danny Boy 
13. That Lucky Old Sun 
Tracks 1 to 13 are his second album "Sam Cooke" [aka "Songs By Sam Cooke"] - released January 1958 in the USA on Keen A-2001 and March 1958 in the UK on H.M.V. CLP 1261 (both only in Mono). Produced by Bumps Blackwell. 

CD2 "Encore" (31:31 minutes):
1. Oh, Look At Me Now [Side 1]
2. Someday (You’ll Want Me To Want You)
3. Along The Navajo Trail 
4. Running Wild 
5. Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive 
6. Mary, Mary Lou 
7. When I Fall In Love [Side 2]
8. I Cover The Waterfront 
9. My Foolish Heart 
10. Today I Sing The Blues 
11. The Gypsy 
12. It's The Talk Of The Town 
Tracks 1 to 12 are his third album "Encore" - released November 1958 in the USA on Keen A-2003 and July 1959 in the UK on H.M.V. CLP 1273 (both only in Mono). Producer BUMPS BLACKWELL. Note: The British LP changed the running order by reversing the Sides entirely; When I Fall In Love begins Side 1 in the UK and Oh, Look At Me Now begins Side 2.

CD3 "Tribute To The Lady" (57:53 minutes):
1. God Bless The Child [Side 1]
2. She's Funny That Way 
3. I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues 
4. Good Morning Heartache 
5. T'aint Nobody's Business (If I Do) 
6. Comes Love 
7. Lover Girl (Man) [Side 2]
8. Let's Call The Whole Thing Off 
9. Lover Come Back To Me 
10. Solitude 
11. They Can't Take That Away From Me 
12. Crazy She Calls Me
Tracks 1 to 12 are the MONO version of "Tribute To The Lady" - is fourth album released April 1959 in the USA on Keen A-2004 (no UK issue). 

Tracks 13 to 24 are the US STEREO version of "Tribute To The Lady" (Keen S-2004) - no UK issue. Arranged and Produced by RENE HALL. 

CD4 "Hit Kit" (53:29 minutes): 
1. Only Sixteen [Side 1]
2. All Of My Life 
3. Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha 
4. Blue Moon 
5. Win Your Love For Me 
6. Lonely Island 
7. You Send Me [Side 2]
8. Love You Most Of All 
9. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons 
10. Little Things You Do 
11. Let's Go Steady Again 
12. You Were Made For Me
Tracks 1 to 12 are his fifth album "Hit Kit" - released October 1959 in the USA on Keen 86101 in Mono (no UK issue). 

13. Lonely Island (Single Version)
Track 13 is a February 1958 US 45-single B-side to "You Were Made For Me" on Keen 3-4009 (4-4009 for the 78")

14. Win Your Love For Me (Stereo)
15. Almost In Your Arms (Love Song From "Houseboat") (Stereo)
Tracks 14 and 15 are the July 1958 US A&B-sides of a STEREO 45-single on Keen 3-2006 (4-2006 for the 78")
There was also a special BLUE COLOURED VINYL issue released on Keen 5-2006
NOTE: "Love You Most Of All" b/w "Win Your Love For Me" were issued as the A&B-sides of a January 1959 UK MONO 45-single on HMV 45-POP 568 (POP 568 for the 78")

16. Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha (Stereo)
17. Little Things You Do (Stereo) 
Tracks 16 and 17 are the February 1959 A&B-sides of a US STEREO 45-single on Keen 3-2018 (4-2018 for the 78")
May 1959 UK STEREO 45-single on HMV 45-POP 610 (POP 610 for the 78")

18. Only Sixteen (Stereo) 
19. Let's Go Steady Again (Stereo)
Tracks 18 and 19 are the A&B-sides of a June 1959 US STEREO 45-single on Keen 5-2022 (May 1959 for the MONO variant on Keen 3-2022). Released July 1959 UK STEREO 45-single on HMV 45-POP 642 (POP 642 for the 78")  

20. With You (Stereo) - July 1960 US STEREO 45-single on Keen 8-2117 (B-side was "I Thank God") 

21. Ee-YI-Ee-YI-Oh (Stereo) - December 1960 US STEREO 45-single on Keen 8-2122 (B-side of "Mary, Mary Lou")

CD5 "The Wonderful World Of Sam Cooke" (45:41 minutes):
1. (What A) Wonderful World [Side 1]
2. Desire Me 
3. Summertime (Part 1)
4. Almost In Your Arms (Love song From "Houseboat")
5. That's Heaven To Me 
6. No One (Can Ever Take Your Place) 
7. With You [Side 2]
8. Blue Moon 
9. Stealing Kisses
10. You Were Made For Me
11. There I've Said It Again 
12. I Thank God 
Tracks 1 to 12 are his seventh album "The Wonderful World Of Sam Cooke" - released October 1960 in the USA on Keen 86106 in MONO only. Although not originally issued in the UK, it was eventually given a release in 1966 on Immediate Records IMLP 002 in Mono. 

12. Steal Away (Album Version) - see NOTES
14. Deep River - see NOTES

15. One Hour Ahead Of The Posse - September 1959 US 45-single on Keen 8-2105, Non-LP B-side of "There, I've Said It Again". November 1959 in the UK on HMV 45-POP 675 

16. Ee-I-Ee-I-Oh [aka "Ee-Yi-Ee-Yi-Oh"] - December 1960 US 45-single on Keen 8-2122, Non-LP B-side of "Mary, Mary Lou" 

17. So Glamorous  
18. Steal Away (Single Version) - Tracks 17 and 18 are the A&B-sides of an October 1960 US 45-single on Keen 8-2118 (as Sam Cooke And The Stars)

NOTES: June 1960 saw a US Various Artists album called "I Thank God" on Keen 86103 in Mono that contained four contributions by Sam Cooke. Two cuts are on the "Wonderful World Of..." LP - "I Thank God" and "That's Heaven To Me" (Tracks 12 and 5 on CD5). The two exclusives to the "I Thank God" LP are "Steal Away" and "Deep River" - both in the Bonuses of CD5 (Tracks 13 and 14). 

The Teri Landi remasters are gorgeous, but I will admit that some of that crooner material they so often made him sing to cover a wide appeal – now feels so dated and even ever-so-slightly offensive (if those are the right words). But when you get into tunes like "Blue Moon", "Summertime" and even that old trickster "Ol’ Man River" – Cooke was like Presley – he could make anything sound good – imprint it with a stamp of his own. 

"Hit Kit" finally saw Cooke flex some real songwriting muscle because amidst the covers are six hugely successful originals (three or four of which were US and UK singles) - "Only Sixteen", "Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha", "Win Your Love For Me", a new version of "You Send Me", "Love You Most Of All" and "You Were Made For Me".

I know closing on forty-smackers will be a sum too much for many a casual listener, but this is a beautiful reissue to me and one that is worth the outlay. But if you have any affection for this maverick singer, musical gamechanger and golden-throated swoonfest – then "The Complete KEEN Years: 1957-1960" by Sam Cooke is the biz-schnizz for you. 

ABKCO 018771850328 made me well up inside and bawl like a 2-year old, and it's not often that you say that about any catalogue number (especially one with a Barcode). "You Send Me" is damn right...

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