Sam Cooke – Live At Harlem Square (1963)

As this is the inaugural post of my Birthday Week, I thought I’d both introduce a new category and introduce people to something that they may have never heard before. As such, I’m going to just come out and say it. I’ve never heard anything so full of passion, lust, beauty, and straight up soul than this live album. I wasn’t around in 1963 when this piece of magic hit New York’s Harlem Square, but let me tell you something, I’ve never been so caught up in the beauty of raw emotion in my life.

Just when the world needed a little stirring up, Sam Cooke comes along and rattles it off its hinges. The album is full of mellow grooves (“Cupid”, “Chain Gang”) and melodious love songs (“For Sentimental Reasons”, “Cupid”). But there’s nothing quite like the man’s roar when begging for the touch of his lover. Beginning with “Somebody Have Mercy”, the audience is suddenly thrown face-first into a sea of emotion and unapologetic begging.

And then the moment that would forever transform me into a different being.

As soon as I heard the crashing wave that was Sam’s live rendition of “Bring It On Home”, I had something akin to a life altering experience. Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING in my life prepared me for the torrential downpour of emotion that shook through that man’s body. Opening with a sequence about his woman, begging for her to come home, I’d never heard something so completely bare and honest.

He swiftly followed it up with one of my favourite love songs, “Nothing Can Ever Change This Love I Have For You”, and continued to rain his soul and velvet all over the audience, much of which was in hysterics from the moment he stepped on stage.

Sam Cooke: Live At Harlem Square burned itself in my mind as one of the greatest live pieces of music to ever be pressed into vinyl, and remains one of the most incredible pieces of music to date.

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