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Sam Cooke - Live at Harlem Square Club 1963

Started by The Mollusk, November 23, 2021, 09:57:46 AM

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The Mollusk

Surely one of the best live recordings I've heard, and not just because I've been listening to Cooke since before I can even remember (my grandpa used to play his stuff all the time). This show is over 60 years old and the sound quality is astonishingly clear, and the energy in the room captured perfectly by the recording equipment (as there's just the right amount of audible crowd noise poking throughout but not compromising the heft of the music whatsoever) is enough to make you break out in a sweat just sat at home listening to it. A mere 36 minutes in length but not a single second wasted, pure excellence from one of the greatest ever voices in soul.

Cooke's presence throughout is electrifying, after the introduction bursting like a bull from the pen with a motherfucking shit-kicking rendition of "Feel It" (Don't Fight It)", and throughout the set he intersperses tracks with charismatic patter that barely lets the audience catch a breath. You're hanging on the dude's every word. During the songs, it's also great to hear him swept up in the energy of the music, frequently singing bits with a half-beat swing delay, preemptively shouting out lines inviting the crowd to sing back at him, commanding the band and the crowd effortlessly.

I'm not entirely sure if the set is this short because that's just how long gigs were back then (from the intro it sounds like the band was playing a while before Cooke hit the stage) or if there's some editing in post, stitching the songs together seamlessly and cropping out any tuning up or whatever between songs? Either way, the record as a whole feels totally natural and it's captivating.

"It's All Right/For Sentimental Reasons" and "Nothing Can Change This Love" are my favourites here. Absolutely stunning tracks.

Full playlist on YouTube


Oh fuck yes. Had this on cassette when it first came out, lost the cassette somehow, managed to find it on vinyl in a charity shop a few years back. What an album. I was always enamoured of Cooke's studio stuff (that voice!) but this set was a complete revelation. What a performer. Thanks The Mollusk for reminding me of its existence.


Voice on that cunt!

If you don't like Sam Cooke, then your opinion on anything is essentially worthless.

Ron Maels Moustache

God yeah, that 1963 recording is immense. The version of Chain Gang he does pure filth!

His live singing voice has so much more of an edge to it than on record, it's sexy as fuck. You can see how he preceded Otis Redding and other singers in the latter part of the decade. Amazing to think he probably hadn't even reached his peak by the time he died


Absolutely brilliant all the way through and some great advice from Sam on this track regarding not kicking your partners teeth out if you suspect infidelity