Jasmine Records – 2018
30 tracks; 78 minutes
Jasmine is a UK-based label specializing in re-releases and this album is a follow-up to the 2011 double album Wonderful World, covering the years 1957-60. The 30 tracks are in chronological order and Roger Dopson’s excellent sleeve notes take us through this intensely creative period, including the battles that Sam had with his record label in order to obtain the creative freedom he wanted. When he achieved what he wanted – to record with his own musicians in California – the resulting single and album Twistin’ The Night Away was his strongest to date and ended all further ideas about recording Sam in NYC with session men.
In terms of the ‘big hits’, this album contains “Cupid”, “Twistin’ The Night Away”, “Bring It On Home To Me” and “Send Me Some Lovin’”, each one a classic side. Can there be many more instantly recognisable songs than “Twistin’ The Night Away” with its distinctive drum opening and rocking sax break? However, for those who probably have a Sam Cooke‘Best Of’ somewhere in their collection there are some interesting tracks here that might attract them to purchase this disc: “Movin’ And A-Groovin’” was an album track on Twistin’ The Night Away and readers may know it from a splendid cover by Eugene Hideaway Bridges on his Man Without A Home CD but the original is terrific too; “Havin’ A Party” was the B-side of “Bring It On Home To Me” and has been a staple of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes’ show for years, often played as the final encore; “Soothe Me” (later reprised by Sam & Dave) was another track on Twistin’, here a duet with Lou Rawls.
Sam recorded My Kind Of Blues in 1961 and, despite the title, it was one of several attempts to break him into the mainstream, with covers of Berlin, Ellington, Gershwin and Rodgers & Hart. This compilation does include solid versions of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” and “Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home” and the opening track here, “That’s It – I Quit – I’m Moving On” can certainly class as blues, as does Sam’s version of Charles Brown and Johnny Moore’s “Driftin’ Blues” which closes the CD. Some of the material which was recorded in NYC fares less well than the sides ‘at home’ in CA with his own musicians but there are still some interesting moments. Check out the bass backing vocal coming out of the LH speakers on “(Don’t Fight It) Feel It” or the Twist cash-in track “Twistin’ In The Kitchen With Dinah”, another cut from the impressive Twistin’ The Night Away album. “Talkin’ Trash” is a good cut but the tune used would go on to work even better a year later as the basis of “Another Saturday Night”.
Of course, the roots of soul lie in the blues and most blues fans love some old soul records, so there is lots to appreciate here. Sam Cooke will always be known as ‘the man who invented soul’ and these sides certainly give credence to the tag. Anyone who does not already own this material should immediately acquire this CD, its predecessor and the probable third volume when it inevitably appears. Essential listening.