Sam Cooke

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The problem with issuing compilations of Sam Cooke material is one of licensing, since his early gospel work with the Soul Stirrers is owned chiefly by Specialty Records; his first secular pop hits like "You Send Me," "(What A) Wonderful World," and "Only Sixteen" are owned by Keen Records; his middle pop period and songs like "Chain Gang," "Cupid," "Twistin' the Night Away," "Having a Party," and "Bring It On Home to Me" are owned by RCA Records; and recorded material from the last year of his life, which includes the magnificent "A Change Is Gonna Come," is controlled by ABKCO Records. Any collection hoping to make a full survey of Cooke's career is thus extremely difficult to assemble. This fine set draws from his RCA output, and what's here is marvelous, but casual fans may note the absence of the Keen songs in particular ("You Send Me" was Cooke's biggest-selling hit) and the lack of "A Change Is Gonna Come," arguably Cooke's greatest song, and the one where he came closest to combining the gospel and secular sides of his nature. The story told here -- great as it is -- is therefore incomplete.

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