Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke at the Copa

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Sam Cooke at the Copa was a frustrating record. One of a handful of live albums by a major soul artist of its era, it captured Cooke in excellent voice, and was well-recorded -- it just wasn't really a "soul" album, except perhaps in the tamest possible definition of that term. Playing to an upscale, largely white supper-club audience, in a very conservatively run venue where he had previously failed to impress either patrons or the management, Cooke toned down his performance and chose the safest material with which he could still be comfortable. In place of songs like "Feel It," "Bring It on Home to Me," or even "Cupid," which were part of his usual set, he performed numbers like "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "Bill Bailey," and "When I Fall in Love" here. True, his renditions may be the versions of any of those songs that an R&B fan will like best, but they always seemed a poor substitute for what's not here -- not just the songs that he didn't do, but the intense, sweaty presentation, as much a sermon as a concert, the pounding beat, and the crowd being driven into ever-more frenzied delight.

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