When this 28-song compilation (two LPs/one CD) originally appeared, it was the first serious exploration of Sam Cooke's catalog ever done. What's more, a lot of care went into the selection, if not the packaging -- despite the fact that it has no annotation, or even release dates on its 28 songs, The Man and His Music is still the only comprehensive single-volume collection of the hits and highlights of Cooke's career from the mid-'50s to his last sides in 1964. What's more, it's out of print, and it is likely to be the last such compilation that we'll ever see, because in the years since its release, the ownership of Cooke's post-1963 sides (comprising his most advanced and ambitious soul recordings) shifted from RCA to ABKCO, and the chances are next to non-existent that either company will ever license its portion of Cooke's catalog to the other. There are better-sounding collections and better-annotated collections, to be sure, and fuller collections -- in 2000, RCA issued The Man Who Invented Soul, a four-CD that goes deeper into Cooke's output from 1958 through 1963; and in 2002, ABKCO issued Keep Movin' On, a single-disc compilation covering Cooke's 1964 sides, including his final hits. But The Man and His Music is the only Sam Cooke compilation that covers all of the major phases of his career, from his gospel work with the Soul Stirrers through all of the early pop hits and his move into soul music, culminating with his final classic soul sides. The Soul Stirrers' classic "Touch the Hem of His Garment" slides effortlessly into and through sides like "You Send Me" and "Chain Gang," to the early soul numbers like "Nothing Can Change This Love," "Rome Wasn't Built in a Day," and the achingly beautiful "Just for You," to "Having a Party" and the wrenching balladry of "Sad Mood," and through to the transcendent final sides, the rousing "Shake" and the Civil Rights ode "A Change Is Gonna Come" (the latter showing up for the first time in decades, and the first of only two times on CD, in its full-length version). There are better collections with all of these songs and more on them, but none handier than this in presenting every facet of Cooke's work -- the only flaw, if there is one, is the absence of one of the better tracks off of the Harlem Square live album.
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