Developed in August of 2002 and released some months later in 2003, Little Joe Cook's 80th year, In God We Trust combines new renditions of previously written songs as well as material culled from 45s, much of it never before available on an album or CD. "Mr. Bush in the White House Chair" was actually written while Jimmy Carter was in office, and re-recorded with new lyrics at Cook's home studio after the tragedy that was 9/11/2001. The liner notes refer to this as gospel with "a touch of patriotism," an accurate description. "Say a Prayer (For Our Troops Over There)" is an update of a song Cook did in 1951 with his Evening Star Quartet, formerly "Say a Prayer for Our Boys in Korea," the original recording found on his compilation A Blast from the Past. "Lady from the Beauty Shop" is a dancey update of the title track from a previous Cook album and written for his wife, who the singer met at the Cantab club more than two decades previously. Rounding out the new takes is a live track of an excellent original, "Someone for Me," recorded at the aforementioned Cambridge, MA, nightclub where Cook has reigned for decades. It's a slow ballad straight out of the '50s from the veteran performer. You can hear the genuine applause the audience showers on the singer, an audience that returns week after week to hear the music documented here.
Two key photos are merged on the back cover by executive producer Richie Sarno -- a snapshot of the Cook mural that is a Central Square landmark and a picture of the sign that designates "Little Joe Cook Square," an actual area in the city dedicated to the hard-working musician. The other six titles on the disc, taken from vinyl 45s, are real treats. There's the reggae original "Too Late to Turn Back Now" (not the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose tune from 1972), a haunting rendition of Sid the Kid's "Work It Out," and the best track on the disc, a stunning reinterpretation of the Motown classic "My Girl." That Smokey Robinson co-write gets a terrific treatment, which could easily slip onto radio in the new millennium. Bobby Robinson's "Meet Me Down at Soulville" recalls Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson; an essential production from this Cook's Fury Records days, the sounds here are all different, giving the listener not only refreshing changes but an exploration of this man's rich history. "Nightmare," the flip of "My Girl," and the very Philly-sounding "Sugar Baby" round out this collection of new takes and previously unreleased (on CD) performances. It's a solid effort from a gifted artist who shows no desire to slow down.