Sam Cooke

The Best of Sam Cooke [Paradiso]

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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 set, which duplicates the track listing and sequence of 1998's Greatest Hits CD issue, draws from his RCA output, with "You Send Me," "(What A) Wonderful World," and "Only Sixteen" added from the Keen years. Notably absent is the ABKCO single "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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