L.C. Cooke

The Complete SAR Recordings

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Many people may be unaware that Sam Cooke had a younger brother called L.C. Cooke who also pursued a career as a singer in the early '60s. L.C. was signed to Sam's independent R&B imprint SAR, and that wasn't the extent of his support of his sibling. Sam wrote and produced almost all of the sides L.C. recorded between 1960 and 1964 (those that he didn't, L.C. penned himself), sides that were intended to come out as a full LP in 1964 but never did. Its release was pushed back and then Sam Cooke was murdered in December 1964, with SAR folding not long afterward, so the album became lost to time. Some of the singles came out when they were recorded, a few songs came out in the 1994 box set Sam Cooke's SAR Records Story, but this 2014 compilation is the first time all of L.C.'s sessions are collected in one place. The first ten songs replicate the intended running order of that never-released 1964 LP and they are, without a doubt, the highlight of this disc. The single L.C. released on Checker in 1959 is fine -- the A, "If I Could Only Hear," is a perfectly good replica of Sam's brighter, poppier side that's just a little too sticky sweet, while the B "I'm Falling" is a nice little rocker -- and 1965's "Do You Wanna Dance (Yea Man)" grooves along nicely with its gospel flair, but Sam knew how to showcase his little brother at his best. Much of this is due to Sam's savvy songwriting -- he struck a delicate balance between commercial pop and exuberant gospel -- but he was also a canny producer, unafraid to showcase L.C.'s vocal similarity to himself and put it in a light, sunny setting. Although there's a shared gospel feel, much of this sounds a lot like Sam's chipper crossover hits -- "Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha," "Wonderful World," "Chain Gang," "Twistin' the Night Away," "Another Saturday Night" -- and if L.C. isn't as inventive and agile as his big brother, he's plenty adept, giving these happy songs a measure of real soul. Sam may have written the songs and created the arrangements but L.C. anchors the recordings, and the result is not only a pleasure but a worthy and welcome footnote to '60s soul history.

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