Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Darkness all around me

SOUL STIRRERS "Amazing Grace"
SOUL STIRRERS "Oh Mary, Don't You Weep"
WOMACK BROTHERS "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray"

These songs come from 1994's fancypants two CD set Sam Cooke's SAR Records Story 1959-1965. Allow me to quote myself from my Amazon review written about 7 years ago:

For a few years during the early 1960s, Sam Cooke, the man with the golden croon, ran his own small record label, SAR Records. In addition to aiding the career of the post-Cooke Soul Stirrers, SAR unleashed an impressive array of talent--Bobby Womack and the Valentinos, Lou Rawls and the Pilgrim Travelers, and a young organist named Billy Preston. The singles they cut for his label are here, alongside unreleased demos from Cooke such as a spare, transporting take of "That's Heaven to Me."
Story presents much evidence of the Soul Stirrers' continued greatness with Jimmie Outler as lead singer. And the tracks by R.H. Harris & His Gospel Paraders are stone groove gospel-soul cuts... blah blah blah.

Stone groove gospel soul cuts?
Stone groove gospel soul cuts?! I forget what a hack I am sometimes! OK. Enough self-flagellation.

Cooke was one of the first black artists to have his own label, and his production work was really strong -- umm, and he could kinda sing, too. And talk about a man with a message -- "Change Is Gonna Come," released just two weeks after his shooting death at an LA motel in December of '64 -- not to get all boomer on you, but it's hard to think of a more moving Civil Rights tune. I don't know if it's growing up in a post-CoIntelpro/BushCo/ etc. world, but if you told me that Cooke was murdered by the CIA/ FBI, would any of us be really surprised? I believe the answer is hell no.

I didn't really understand Cooke's continued connection to, and support for, gospel artists until I got this comp. and listened to the first disc a bunch. The calypso take on "Oh Mary" is strange. I disliked it as a failed crossover attempt at first, but now I kind of love it just as a cool little detour. Gospel was in a strange place in the early '60s; with the exception of James Cleveland's huge wall of sound, it was a fairly stagnant time for the music. These songs show a smoother, lighter sound than the hard-shouting intensity of classic "golden age" stuff, but it's by no means weak pap! For instance, I uploaded the other Soul Stirrers song as I genuinely dig it -- same goes for the tune by the Womack Brothers, who got their big break when they opened for the Stirrers in '53 when Cooke was still in the group.

1 Comments:

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