Sam Cooke’s live recording, Live At The Harlem Square Club 1963 is a classic from the early days of soul. Incredibly it stayed in the vaults for over twenty years before it was first released in 1985.
Originally a gospel star with the Soul Stirrers, Sam Cooke was a pioneer in both soul and cross-over pop at a time when the civil rights movement was growing.
Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square 1963 – Overall Rating = 28/30
Early versions of this album were called One Night Stand – Live At The Harlem Square Club.
Set List – 8/10 Rating
The set list is short but what’s on it is gold.
- Feel It (Sam Cooke) – 3:46
- Chain Gang (Cooke) – 3:11
- Cupid (Cooke) – 2:46
- Medley: It’s All Right/For Sentimental Reasons – 5:11
- Twistin’ the Night Away (Cooke) – 4:19
- Somebody Have Mercy (Cooke) – 4:45
- Bring It On Home to Me (Cooke) – 5:37
- Nothing Can Change This Love (Cooke) – 3:45
- Having a Party (Cooke) – 4:09
It seems mean marking down the set list for Live At The Harlem Square Club but every time I listen to it, I’m left wanting more… much more because it’s over in less than 40 minutes.
I don’t know how long the set was Sam Cooke played at this club in Florida but it’s notable that the editing has been played with a little in the different versions but no extra songs were added.
The greatest live album possible from Sam Cooke would have featured his signature tune A Change Is Gonna Come (although to be fair, it hadn’t been issued at the time Live At The Harlem Square Club was recorded) and it would have featured songs from the Night Beat album and other less well known songs.
However any reservations I have about the set list is more than made up for on performance and atmosphere.
Performance – 10/10
Hot, sweaty, intense and energetic.
Live At The Harlem Square Club is everything you want from a live soul recording made by one of the true legends. This is how Sam Cooke should be heard rather than the syrupy pop records he made, no matter how classy they were.
How I wish I’d been there that night. Will somebody please hurry up and invent a time machine so we can travel back.
Sam Cooke’s in fine vocal form showing a range of style across the songs but you’d expect nothing less from one of the great soul voices of all time.
Even better, he’s backed by a proper soul band with guitar, piano and lots of sax led by King Curtis.
I can’t imagine a better performance.
There aren’t many videos of Sam Cooke performing live. This is him performing on TV in 1963 singing Twistin’ The Night Away.
Atmosphere & Authenticity – 10/10 Rating
The crowd get a terrific performance from Sam Cooke in what feels like a small, intimate setting. They respond just as you’d hope and expect.
Cooke’s laughing, joking and playing with the lucky people at this gig.
Wow this man is 100% charisma.
The audience love it and so will you.
He sings about having a party… and that’s exactly what Live At The Harlem Square Club is.
Possibly the greatest soul singer ever appearing live in your house or car.
Total Rating For Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club – 28/30
If you love soul or love live albums, you need to hear Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club.
To quote Cooke
“Don’t fight it… just feel it.”
How Others Rate Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club 1963
From my lists of the best live albums, we can see that others rate Live At The Harlem Square Club very highly.
Slate Readers Poll 15
Vox Best 70
Amazon reviewers also love this live album.
Buying Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club
You can buy this live album from:
What Do You Think About Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club 1963?
I’d love to hear what you think about this album and how it compares to Live At The Copa.
I’d also be fascinated to hear if you’ve been lucky enough to see Sam Cooke perform live before he died in 1964.
All you have to do is leave a comment below.
Other Sam Cooke Live Albums
Sadly there is only one… Sam Cooke At The Copa and that’s a performance at a white supper club. It has a very different set list and feel and is not the hot, gritty performance of Live At The Harlem Square Club.
My advice is simple.
Live At The Harlem Square Club is a must have in your music collection because I believe it’s one of the best live albums ever.
What Are The Best Soul Live Albums?
I have started a readers poll to find out what popular opinions considers to be the very best live soul albums. If you love soul, please vote.
As you’d expect Sam Cooke is doing well but you may know an even better live soul album.