Album Of The Year: 1963

So, I’m going for something a bit different this time. The idea behind this ‘series’ is that once every two weeks another year will be brought into attention, starting with 1963 and moving onward chronologically. One and only one album will be selected and written about from each year, the criteria being a mix of personal preference and historical relevance. If you stumble upon this article by any chance and end up not clicking the ‘x’ button in disgust, keep in mind that I would love to hear your choice for the respective year – from a simple comment stating the album’s name, to detailed analysis that will destroy my argument and make me reconsider my reasoning. Remember, one of the main reasons I’m doing this is to get a better perspective of what albums I’ve missed out on, from each period of time.

Today’s Pick: Sam Cooke – Live at the Harlem Square Club

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Starting in 1963, as I’m not really familiar with many albums from earlier on, we find Sam Cooke’s ‘Live At The Harlem Square Club’. Well, to be completely accurate, the album saw the light of the day only 22 years later after the actual live show took place. And what a show it was. Although Beatles, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and some others were contenders for this place, I arrived to the conclusion that none of them truly reached their peak that year in the way that Sam Cooke did. With his voice at full range and as expressive as ever, and with a repertoire that includes some of the greatest songs ever written, “Mr. Soul” stepped on the Harlem Square stage and made history.

One particular aspect that I feel often gets overlooked is just how good of a frontman Sam Cooke really was. Not one single second is wasted on this performance – even when he’s not singing, he continuously invites the crowd to participate, creating an infectious party-like atmosphere. Play the album from start to finish, close your eyes and you’ll almost feel like you are there – in a small, smoke-filled nightclub having the time of your life.

Few live albums in history have managed to capture so well the atmosphere of their time and place, as well as the essence of the artist who put them out. True, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ – Cooke’s breathtaking anthem – would be released only a year later and would deservedly gain huge world-wide recognition over the years. But, in my opinion, some moments here on ‘Live At The Harlem Square Club’ are just as powerful and awe-inspiring as that song. It truly is the quintessential Sam Cooke album and will stay so for a long time, unless some unheard, ‘lost treasure’-type of record will be discovered at some point.

Do you agree? What’s your favourite album from 1963?

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6 replies

  1. I wholeheartedly agree!

    “infectious party-like atmosphere” – that’s it exactly, well said.

    Here’s my review of this one to support your arguments: http://1001albumsin10years.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/sam-cooke-live-at-the-harlem-square-club-1963/

    When I made a Top 5 Live albums, this was #2 (The Tragically HIp’s Live Between Us ended up at #1).

    There are going to be some tough years to pick just 1 (1966 won’t be easy!) – great idea for a series, looking forward to agreeing & politely disagreeing as the list goes on.

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    • Cheers man, I enjoyed your review more than most of what I’ve read about the album (and I did lots of research since this is the first time I’ve ever attempted to write about an album that can’t really be classified as rock/rock ‘n’ roll and felt a little…uninformed, I guess).

      Lots of years will definitely give me headaches (in the sense that there’s too much greatness to choose from), but I always tell myself that challenging is good. Thanks for commenting as always.

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  2. 1963 was a little before even my time but thanks for turning me on to the Sam Coole live LP. I had only heard it once before but went back online to hear it again, it’s fantastic. May have to pick that up on CD. The only other one I could think to come close from ’63 was “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. Rick

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    • It’s always a pleasure to hear that other people discovered great music because of my posts. I love Freewheelin’ too, it would be my #2 choice. ‘Girl From North Country’ is my favourite thing he’s ever done on some days. Dylan will definitely make an appearance on these series at one point or another. Thanks for dropping by, Rick. Take care.

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  3. Southside Johnny exposed CB to Sam Cooke. Thanks Johnny.

    Liked by 1 person

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