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Ghost Canyon

Title - 'The Complete Keen Years: 1957-1960'
Artist - Sam Cooke

For those not in the complete know, and kicking off a year-long celebration of the 90th anniversary of Sam Cooke’s birth, starting this January 24th, 2020, ABKCO Records have released the magnificently remastered, and extensive 5CD Box-Set The Complete Keen Years: 1957-1960.

The Complete Keen Years: 1957–1960, collects Sam Cooke’s body of work as he began releasing secular albums, stepping away from The Soul Stirrers where he found great success as a gospel singer.

Indeed, Cooke had been releasing and dominating the gospel sales market over the six years previous to 'You Send Me' and 'Summertime' being released.

Most avid fans know of Cooke's meteoric rise to fame with his first Keen recording of 'You Send Me,' a record that sold the world over into the millions.

However, few of his newer fans know of his early training and experience with groups of gospel and spiritual singers, among them the aforementioned Soul Stirrers and the Pilgrim Travelers.

An experience that, to a great extent, prepared Cooke for the long, hard road to stardom and fame.

Indeed, it was not until Cooke divorced himself from the Soul Stirrers that he began to sing in the popular vein. But in leaving – for the most part – the spiritual field of music, Sam still kept one of the most important elements in spiritual singing and transferred it into his popular vocalizing. - his sense of sincerity.

For it is this natural quality of expression that helped to mold Cooke’s future in the field of popular music.

Within this newly remastered collection are his unique versions of standards alongside performances that showcase his songwriting skills.

Sam Cooke defined himself as a voice ahead of his time elevating the sound of soul at the turn of the decade.

The Complete Keen Years: 1957–1960 offers the Sam Cooke aficionado an opportunity to experience all of Cooke’s Keen album and single tracks for a comprehensive overview of his time at the label.

The 5-CD set includes the content of his five originally released Keen LPs plus multiple bonus tracks, a total of 65 tracks in all.

Also included in this box are rare photographs and ephemera from the Keen archives alongside voluminous liner notes by writer Michael Corcoran.

Disc 1 – Sam Cooke (originally released on Keen in 1958)
1) 'You Send Me'
2) 'The Lonesome Road'
3) 'Tammy' 5) 'Moonlight In Vermont'
6) 'Canadian Sunset'
7) 'Summertime, Pt. 2'
8) 'Around the World'
9) 'Ain’t Misbehavin’'
10) 'The Bells of St. Mary’s'
11) 'So Long' 12) 'That Lucky Old Sun'

The first volume of the set offers the thirteen tracks that comprise Cooke’s 1958 LP debut for Keen Records, simply titled Sam Cooke (and also known as Songs By Sam Cooke).

Presented in mono and featuring the Bumps Blackwell Orchestra as the backing band, the perfect mix of rhythm and blues, traditional pop, and swing meant that when Cooke's voice was added there was simply no way the album couldn't chart!

And chart it did, for complete with the lush orchestrations of the lead single 'You Send Me,' the album that also included 'Summertime (Part 2),' 'Ain’t Misbehavin’,' 'That Lucky Old Sun' and also 'Danny Boy,' went up to #16 on the Billboard Album Charts.

Disc 2 – Encore (originally released on Keen in 1958)
1) 'Oh, Look at Me Now'
2) 'Someday'
3) 'Along the Navajo Trail'
4) 'Running Wild'
5) 'Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive'
6) 'Mary, Mary Lou'
7) 'When I Fall in Love'
8) 'I Cover the Waterfront'
9) 'My Foolish Heart'
10) 'Today I Sing the Blues'
11) 'The Gypsy'
12) 'It’s the Talk of the Town'

Once again backed by Bumps Blackwell, the cover art depicts the singer swinging with jazz musicians behind him, which is just the most perfect illustration of the sound of the album.

On this second album in the set, Cooke kicks things off with 'Oh, Look at Me Now' (a song strongly associated with Frank Sinatra, who first recorded it with Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra) and never looks back!

Including other such Cooke-interpreted standards as 'Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,' 'When I Fall In Love,' 'I Cover the Waterfront,' and 'The Gypsy,' the album is a tight doozy of a euphoric sound, that's for sure.

Disc 3 – Tribute to The Lady (originally released on Keen in 1959)
1) 'God Bless the Child'
2) 'She’s Funny That Way'
3) 'I’ve Gotta Right to Sing the Blues'
4) 'Good Morning Heartache'
5) 'Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness (If I Do)'
6) 'Comes Love'
7) 'Lover Girl (Man)'
8) 'Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off'
9) 'Lover Come Back to Me'
10) 'Solitude'
11) 'They Can’t Take That Away from Me'
12) 'Crazy She Calls Me'

Sam Cooke’s elegant 1959 salute to Billie Holiday, Tribute to The Lady, is the third album here in this box-set, and is also brought forth in mono (as originally recorded and released).

As aforementioned, the album was recorded in tribute to jazz vocalist Billie Holiday, who died later that year, but the session that covers a select group of songs from her catalog must have been a magnificently joyous occasion; listening now, once again to his renditions of her songs.

All the tracks are songs the incomparable Lady Day made famous, and as Cooke presents this humble musical salute to her, it brings back many nostalgic memories of days listening to her music in my back yard on a beautiful sunny day.

Trust me when I say that this is a sincere tribute by a young Cooke, who had the skill and vocal finesse to inject many of the same heart warming qualities and feelings into a song that the great Lady Day had.

Inclusive of 'God Bless The Child,' 'I’ve Gotta Right To Sing The Blues,' 'Good Morning, Heartache' and 'Crazy She Calls Me,' Cooke found his voice not by imitating popular singers but weaving his own interpretation of songs made notable by others.

Disc 4 – Hit Kit (originally released on Keen in 1959)
1) 'Only Sixteen'
2) 'All of My Life'
3) 'Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha'
5) 'Win Your Love For Me'
6) 'Lonely Island'
7) 'You Send Me'
8) 'Love You Most of All'
9) '(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons'
10) 'Little Things You Do'
11) 'Let’s Go Steady Again'
12) 'You Were Made For Me'
13) 'Lonely Island' (Single Version) [Bonus Track]
14) 'Win Your Love For Me' (Stereo) [Bonus Track]
15) 'Almost In Your Arms (Theme from Houseboat)' (Stereo) [Bonus Track]
16) 'Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha' (Stereo) [Bonus Track]
17) 'Little Things You Do' (Stereo) [Bonus Track]
18) 'Only Sixteen' (Stereo) [Bonus Track]
19) 'Let’s Go Steady Again' (Stereo) [Bonus Track]
20) 'With You' (Stereo) [Bonus Track]
21) 'Ee-I-Ee-I-Oh a/k/a Ee-Yi-Ee-Yi-Oh' (Stereo) [Bonus Track]

The aptly named Hit Kit, when originally released by Keen in 1959 was a compilation of the singer’s most popular songs and they comprise the first 12 tracks on the fourth disc in the set.

The package of previously released singles was assembled, according to sources at the time, for "quick commercial consumption," and comes complete with the original mono versions of 'Only Sixteen,' 'Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha,' 'Win Your Love For Me' and 'You Were Made For Me.'

Featuring some totally smoking up-tempo tunes, wailing ballads, and even interesting pop and novelty material, Hit Kit was Cooke at his commercial peak in the early '60s and is, all by itself, well worth having in your collection.

Those 12 tracks are now augmented here by a quite wondrous nine bonus tracks including six rare stereo Keen singles.

Disc 5 – The Wonderful World Of Sam Cooke (originally released on Keen in 1960)
1) '(What A) Wonderful World'
2) 'Desire Me'
3) 'Summertime, Pt. 1'
4) 'Almost in Your Arms (from “Houseboat”)'
5) 'That’s Heaven to Me'
6) 'No One (Can Ever Take Your Place)'
7) 'With You'
8) 'Blue Moon'
9) 'Stealing Kisses'
10) 'You Were Made for Me'
11) 'There I’ve Said It Again'
12) 'I Thank God'
13) 'Steal Away' (Album Version) [Bonus Track]
14) 'Deep River' [Bonus Track]
15) 'One Hour Ahead of the Posse' [Bonus Track]
16) 'Ee-I-Ee-I-Oh a/k/a Ee-Yi-Ee-Yi-Oh' [Bonus Track]
17) 'So Glamorous' [Bonus Track]
18) 'Steal Away' (Single Version) [Bonus Track]

Cooke’s last album release for Keen was The Wonderful World Of Sam Cooke and took its title from '(What A) Wonderful World,' written by Cooke with Lou Adler and Herb Alpert; the latter music industry legends were on staff at Keen at that time.

An early soul masterpiece that continues to stand the test of time, it contains some of Cooke's greatest studio recordings, Inclusive of well-known hits from the peak of his career, such as '(What a) Wonderful World,' 'Desire Me,' 'No One (Can Ever Take Your Place),' and 'Summertime,' it also throws into the mix tracks that come from his spiritual background, such as both 'I Thank God' and 'That's Heaven to Me.'

The six bonus tracks include both a “gospelized” and the originally released versions of 'Steal Away' and 'Deep River' along with non-LP tracks such as both 'One Hour Ahead of the Posse' and 'So Glamorous.'

Amazon 5CD Box-Set Purchase Link

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