Cooke and Mingus

A couple of reviews from theotherpaper at the link below

http://www.theotherpaper.com/articles/2008/10/23/music/doc48ff94a88079f973620626.txt

 

Cooke on vinyl: sexy medium, sexy message

An LP record playing on a turntable is sort of a sexual thing, and if you let me explain how, you’ll never look at your stereo the same again.

You have the vaginal-like grooves of the album, with the penis of a record needle, ah, grooving the groove, so to speak. Just like sex, it takes friction and texture and turns it into music, beautiful music. Know what I mean?

Let’s get it on, Marvin Gaye once sang—on records back in the day. So what better way to listen to sexy music than on a more-than-metaphorical medium? And what better way to listen to reissues than on the thickest, blackest vinyl yet, 180-gram pressings?

Sam Cooke, the late, great soul singer, recorded One Night Stand! Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club in 1963. Columbia’s Legacy reissue series has seen fit to press up the title on vinyl, and brutha, you need to hear this. This solidified petroleum product we call a record delivers a warmth and depth that the CD version simply cannot match.

Of course, the medium is nothing without its message, and One Night Stand! is one of the liveliest live-show recordings in history, with the local soul folk turned out and turned on to Sam and his veteran road band. They matter to the chemistry of Sam’s performance something fierce throughout the album. What a shame there isn’t video of the night. Oh, well.

Opening with “Fight It (Don’t Fight It),” Cooke repeatedly wails “got to feel the feeling” toward the end of the song’s two minutes and 55 seconds, turning it into a gospel-powered call to Saturday night lust. And then it’s on to a thigh-slapping “Chain Gang,” Cooke grunting “unh” and ”ah” like he was heaving a pick ax on the roadside. “Cupid,” one of pop’s quainter cries of love, only briefly mellows out the album.

“Medley: It’s All Right/For Sentimental Reasons” combines two lovely ballads, with Sam advising the dudes in the audience not to hit their old ladies upside the head and to use a little love instead. How old-fashioned, huh? “Twistin’ the Night Away,” his career-defining hit, ends side one, everyone dancing in the club, no doubt.

Side two is more the gospel/soul experience, and this is where vinyl’s inherent advantage of warmth comes in. Sam and the band play with the intro to “Bring It on Home to Me,” rolling waves of rock ’n’ roll crescendos back and forth, teasing the audience with a foreplay the likes of which bands just don’t know how to do anymore. Awesome.

“Somebody Have Mercy” is probably the least known of the songs here (and undeservedly so), second only to “Nothing Can Change This Love,” a spectacularly Sam affair on the vocal mike. “Having a Party” ends the 10-song set of transcendentally good times.

Recorded in north Florida, Cooke is naked without overdubs and orchestra, just him and his band. The album stands as magnificent testimony to how they used to do it back in the day.

Tragically, Cooke would be murdered a year later, prematurely ending one of music’s most important links between black and white America.

John Petric

 

 

A call-out to the Duke and a treat for the fans    

From the moment the great Charles Mingus starts plucking his huge acoustic string bass on “Better Git It in Your Soul,” I was enthralled by the sound of the 180-gram vinyl reissue of his first album for Columbia, 1959’s Mingus Ah Hum. Something about the gooey black medium makes a double bass sound so much more, hmmm, double.

The track itself is one of Mingus’s most boisterous call-outs of gospel/jazz, ornery and humorous and brilliantly arranged. There is tension in the piano and the trombone, there is release in the signature chorus, and there are high amounts of in-the-moment-despite-being-in-the-studio spontaneity. A virtual triumph, and hotter than hell on 180-gram. Yeah!

“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” brings the energy way down, Mingus going from the churchical high of “Git” to a meditative introspection invoking what would become classic shades of nocturnal urban jazz. Brooding, moody, restless—a beautiful statement by Mingus.

“Boogie Stop Shuffle” lets the band go for it, speed-powered and urgent. The cats can play under Mingus’s star direction, and this cut, in particular, typifies jazz 1959: big band nearly gone, the small combo perfectly able to redefine the times. Killer.

“Bird Calls” takes the tempo farther, into a frantic near-madness. Treble pitch seems to be no challenge for 180-gram vinyl, sounding firmer than on CD. Hurray for the black platters!

“Open Letter to Duke” puts bebop into the mix, Mingus slightly messing with the greatest of the big-band composers, musically challenging him to a style that might’ve indeed helped bury the swing era. The energy crackles, and the band Mingus has assembled for Ah Hum hums both atmospherically and earthly. In the middle, Mingus arranges for a tempo breakdown with the horns moving up and down slowly, as if making a statement within a statement. Jazz scholars are still pondering the meaning of the title.

Though the CD reissue of Ah Hum has the original nine tracks plus three bonus cuts, the 180-gram is sequenced just the way Mingus first released the album, one that may indeed stand as his best.

 

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