Swing Low (+ 4 Bonus Tracks)
This quintessential release compiles one of Sam Cooke's classic albums, originally issued by the RCA Victor label in March 1961: Swing Low. His seventh studio LP, this is probably Cooke's least-known RCA album. It contains some of his finest songs, including well known hits such as "Chain Gang" (#2 on both Pop and R&B charts), and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". Among the twelve songs are Broadway material, folk tunes and Stephen Fosterera traditionals, which were in vogue during the early '60s revival movement. However, Cooke doesn't only sing pop standards and folk songs here, he swings through them with a swagger, Bobby Darin-style, and the combination does wonders. The production (again by Hugo and Luigi) is very full, if not quite as overblown as some of the songs recorded elsewhere in Cooke's RCA library. The choir and brass are slightly overdone on the title song, but almost everything else is a study in understatement that plays to the quiet strength in Cooke's voice. "I'm Just a Country Boy," "They Call the Wind Maria," "Twilight on the Trail," "If I Had You (I'd Be Happy)," the smash single "Chain Gang," and the title track, make side one of this album a masterpiece of subtlety, and one of the high points of Cooke's early LP output. Long unavailable, this masterpiece has finally been remastered and packaged in this special collector's edition, which also includes 4 bonus tracks from the same period. There's no better proof of Sam Cooke's genius than these soulful, joyous, passionate, stylish and exuberant recordings.