These 14 tracks Sam Cooke recorded as lead singer with the Soul Stirrers preceded the great tenor’s forays into the pop arena, but the bulk of these cuts made him a star in the black gospel world. Listening to Cooke’s mellifluous vocals makes it easy to understand why. His voice brings a freshness to well-known hymns like “Peace in the Valley”, “Any Day Now” and “Farther Along”. Cooke’s genius for composition is also clear on his self-penned “Touch the Hem of His Garment” that tells a New Testament story in words that ring true for his church audience from the fifties. This disc also includes Cooke’s first two experiments with secular music before his big success with “You Send Me”. His first attempt, “Lovable” is basically straight gospel with a girl replacing Jesus as the object of Cooke’s devotion. The second, “I’ll Come Running Back to You”, shows Cooke’s ability to appear simultaneously heartbroken and full of pride, a combination that serves him well in the future.
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