Sam Cooke could sing anything. Within the span of a few months in 1963, he recorded Night Beat, a wonderful collection of Sinatra-style late-night crooning, and Live At The Harlem Square Club, a raw, down and dirty R&B set for a hard-partying crowd. The 31 tracks on Portrait of a Legend impressively capture Cooke’s range on a single disc. Beginning with “Touch the Hem of His Garment,” his own classic gospel composition, the collection winds through such irresistible hits as “You Send Me,” “Cupid,” and “(What a) Wonderful World.” Cooke’s voice, filigreed but never showy, reinvents songs from innocent pop (“Tennessee Waltz”) to gutbucket blues (“Little Red Rooster),” climaxing in his incomparable final statement, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Many artists are called “legends,” but Sam Cooke truly earned this title.
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