Wonderful World: The Very Best of Sam Cooke 1957-60
It might not seem so apparent these days, but Sam Cooke was an innovative stylist during his secular commercial peak, intimately merging R&B, gospel, and pop into what would eventually be called soul. It helped that he had a voice that could go from gravel to silk and back again, and he knew how to write a song, too, and had a firm grasp of the business side of music and publishing -- Cooke had a complete vision for his career and only his early death cut it short. This two-disc, 59-track set surveys most of that career (from 1957 to 1960 on the Specialty, Keen, and RCA labels) and includes Cooke's early classics with gospel group the Soul Stirrers ("Touch the Hem of His Garment," "That's Heaven to Me"), his secular pop hits ("You Send Me," "Only Sixteen," "Wonderful World," "Chain Gang"), and elegant covers of songs like "Jamaica Farewell," "Mona Lisa," and "The Great Pretender." What this set doesn't have are his two late-career gems "Bring It on Home to Me" and "A Change Is Gonna Come" and the joyous "Twistin' the Night Away," but aside from these, the Sam Cooke musical story is here.