Unboxing Sam Cooke’s SAR Records Story 1959-1965: A 4LP Box Set

Unboxing Sam Cooke’s SAR Records Story 1959-1965: A 4LP Box Set Tribute
“SAR Records Story 1959-1965,” is a tribute to Sam Cooke’s influential record label. This 4LP box set is full of soul, gospel, and early R&B, capturing an era that was pivotal in shaping the sound of American music.

Sam Cooke, often hailed as the “King of Soul,” was a trailblazer in the music industry. Known for his smooth voice and timeless hits like “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “You Send Me,” Cooke’s influence extended beyond his singing career. In 1961, he co-founded SAR Records with his manager, J.W. Alexander. This label became a platform for Cooke to nurture and produce a variety of artists, blending gospel roots with emerging soul sounds.

SAR Records played a significant role in the careers of several notable artists, including The Soul Stirrers, Johnny Taylor, and The Valentinos. Cooke’s vision for the label was to give artists creative freedom while maintaining high production standards, a philosophy that is evident throughout this box set.

The “SAR Records Story 1959-1965” Vinyl box set is a comprehensive collection featuring four vinyl albums. This set is beautifully packaged in a wide gatefold sleeve, accommodating the eight sides of music. Inside, you’ll find a detailed booklet that delves into the history of SAR Records and provides insights into each artist featured on the albums.

The records are housed in paper sleeves, which I plan to replace with poly-lined ones to ensure better preservation. The booklet is a highlight, offering extensive information about the label and Sam Cooke’s involvement. It includes photos, recording details, and stories behind the tracks, making it an essential companion to the music.

The first time I played the set, I was immediately struck by the clarity and warmth of the remastering. The opening tracks transported me back to an era rich with musical innovation.

The first two albums focus heavily on gospel and spiritual music, reflecting the early influence of The Soul Stirrers and other gospel groups. These tracks are interspersed with snippets of studio chatter, where you can hear Sam Cooke directing the sessions. This behind-the-scenes glimpse adds a layer of authenticity and immersion, making you feel like you’re in the studio with these legendary artists.

One standout track is “Greazee Parts 1 & 2” by a young 16 year old Billy Preston, which showcases his incredible talent on the Hammond organ. It’s a soulful, jazz-infused instrumental that hints at the greatness he would achieve later in his career.

The latter two albums shift towards more soul and pop-oriented tracks, featuring artists like Johnny Taylor and The Valentinos. These records capture the evolving sound of SAR Records as it adapted to the changing musical landscape of the early 1960s.

For fans of Sam Cooke and this golden era of soul and gospel music, the “SAR Records Story 1959-1965” is an invaluable collection.

The “SAR Records Story 1959-1965” box set is a fitting tribute to Sam Cooke’s legacy and his impact on the music industry. Whether you’re a longtime fan or new to this genre, this collection offers a deep dive into a pivotal time in soul and gospel music history.

Phil Aston | Now Spinning Magazine

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