The Soul Stirrers - The Sam Cooke Years (1950-1957)

Compilation
The Soul Stirrers were a pioneering and highly influential American gospel group.

The history of the Soul Stirrers goes way back to 1926, with Roy Crain forming his first vocal quartet in Trinity, Texas. In the early 30s he moved to Houston and joined up with a group led by R.H. Harris. Their musical style transformed, taking on a hard gospel sound, and they named themselves The Soul Stirrers. They made changes to the traditional quartet style of singing, loosening up the original rigid arrangements to feature more improvisation, broadening their repertoire to feature newer gospel compositions, and expanding to feature five or more members. Without knowing it at the time, they were laying the foundations for soul music. Their extensive touring throughout the 40s and 50s earned them a large following across the country.
After signing to Speciality Records, lead singer R.H. Harris left the group. In 1950 he was replaced by a young singer by the name of Sam Cooke. With some pretty big shoes to fill, Cooke worked hard to emulate Harris, but before long he developed his own unique style, giving the group a renewel of youthful energy, bringing a younger crowd to their fanbase. Their first single with Cooke on lead, "Jesus Gave Me Water", was a massive success and brought them great acclaim. Throughout most of the 50s the Soul Stirrers prospered under Cooke's leadership, until he eventually left the gospel field in 1957 to pursue a career in secular music, going on to become one of the most successful and influential African-American singers in the history of popular music. The Soul Stirrers went on without him, but their heyday was effectively over.
This compilation covers the Sam Cooke years of the group's exsistence, easily their most commercially successful, and the period that produced their most sublime recordings. Cooke sings lead on most of the songs, though some feature Paul Harris on lead instead (another brilliant singer). These 22 recordings are essential listening, effectively representing the gospel roots of soul music. Cooke's voice is stunning, and arguably full of much more fire and passion here than on his later pop recordings. The songs themselves include both classic spirituals such as "Peace In The Valley" and "Farther Along" as well as lots of Sam Cooke originals. Interestingly it features two songs that he would later re-do with secular lyrics, "That's Heaven To Me" and "Wonderful".
This is powerful music, raw and emotional, and must be heard to be believed.

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