I've been really digging Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 lately. I'm not typically big on live albums, but I find ones that are recorded at small venues (see also: Jeff Buckely's Live at Sin-e, which I adore) are so much more accessible. I love when the noise of the audience is as loud as some of the instruments. You can really feel the atmosphere, the energy, the connection between artist and audience. Music is so much more social than any other art form. Literature is so solitary, and visual art (movies included), even when viewed in groups, is typically viewed quietly or silently. But music is different. Not only can you sing along, you can participate. Cooke invites the audience to sing his lines quite frequently, to let them become not just observer but performer as well. He chats with them not just in between songs but in between lines within songs. There's such a beautiful coming together in these sorts of performances.
It's also some damn fine music. I love how raspy his voice is compared to the smooth way he typically sings on his studio efforts.
I've never been too taken with this one. The songs still seem a bit to similar to their studio counterparts for me. Now, for live Sam Cooke, the 1955 Shrine Concert with the Soul Stirrers is where its at. Hard core gospel domination.