Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke--A Review By Norman Otis Richmond

Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke Featuring Gerald Albright

By Norman (Otis) Richmond

Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke Featuring Gerald Albright is just what the doctor ordered for Black Music Month.

Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke is an instant classic. Alston’s tribute to the “King of Soul” has little to do with nostalgia. Alston, of the world-famous vocal group The Manhattans, proves once again that music is one of Africa’s many gifts to the world. Cooke’s lyrics and Alston’s voice are timeless. Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke is music for yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The legendary singer, songwriter, producer, and entrepreneur‘s life was cut short on December 11, 1964. Cooke, along with Mahalia Jackson, were Alston’s idols when he was a child.

Alston’s thirteen tracks are how Cooke may have sounded in the 21st century. The Henderson, North Carolina born Alston performs “You Send Me”, “Sentimental Reasons”, “Only Sixteen”, “Wonderful World”, “Chain Gang”, Cupid”, “Twistin’ the Night Away”, “Bring It on Home to Me”, “Having a Party”, “Good Times” “That’s Where It’s At” and two renditions of the classic “A Change Is Gonna Come”. Alston inherited some big shoes and has filled them admirably for over seventeen years.

The son of Rev. J.B. Alston and the nephew of gospel great, Johnny Fields of the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Alston learned his trade in church. As a teen he formed Gerald Alston & the New Imperials, a group that performed both secular and religious music, calling themselves The Gospel Jubilee when they appeared in churches.

During a local appearance, he met the Manhattans when they borrowed equipment from his band. When the Manhattans heard Gerald rehearsing, they loved what they heard and asked the 17-year-old to join the group.

Alston took over as their lead singer in 1970. The group enjoyed enormous success in the 70s and 80s with songs such as “There's No Me Without You”, “Wish That You Were Mine”, “Hurt”, “We Never Danced To A Love Song”, “Don't Take Your Love From Me”, “I Kinda Miss You” and “It Feels So Good To Be Loved So Bad”. Their 1976 single “Kiss and Say Goodbye” was both a number one R&B and Pop hit. The Manhattans won a Grammy in 1980 for the big hit “Shining Star”.

Alston has made many friends over the course of his career. Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke is a reunion of many of his family and friends. His cousin Dwight Fields, a son the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Johnny Fields, joins him on “Bring It on Home to Me”. Alston and Fields create as much fire as Cooke and Lou Rawls did when they first recorded it in 1962.

Alston received a little help from some of his friends for this project. Al Goodman, of Ray, Goodman & Brown fame and a huge fan of fellow Mississippian Cooke, was the co-producer on this tribute CD.

Fellow Manhattan, Blue Lovett, the sweet talking bass/baritone and Alston’s partner in rhyme and crime for the past 30 years, can be heard on” Chain Gang”. Eban Brown, one-time member of the Manhattans, Delfonic, Stylistic and Ray, Goodman & Brown, plays guitar on “Sentimental Reasons” and the studio recording of “A Change Is Gonna Come”.

His live rendition is fire and brimstone and takes you back to church.

Alston’s following today is Pan-African and international. He, along with the Manhattans, recently toured Cape Town, South Africa; Maputo, Mozambique; Osaka, Tokyo, and Fukuoka, Japan; and Hamilton, Bermuda. Jamaica, Chile and Europe also have been blessed by appearances from Alston and crew.

The last word on Alston comes from Sam Cooke’s brother L.C. Cooke. L.C is unwavering in his love for Alston.

L.C.points out on the liner notes, “Gerald Alston is easily one of the best singers of today. He is soulful, and you can understand every word he is saying. One thing that Sam Cooke loved is a great singer, and Gerald is a great singer. Gerald is the kind of singer that most singers listen to and wish they could sing like him. If you buy this CD and you don’t like it, I will personally give you your money back. I consider Gerald Alston my Little Brother.”

Gerald Alston, L.C. Cooke and Norman (Otis) Richmond will be guests on the Spider’s Web, CFRB 1010AM, Sunday, June 29 at 4p.m. The Spider Jones Show will celebrate Black Music Month with a tribute to Sam Cooke.

Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke can be purchased

Toronto-based journalist and radio producer Norman (Otis) Richmond is the co-founder, along with the late Milton Blake, of the BMA/TC. He can be heard on Diasporic Music, Thursdays, 8 p.m.-10 p. m., and Saturday Morning Live, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-1 p. m. on CKLN-FM 88.1 and on the internet at . He can be reached by phone at 416-979-5251 x2372 or by e-mail at

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