Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sam Cooke: Night Beat [RCA/Legacy, 2005]
Musically, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame charter member Sam Cooke is a stumper. His voice wasn't just smooth and gritty at the same time, it was infinitely relaxed--for the many who adore it, a sing-the-phone-book voice. But he was so intent on the pop market that some curmudgeons might prefer the phone book to his orchestral accompaniments. But this album gets points for conceiving pop as lounge r&b rather than violin schlock even if Cooke isn't always up to the blues-tinged standards he covers and tries to write. [Blender: 3]