Sam Cooke‘s voice took center stage on this admirably low-key session from February 1963, recorded in Los Angeles with a quartet of studio veterans. Unlike so many session crews and producers of the time, these musicians gave him plenty of space and often simply framed Cooke‘s breathtaking vocals. On one of the best tracks here, “Lost and Lookin'”, he’s barely accompanied at all; only bass and cymbals can be heard far in the background. “Night Beat” is the best place to marvel at one of the best voices of the century. The songs are intimate blues, but despite the dark shading and heart-rending tempos, Cooke‘s voice is so transcendent it’s difficult to become depressed while listening. Cooke also wrote three of the songs, including the excellent “Mean Old World” and rendered the traditional “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” practically unfamiliar with his own re-arrangement. Cooke also stretches out on a pair of jump blues classics, “Little Red Rooster” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll”. If Sam Cooke had lived longer, there would’ve been several more sessions like this, but “Night Beat” is an even richer treasure for its rarity.