Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2008, Volume 15, #5
Written by John Metzger
Mon May 19, 2008, 08:30 AM CDT
In the 1960s, artists were given little leeway until they could prove their worth. Everything revolved around scoring a successful single, and as a result, albums typically were made as afterthoughts. So, whenever an opportunity presented itself, it was imperative that everything humanly possible was done to take advantage of the situation. It was precisely within this scenario that Otis Redding’s third outing Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul was born. Yet, instead of sounding like an uneven set on which the hits stood out like sore thumbs, it became the model from which everything that followed now seems to have emerged.
Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul ought to have been a mess of an album. When I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, a song that Redding co-wrote with Jerry Butler, lit up the charts, a studio session was crammed into his busy touring schedule. He only had two other original compositions to contribute to the collection — Ole Man Trouble and Respect — though he knew he also wanted to pay homage to Sam Cooke, who had been fatally shot just a few months earlier, by covering Change Gonna Come, Shake, and Wonderful World. The remainder of the material, however, was selected at the last minute, including a cover of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, which Redding literally learned on the spot.
Hastily recorded in a single 24-hour period — which was split into two sessions by the musicians’ nighttime club engagements — and released in September 1965, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul is a bona-fide classic, one that is held together by how well the sunniness of the tracks cut during daylight countered the dusky nature of the after-hours fare. Ranging from The Temptations’ Motown hit My Girl to Solomon Burke’s Down in the Valley and from the sexual swagger of B.B. King’s Rock Me Baby to the anguished heartache of William Bell’s You Don’t Miss Your Water, it also is a brilliantly original summation of the era’s soul music scene. It helped, of course, that Redding was backed by a stellar cast that included Stax staples Booker T. & the MG’s, Isaac Hayes, and the Mar-Key Horns. Guitarist Steve Cropper, in particular, never failed to lace the material with a raw, emotional edge, while Wayne Jackson, Andrew Love, and Floyd Newman accented it with sharp, brassy outbursts.
The star of Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, however, always has been Redding himself. In just a few short years, he had come a long way as both a songwriter and a vocalist, and this was his big moment to show the world what he could do. Fully confident and mature, he passionately approached the material like a preacher addressing his flock, and his reading of Change Gonna Come is essentially the moment when he picked up the reigns from Sam Cooke and ran with them. That it immediately followed Respect — which in actuality is a plea from one lover to another — certainly wasn’t a coincidence nor was this a point that was lost on Aretha Franklin.
If there ever was an album that truly deserved the expanded, collector’s edition treatment, it’s Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, and Rhino’s new two-disc rendition of the outing doesn’t disappoint, either. First and foremost, the effort is presented in its entirety in both stereo and mono formats. In addition, there also is an abundance of live material, several alternate takes, and a pair of B-Sides (I’m Depending on You and Any Ole Way). Every time Redding tackled a tune, he seemed to find a new method of interpreting it by, for example, altering either the pace or his phrasing. His frantic and exhilarating rendition of Respect from 1967 most blatantly makes this case, but backed by two different bands, the concert cuts from the Whisky A Go Go in April 1966 and his European tour in March 1967 provide an illuminating glimpse at the intensity of Redding’s rapid evolution.
Of Further Interest...
Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul is available from Amazon.com.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box