Otis Redding - Otis Blue - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Otis Redding - Otis Blue

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:1965-09-10
Otis Redding - Otis Blue
Otis Redding - Otis Blue

Otis Redding’s Otis Blue in its 32 minutes and 11 songs actually represents the true essence of soul music. Southern, Northern, whichever. Nothing more (do you need more?), nothing less. It is not only the representation of one of the greatest soul singers at his best but also the showcase of one of the strongest musical hotbeds epitomized in the Memphis Stax label and its in-house players, particularly Booker T. and The MG’s.

Apart from “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” that was recorded previously as a single, the other 10 songs were recorded in a period of 24 hours, including the gig Booker T and the guys had to go to!

Picking the best album out of the eight Redding recorded while he was alive is a task that is akin to splitting hairs with a butcher’s knife, but this third one, which adequately boasts the additional title of Otis Redding Sings Soul, is probably the winner. Otis and the players do it all - come up with three beautiful Redding originals (“Ole Man Trouble”, “Respect” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, the latter co-composed with Jerry Butler, another soul legend), pay a ‘mini’ tribute to Redding's idol Sam Cooke with three of his songs (“Change Gonna Come”, “Shake” and Wonderful World”), and on their way show their blues roots (BB King’s “Rock Me Baby”),  re-claim soul that inspired rock (“Satisfaction”, yes, that one), and do their take on both Detroit (“My Girl”) and Southern soul (William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water”).

Not only that you can’t fault the concept or any of the interpretations, but some actually stand at the top of the soul pantheon. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” is certainly one of the best songs Redding wrote (albeit with Butler), and his rendition is certainly the definitive one. Probably also definitive is his version of Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come”, Redding bringing to it all the passion and love for Cooke, and even more for the song’s message, which was somewhat diluted by Cooke’s producers attempting to ‘sweeten’ the original with strings.

In a way, tables were in that ‘respect’ reversed on Redding for a song he wrote - “Respect”- while his version is as brilliant as it is, Aretha Franklin’s is still the iconic one. As far as William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, you can go with a sports term on this one and call it a split decision.

Not particularly mentioning any of the other songs would be a sacrilege, as they are all here performed as they really are - true soul classics, with Redding and the players showing that soul is soul, no matter where it came from (“My Girl”) and why the bands like The Stones were right when they took their questions from soul and RnB in the first place (“Satisfaction”). Oh, and let's not forget Steve Cropper’s guitar solo on “Rock Me Baby” and why BB King himself once said that the simplest guitar solos are hardest to play.

Still, essentially, Otis Blue, with all the other contributions is the representation of one of the greatest singers of all time, soul or otherwise, at his prime. In every respect.

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