Classic Album: Otis Blue / Otis Redding Sings Soul

otis-reddingThe album kicks off with “Ole Man Trouble,” a Redding composition that features the classic Memphis Horns loud and proud.

“Respect” was originally written by Otis, but most people today know the version made popular by the great Aretha Franklin. The two versions sound drastically different and we are treated to the original here on this LP.

Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come” is up next and Redding definitely puts his own spin on it. Otis had a great way of interpreting other people’s music and making it all his own and “Change Gonna Come” is a great example. Listening to the emotion he packed into this song, it’s hard to believe that he didn’t write the lyrics himself.

“Like a brilliant chef taking an old recipe and making it new again,
Otis continues through familiar classics…”

“Down In The Valley” shows us that no one can groove like Otis Redding, and the ballad “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” is some of his finest work. Check out clips of Otis performing the tune at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 for some of the best live singing of all time.

Otis Blue features the great Booker T & the MG’s and The Memphis Horns throughout. These guys were basically the Stax house band and everything you hear on that label from that era, whether it be Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, or Otis Redding, you can bet that Booker T & the MG’s and The Memphis Horns are laying down the music behind the artist.

otis_redding_1967“Shake” is a Sam Cooke track that started up side two on the original album format of Otis Blue. Otis was known to use this track live to open many shows including the aforementioned Monterey Pop performance in 1967.

Like a brilliant chef taking an old recipe and making it new again, Otis continues through familiar classics: everyone knows the great Motown tune “My Girl,” and
“Wonderful World” continues in that vein. Yet another Sam Cooke tune, Otis pays tribute to his idol with this great offering. “Rock Me Baby” from BB King follows, showcasing Steve Cropper’s legendary guitar playing.

Of course, it’s not all about interpreting old favorites. Otis Redding was always known for embracing new music and trying to continually push the envelope. His desire to compete with newer artists is what made him create his biggest hit “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay.”
But returning to the classics, he then covers the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction,” horn lines and all. Redding pulled this one out constantly in his live shows; he often raised the tempo and rode the tune out for minutes on end until it climaxed in a musical frenzy.

Otis Blue concludes with the classic William Bell penned “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” This is a Stax soul ballad at its finest and no one ever sang this tune like Otis Redding.

In 2008, Rhino records released an expanded double-disc set of Otis Blue which included both stereo and mono mixes of the classic album along with B-sides, live tracks, bonus tracks and unreleased alternate mixes.

It is an essential album that everyone should have.

Todd Beebe

Todd Beebe

Todd Beebe is a full time musician/teacher in the Chicago area and a staff writer at BG: Blues And Music News. His first exposure to music was hearing his Grandfather's bands playing Traditional Country music by the likes of Hank Williams Sr., The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Tracing the roots of that music lead him to his love of the Blues. Todd is available for private guitar instruction at All About Music, Inc. in Mokena, IL. 708-479-0440 www.AllAboutMusicMokena.com For more info contact him @ 708-214-6459 or visit www.ToddBeebeMusic.com.

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