Otis Redding’s classic 1966 live performances recorded on the Sunset Strip at the Whiskey A Go Go have been released in numerous contexts for decades now. They are all classic recordings and are the basis for the subject here. I would like to direct everyone’s attention to the fact that 2016 saw the release of the definitive version of those recordings with “Live at The Whiskey A Go Go: The complete recordings.”
Recorded over three nights, April 8th – 10th, 1966, at the Whiskey A Go Go on the Sunset Strip, Otis Redding and the Otis Redding Revue pull out all the stops and leave the listener with one of the greatest live albums ever recorded hands down! When these recordings were made Otis was very popular in the soul and R&B world and his label was now trying to market him to the younger rock and roll audience of the 1960’s. At the time, the Sunset Strip was home to bands such as The Doors and The Byrds and Redding wanted to tap into that audience.
The 6-disc set repeats many tunes throughout. One particular staple of Redding’s live shows was a fantastic cover of the Rolling Stone’s “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” On this box set we hear here it covered ten times total over the six discs, but it never gets old! If you are only familiar with The Stones’ version of this song, do yourself a favor and check out any of the versions from Otis and his Revue on this box set. Some of them stretch over eight minutes and it is a hearty helping of soul stew at its finest! There are even great covers of James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night,” which had also turned into a staple of Redding’s live shows. We also get to hear the classic “Respect,” originally written by Otis but later made famous by Aretha Franklin.
Listening to the box set in its entirety gives you the closest feeling to being at a live Otis Redding show, especially for those of us who were never fortunate enough to see him. Many of the classic Otis Redding tracks are here, from “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and “Pain In My Heart” to great ballads like “Just One More Day” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Redding’s voice is in top form and even on the slow ballads the energy and power just emanates throughout. It’s interesting to hear Otis mention numerous times throughout the sets that they are recording a live album. So many songs were hammered away multiple times, set after set, with the intention of getting that one fantastic track that would be THE take on the live LP. I’m sure in 1966 Otis Redding would have never imagined that 50 years later all of the performances would be released in this iconic box set! Luckily for us they are.
Redding introduces a new song at the time called “Good to Me” and even tells the crowd that they are going to repeat it in the same set so they can really nail it! Different versions of these recordings have been released over the years in multiple forms, the most recent being 2010’s double disc set “Live on the Sunset Strip.” None of them compare to this historical box which is live Otis at its finest! Curiously the album was never released in Otis’ lifetime. The story goes that the Stax label and the powers-that-be felt the recordings were a little bit too raw and rough for the time and the project was shelved. During the late 60’s and 70’s, after Otis’ tragic passing, the demand for more of his material was pressure enough to get various tracks released sporadically and live compilations of these recordings in different formats were released as well.
Otis never saw the huge impact he would have on that rock and roll audience he was trying to reach in 1966. His biggest hit, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” which helped him reach a crossover audience, was released posthumously. It’s sad that Otis never got to see the impact of that song. He did, however, get to see and feel that he was accepted by that audience. At the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Otis scorched the place with an awesome performance backed by Booker T. and the MG’s, and everyone left there with his name on their lips. He was thrilled to know that the “love crowd” of the 1960’s had now accepted him and they wanted more. It’s just sad he never lived to see the results.
But in April of 1966 Otis Redding and The Otis Redding Revue was hungry and grasping to reach that market any way they could. This new box set showcases that hunger and you can feel the energy throughout the entire six CD’s. It’s not often that I tell people they need a recording. This is one of them! Do yourself a favor and get this now! You will hear history and one of the greatest live recordings ever made. Thanks for the music, Otis Redding!