Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Otis Blue - Otis Redding

Otis Blue
Otis Redding
Volt Records 412

What is Otis Redding's best studio album?  I know a lot of people pick "Dictionary of Soul" but "Otis Blue" gets my vote.  On only his third studio album, Redding takes on the heavyweights of soul and triumphs everytime.  His principal victim is Sam Cooke.  I admire Cooke but as a singer he can't hold a candle to Redding.  Redding takes "Shake" and makes it his own.  No one will ever top his version.  He also delivers an unbelievably moving performance of "Change Gonna Come" and makes the sappy "Wonderful World" sound sincere and convincing, no mean feat, just ask James Taylor.  He makes Mick Jagger seem like a naive kid with his classic cover of "Satisfaction."  He edges Solomon Burke on "Down In the Valley" and scores easy decisions over William Bell and the Temptations with his magnificent versions of "You Don't Miss Your Water" and "My Girl."  His version of "Rock Me Baby" is definitive with some brilliant guitar playing from Steve Cropper.  On top of all that he wrote three classic songs for this album.  The passionate "Ole Man Trouble" would be a career topper for many artists and it is the weakest of the three.  "I've Been Loving You Too Long," which Redding co-wrote with the great Jerry Butler, is pure emotion.  Redding was justly famous for his energetic performances, but he could deliver a slow ballad with incendiary power as well.  This song melts me every time I hear it.  I think "Respect" is one of the greatest songs in the history of soul, a landmark in the history of pop music in the 1960s.  Aretha Franklin's cover is the best version, but getting topped by the Queen of Soul isn't much of a disgrace and Redding's version is still pretty awesome in its own right.  This is a perfect record, every song is great.  My only complaint about it is the cover, no picture of Redding?  Did some marketing clown think putting a cute white model on the cover would sell more records?  Despite the dubious packaging, the vinyl inside is pure gold.  This album established Redding as a true master, the greatest soul man of all time, one of the greatest pop performers of the 20th Century.  I know I'm prone to hyperbole, but I really mean it, I've never heard a greater performer.  The man was an absolute titan.  Recommended for anyone who thinks that December 10, 1967 was just as much the day the music died as February 3, 1959.

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