the cream of the crate – album #1: howling wolf

cream of the crate: album #2 – otis redding_otis blue/otis redding sings soul This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site which was abandoned for its current site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site

"Otis was the Crown Prince of Soul" - RollingStone, January 20th 1968. "Otis Redding seemed possessed. We just went along with it" - Booker T. Jones on recording Otis Blue

The second album I’m featuring is a tribute to the influence of the Soul Masters, and influence on contemporary music especially of the 1960’s, that can’t be overstated.

Otis Redding was born in 1941 and given the name Otis Redding, Jr. He and his family moved to Macon Georgia when he was five years old.

At an early age he began his career as a singer and musician in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church. Determined to help his family financially, he began to compete in the local Douglass Theatre talent shows for the five-dollar prize. However, after winning the competition 15 times straight, he was banned from competing any further.

At 19 he joined Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers and would also sing at the “Teenage Party” talent shows sponsored by local celebrity disc jockey King Bee. These were held on Saturday mornings initially at the Roxy Theater and later at the Douglass Theatre in Macon.

In order to do a recording session in October 1962 at Stax Records, Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, including Otis, drove to the studio at Memphis Tennessee.  This was the first time Otis had been in a recording studio – it would not be his last.

At the end of the session, Stax co-owner Jim Stewart who had been overwhelmed by the power of Otis’ voice, allowed him to cut a couple of songs with the remaining studio time.

The result was “These Arms of Mine”, released in 1962 and Otis was on his way to fame.

A total of six albums were released during Otis’ life (and a further four posthumously). Redding died just three days after recording Dock of the Bay, and one day before the third anniversary of Sam Cook’s death.

Like other notable music greats before and since, his death was a result of an airplane crash. The year was December 10, 1967!

His death was as tragic for soul music and American music in general, as was Buddy Holly’s.

It can be said that the halcyon days of Soul was during the period that Otis sang and it is just as easy to justify this statement. They were the halcyon years of the style and mainly because of him. Certainly he wasn’t alone, with artists such as Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Solomon Burke (to name a few), but he shone brighter than any of them.

In 1967 he replaced Elvis Presley as the world’s top male vocalist in the Melody Maker poll, a position Presley had held for eight years.

Otis Blue (Volt 412), was released in 1965 and I believe is among the best albums ever released.

cream of the crate: album #2 – otis redding_otis blue/otis redding sings soul
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 This is in my mind his finest album. It reached the #1 position on the Billboard R&B album chart and NME ranked it 35 on their list from 1993 of the “Greatest Albums of All Time”. Finally, the album was also ranked 74 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

It is one simply fabulous album. It encompasses all of Redding’s styles of singing including the rocking style of Satisfaction & Respect.

Respect was popularised by Aretha Franklin and more people know of her versions than Otis’, but comparing them is almost futile – they are both superb.

Respect

 

Then there was the the “Church Style’ of Change Is Gonna Come. It was first recorded by another great soul singer – Sam Cooke. No disrespect to the great Sam Cooke, but Otis just “kills” this song – the emotion he pours into this song would have the needle of the “emotion-ometer”, bending around the peg.

If you don’t get shivers up your spine listening to this track – then you are a hard person indeed!

Change Is Gonna Come

 

His ability to change pace and emotions was stunning as exemplified by his sublime ballads such as I’ve Been Loving You Too Long and, My Girl.

My Girl was originally recorded by The Temptations. What Otis has done is to take a damn fine soul track and just introduced enough “traditional blues” feeling to make it part his own distinctive style.

The track was Produced by the amazing Steve Cropper.

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May
I guess you’d say
What can make me feel this way?
My girl (my girl, my girl)
Talkin’ ’bout my girl (my girl)
 
I’ve got so much honey the bees envy me
I’ve got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees
I guess you’d say
What can make me feel this way?
My girl (my girl, my girl)
Talkin’ ’bout my girl (my girl)
 
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Ooh
 
I don’t need no money, fortune, or fame
I’ve got all the riches baby one man can claim
I guess you’d say
What can make me feel this way?
My girl (my girl, my girl)
Talkin’ ’bout my girl (my girl)
 
I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day
With my girl
 
I’ve even got the month of May
With my girl

 

My Girl

 

This album has pride of place in my collection which is the original U.S.A pressing.  The selection of tracks on it are among his finest and it is well worn through many plays.  Over recent years I have purchased it on CD, but the vinyl copy is where the preciousness lives. 

Side 1. 
1. Ole man trouble 
2. Respect 
3. Change Gonna Come 
4. Down In The Valley
5. I’ve Been loving You Too Long 

Side 2.
1. Shake
2. My Girl
3. Wonderful World
4. Rock Me Baby
5. Satisfaction
6. You Don’t Miss Your Water

Redding received many posthumous accolades, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

VIDEOS

Try A Little Tenderness

 

Satisfaction (Monterey ’67)

Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay

 


 

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

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#1 – Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues