#178: Otis Blue, Otis Redding
Another album review, another musician that was taken too soon. Just two years after this one came out, Otis Redding died in a plane crash at the age of 26, making him another member of the Almost-27-Club.
Alternatively titled Otis Redding Sings Soul, this album is mostly bluesy soul covers, including three Sam Cooke songs. I guess Sam Cooke was a big hero of his.
The problem with albums that are mostly covers is that you can’t help but compare every song to the original. I’m caught between wanting to figure out if these are *as good* as the original recordings, or trying to judge the album in its own right.
Of course, both are inevitable, and neither will please everyone. So I’ll just do a little of both, according to how I feel.
One final note: most of this was was recorded over twenty-four hours! Seriously?! Was the man guzzling honey tea or something? He’s singing his lungs out, how did he not blow a vocal gasket?
“Ole Man Trouble” — This is just an awesome original song with a sweet blues guitar under it.
“Down in the Valley” — Solomon Burke cover, and a damn good one. What gnarly vocalizations.
“Shake” — Another Cooke cover, and one that makes me want to dance.
“Rock Me Baby” — This is one of the most recorded blues songs of all time! First recorded by Melvin “Lil’ Son” Jackson, B.B. King and Muddy Waters did popular covers of this as well. But Otis Redding matches them — how great is this guitar solo?
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” — This is one of the coolest Rolling Stones’ covers I’ve ever heard. The RS blurb quotes Redding as noting, “I use a lot of words different than the Stones’ version. … That’s because I made them up.” Code for: The Rolling Stones stole this sound from me anyway.
“You Don’t Miss Your Water” — Cover of William Bell song, and another one that Redding basically stole from right under his nose. These lyrics are just gorgeous. You don’t miss your water/’Till your well runs dry.
SONGS I CAN’T DECIDE ABOUT:
“My Girl” — This Temptations cover is great, but the Temptations version is just so pretty.
“Wonderful World” — On the one hand I ADORE Sam Cooke’s version. There’s just something so classic about his backup singers, the production, Cooke’s crooning. And Sam Cooke’s is in both Animal House AND Hitch. On the other hand, Otis Redding does something really wild with it, and I can respect that.
LEAST FAVORITE SONGS:
“Respect” — I reacted so viscerally to this original song, which was made famous by Her Majesty Aretha Franklin. I hate this message coming from a man, even though it’s objectively a great song. Aretha did what Otis does for most of this album and stole his song.
IS RS FULL OF IT?
Does an album composed mostly of covers deserve to be here? It didn’t take me very long to be convinced. I knew (and loved) a good chunk of the originals, but I was still blown away by what Otis Redding does to them. He has such a sense of ownership that if I didn’t know that these were mostly covers, I would never guess.