Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul

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Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul
Studio album by Otis Redding
Released September 15, 1965
Recorded April 19 and July 9–10, 1965
Stax Recording Studios
(Memphis, Tennessee)
Genre Soul, R&B
Length 32:22
Label Volt/Atco
Volt 412
Producer Jim Stewart, Isaac Hayes, David Porter
Otis Redding chronology
The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads
(1965)
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
(1965)
The Soul Album
(1966)

Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul, or simply Otis Blue, released September 15, 1965 on Stax Records, is the third studio album by soul singer Otis Redding. The album mainly consists of cover songs by popular R&B and soul artists, and, bar one track, was recorded in a 24-hour period over July 9/10 1965 at the Stax Recording Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Otis Blue was critically acclaimed upon release and became one of Redding's most successful albums; it reached number 6 on the UK Albums Chart, and was his first to reach the top spot of the Billboard R&B chart. Furthermore, it produced three popular singles, all charting at least in the top 50 on both the Billboard R&B and the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It is considered by many critics to be Redding's first fully realized album.[1]

Three of the eleven songs were written by Redding: "Ole Man Trouble", "Respect", and "I've Been Loving You Too Long". Three songs were written by Sam Cooke, a soul musician who had died a few months earlier. As was the case in the previous albums, Redding was backed by house band Booker T. & the M.G.'s, a horn section of members of The Mar-Keys and The Memphis Horns, and pianist Isaac Hayes.

Otis Blue is included in a number of "best album" lists, including Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Time magazine's list of the All-Time 100 Greatest Albums, and Robert Dimery's "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die". Rhino Records released a two-disc Collectors Edition of Otis Blue in 2008.

Recording[edit]

The Stax crew during the recording of Otis Blue, from left to right: Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, engineer Tom Dowd, David Porter, Julius Green of the Mad Lads (seated with his back to the camera), Andrew Love, Floyd Newman, Wayne Jackson, Isaac Hayes

Stax Records president Jim Stewart had released Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine" after hearing him sing it at an audition in 1962; and when it charted, he signed Redding to Stax.[2] Following the moderately successful Pain in My Heart and The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, both of which performed well in the newly established Billboard R&B LP chart but not in the Billboard 200,[3] preparations for the third studio album followed soon after. The album would be Redding's third studio album and second on Stax's sister label Volt.[4][5]

Redding recorded the album with the Stax's house band Booker T. & the M.G.'s (guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, drummer Al Jackson Jr.), Isaac Hayes on piano, and a horn section consisting of members of the Mar-Keys and the Memphis Horns. The album was recorded in a 24 hour session between 10am July 9 (a Saturday) and July 10 2pm, with a break from 8pm Saturday to 2am on Sunday to allow the house band to play local gigs.[6][7][8][9] As was the case with the previous album, engineer Tom Dowd came to the studios to assist the recording, dubbing Redding as a "genius" next to Bobby Darin and Ray Charles.[10] The album opens with "Ole Man Trouble", which was finished on the sessions earlier than other songs, and was later released as a B-side of "Respect".[3] According to the drummer, Jackson, Redding wrote "Respect", after a conversation they had during a break in the recording session, in which he told Redding: "You're on the road all the time. All you can look for is a little respect when you come home."[11] An alternative story is told by Redding's friend and road manager, Earl "Speedo" Sims, who states that the song "came from a group I was singing with", and that even though Redding rewrote it, "a lot of the lyric was still there"; Sims adds: "He told me I would get a credit, but I never did".[12] Sims also states that he sang the backing chorus of "Hey hey hey".[3] The song used for the fifth track, "I've Been Loving You Too Long", had been previously recorded in mono with Booker T. Jones on piano and released as a single in April 1965, becoming a number-two hit on Billboard's R&B chart; it was rerecorded in stereo for the album.[3]

Composition[edit]

The majority of the tracks on Otis Blue are cover versions, including three by Sam Cooke who had been shot dead the previous December.[13] The album opens with the "mournfully harried" "Ole Man Trouble". For Claudrena N. Harold of PopMatters, the song is one of his most phantasmagoric tunes.[14][15] The lyrics deal with a man, who is "unable to escape the brutal realities of the blues",[14] and has been compared with Paul Robeson's "Ole Man River".[16] "Respect" was inspired by a quote of drummer Al Jackson, Jr., who allegedly said to Redding after a tour, "What are you griping about? You're on the road all the time. All you can look for is a little respect when you come home."[17]

Essentially a ballad, "Respect" is an uptempo and energetic song, which took "a day to write, 20 minutes to arrange, and one take to record", according to Redding.[16] Aretha Franklin covered this song in 1967 and with it topped the Billboard R&B and Pop charts.[18] Redding shouted to a woman for more respect, while Franklin ironically countered the song and transformed it into a "feminist hymn".[16] The next song is an energetic version of Sam Cooke's ballad, "Change Gonna Come"; a protest against racial segregation and disrespect for black people.[19] "Down in the Valley" is a funky cover of Solomon Burke's original, with whom Redding toured before the recording.[14][20] Nate Patrin of Pitchfork felt that the song "ratchets up both the gospel beatitude and the secular lust".[15]

The love song "I've Been Loving You Too Long" was co-written by Redding and The Impressions' lead singer Jerry Butler in a hotel near the Atlanta airport.[3] Redding's rendition of Cooke's "Shake" is again more funky. The song is about the club dancing in the so-called discothèques, which debuted in the early 1960s.[21] The song was described as "a hard-swinging, full-throated 2:40 of precision ferocity with a force that would flat-out explode during his live sets."[15] The last five songs are all covers by popular artists: The Temptations' "My Girl", written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White; Cooke's "Wonderful World"; B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby"; The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction", on which Redding sings "fashion" instead of "faction";[3] and William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water", which was characterized as "sorrowful country blues",[14] and has "one of the most devastating pleading-man lead vocals in the entire Stax catalog."[15] "Satisfaction" sounded so plausible that a journalist even accused the Stones of stealing the song from Redding, and that they performed it after Redding.[22] Music writer Robert Christgau describes it as an "anarchic reading" of the Stones' original.[23]

Reception[edit]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album's commercial performance helped Redding crossover into the pop market.[24] Although it only reached number 75 on the Billboard 200 in 1966,[25] three of its singles charted on the Billboard Hot 100: "I've Been Loving You Too Long" charted for 11 weeks and peaked at number 21, "Respect" spent 11 weeks and reached number 35, and "Shake" spent six weeks and reached number 47.[26] Both stereo and mono pressing of Otis Blue charted in the United Kingdom; the former spent 21 weeks and reached number six in 1966, and the latter spent 54 weeks and reached number seven in 1967.[27] Two different pressings of the song "My Girl" also charted in the UK; a 7-inch single peaked at number 11 and charted for 16 weeks in 1965, and a reissued single in 1968 reached number 36 and charted for nine weeks.[27] "Satisfaction" peaked at number 33 and "Shake" peaked at number 28 in the UK.[27] On November 18, 2004, Otis Blue was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry, for shipments of 60,000 copies in the UK.[28]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[13]
Blender 4/5 stars[23]
Memphis Flyer A+[6]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[15]
PopMatters 9/10[14]
Q 5/5 stars[29]
Record Collector 5/5 stars[30]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[31]
Virgin Encyclopedia 5/5 stars[24]

Otis Blue has been regarded by music critics as Redding's best work.[24] Bruce Eder of Allmusic wrote that "Redding's powerful, remarkable singing throughout makes Otis Blue gritty, rich, and achingly alive, and an essential listening experience." He also felt the album "presents his talent unfettered, his direction clear, and his confidence emboldened".[13] Angus Taylor of BBC Music commented that it stands "at the crossroads of pop, rock, gospel, blues and soul", and asserted that the album contains "a set of short, punchy covers and originals, flawlessly ordered to ebb and flow between stirring balladry and foot stomping exuberance". He dubbed the album Redding's "definitive statement".[32] Blender music critic Robert Christgau called Otis Blue, "the first great album by one of soul's few reliable long-form artists" and gave its 2004 collector's edition four out of five stars, which he said "comes with many useless alternate takes, but also with live tracks that preserve for history Redding's country-goes-uptown style of fun".[23]

Nate Patrin of Pitchfork Media cited the album as the 1960s' "greatest studio-recorded soul LP", and further stated that it is "a hell of a record, the crowning achievement of a man who could sound pained and celebratory and tender and gritty and proud all at once, with a voice that everyone from John Fogerty to Swamp Dogg to Cee-lo owes a debt to".[15] Claudrena N. Harold of PopMatters also praised the diverse sound, which, according to her, is a mixture of "Motown pop, the blues, British rock, and Southern Soul", although she cited Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul as Redding's best album.[14] Rolling Stone described the album as "Redding's true dictionary of soul, a stunning journey through the past and future vocabulary of R&B ... documenting a masterful artist rising to ... the immense challenge of his times."[33] In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Rolling Stone journalist Paul Evans gave Otis Blue five out of five stars and cited the album as Redding's "first masterwork".[31]

Accolades[edit]

Otis Blue is included in a number of "best album" lists. NME ranked it 35 on their list of the "Greatest Albums of All Time".[34] The album was also ranked 74 on the Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, 92 on Time magazine's list of the All-Time 100 Greatest Albums, and included in Q magazine's Best Soul Albums of All Time list. The album appeared in "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die".[35]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Ole Man Trouble"   Otis Redding 2:55
2. "Respect"   Redding 2:05
3. "Change Gonna Come"   Sam Cooke 4:17
4. "Down in the Valley"   Bert Berns, Solomon Burke, Babe Chivian, Joe Martin 3:02
5. "I've Been Loving You Too Long"   Redding, Jerry Butler 3:10
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "Shake"   Cooke 2:35
7. "My Girl"   Smokey Robinson, Ronald White 2:52
8. "Wonderful World"   Cooke, Lou Adler, Herb Alpert 3:00
9. "Rock Me Baby"   B. B. King 3:20
10. "Satisfaction"   Mick Jagger, Keith Richards 2:45
11. "You Don't Miss Your Water"   William Bell 2:53

Collector's Edition 2008[edit]

An expanded double disc set edition of Otis Blue was released in 2008 by Rhino Records, which includes both the stereo and mono versions of the album with bonus tracks that include B-sides, live tracks, and previously unreleased alternate mixes.[14][15]

Disc 1 track listing
Disc 2 track listing

Charts[edit]

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine (2003). All music guide to soul : the definitive guide to R&B and soul. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books. p. 568. ISBN 978-0-87930-744-8. 
  2. ^ Steven Otfinoski (2010). African Americans in the Performing Arts. Infobase Publishing. p. 193. Retrieved 24 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bowman 1997, p. 57.
  4. ^ Freeman 2002, p. 77.
  5. ^ Gulla 2007, pp. 401–408.
  6. ^ a b Stephen Deusner. "A Memphis-music landmark, lavishly re-released.". Contemporary Media. Retrieved July 21, 2012. 
  7. ^ John Metzger (May 19, 2008). "Otis Redding – Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (Album Review)". Musicbox-online.com. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ David Belcher (January 14, 1984). "Black star's posthumous come-back". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved July 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b David Fricke (May 15, 2008). "Otis Redding: Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul [Collector's Edition]". Rolling Stone. Straight Arrow. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  10. ^ Bowman 1997, p. 59.
  11. ^ Mark Bego (22 Mar 2001). Aretha Franklin: The Queen Of Soul. Da Capo Press. p. 96. Retrieved 24 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Peter Guralnick (2 May 2002). Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom. Canongate Books. pp. 183–184. Retrieved 24 October 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c Bruce Eder. "Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Harold, Claudrena N (May 2, 2008). "Otis Redding: Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul". PopMatters. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Patrin, Nate (May 9, 2008). "Otis Redding: Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (Collector's Edition)". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c Neil Spencer. "Otis Redding – Otis Blue (Collector's Edition)". Uncut (IPC Media). ISSN 1368-0722. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  17. ^ Black 2008, p. 71.
  18. ^ "Aretha Franklin – Charts & Awards – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  19. ^ Matthew Greenwald. "A Change Is Gonna Come – Otis Redding : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Otis Blue Deluxe – antiMUSIC News". Antimusic.com. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  21. ^ Matthew Greenwald. "Shake – Otis Redding : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  22. ^ Wyman & Coleman 1990, p. 480.
  23. ^ a b c Christgau, Robert (May 2008). "Otis Redding: Otis Blue—Otis Redding Sings Soul". Blender. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  24. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin encyclopedia of popular music. London: Virgin Books In association with Muze UK. ISBN 978-1-85227-923-3. 
  25. ^ "Otis Redding – Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  26. ^ "Otis Redding Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Hot 100. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  27. ^ a b c "Otis Redding". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  28. ^ a b "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved July 10, 2011.  Note: User needs to enter "Otis Redding" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
  29. ^ "Otis Blue review". Q (Bauer Media): 92. February 1993. ISSN 0955-4955. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  30. ^ Lewis, Alan (June 2008). "Otis Redding – Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul: Collector's Edition". Record Collector (Diamond Publishing). ISSN 0261-250X. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  31. ^ a b Nathan Brackett, Christian David Hoard, ed. (2004). 2004 The new Rolling Stone album guide. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. 
  32. ^ Taylor, Angus (December 7, 2007). "Otis Redding Otis Blue Review". BBC Music. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Otis Blue review". Rolling Stone (Straight Arrow): 114. August 17, 2000. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  34. ^ "Greatest Albums of All Time". NME (IPC Media): 29. 10/2/93. ISSN 0028-6362. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  35. ^ "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die". Rocklist.net. Retrieved November 15, 2011. 
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Otis Redding – Awards : AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved October 4, 2012. 
Bibliography

External links[edit]