Otis Redding – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)

Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (often referred to simply as Otis Blue) is the third studio album by American soul singer Otis Redding. It was first released on September 15, 1965, by Volt Records.

The album mainly consists of cover versions of other R&B and soul artists’ hits, and, bar one track, was recorded in 24 hours over July 9 and 10, 1965, at the Stax Recording Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Otis Blue was critically acclaimed 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.

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 many “best album” lists, including Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Time magazine’s list of the All-Time 100 Greatest Albums

Track Listing:

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
1. “Shake” Cooke 2:35
2. “My Girl” Smokey Robinson, Ronald White 2:52
3. “Wonderful World” Cooke, Lou Adler, Herb Alpert 3:00
4. “Rock Me Baby” B.B. King 3:20
5. “Satisfaction” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards 2:45
6. “You Don’t Miss Your Water” William Bell 2:53

Review: Otis Redding’s third album, and his first fully realized album, presents his talent unfettered, his direction clear, and his confidence emboldened, with fully half the songs representing a reach that extended his musical grasp. More than a quarter of this album is given over to Redding’s versions of songs by Sam Cooke, his idol, who had died the previous December, and all three are worth owning and hearing. Two of them, “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “Shake,” are every bit as essential as any soul recordings ever made, and while they (and much of this album) have reappeared on several anthologies, it’s useful to hear the songs from those sessions juxtaposed with each other, and with “Wonderful World,” which is seldom compiled elsewhere. Also featured are Redding’s spellbinding renditions of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (a song epitomizing the fully formed Stax/Volt sound and which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards originally wrote in tribute to and imitation of Redding’s style), “My Girl,” and “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” “Respect” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” two originals that were to loom large in his career, are here as well; the former became vastly popular in the hands of Aretha Franklin and the latter was an instant soul classic. Among the seldom-cited jewels here is a rendition of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” that has the singer sharing the spotlight with Steve Cropper, his playing alternately elegant and fiery, with Wayne Jackson and Gene “Bowlegs” Miller’s trumpets and Andrew Love’s and Floyd Newman’s saxes providing the backing. Redding’s powerful, remarkable singing throughout makes Otis Blue gritty, rich, and achingly alive, and an essential listening experience. — Bruce Eder

Schill Score: 9.25/10

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