We’re nearly home (thank, Christ!), zipping across the sky at 35,000ft. Hopefully, our flight will not be turned around like the other flight that left yesterday and had to return back to Cuba thanks to mechanical issues. Truthfully, if that happens on this flight I hope that our pilot opts instead to crash land in the middle of the Caribbean and we’ll just take our chances. At least the food promises to be better.
That means there’s time for one last album (in fact, the last album on my iPod), the ‘Otis Blue‘ album by Otis Redding.
Released on September 15th, 1965 on Stax Records, is the third studio album by the legendary soul singer. 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 9th and 10th (1965) at the Stax Recording Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. The album was critically acclaimed upon release and became one of Redding’s most successful albums; it reached #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 (Redding’s idol), a soul musician who had died only 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”. My Bible (Mojo, August 1995) ranks it at #31.
Besides his tributes to Cooke, 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‘, ‘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 the album gritty, rich, and achingly alive, and an essential listening experience.
And thus, my reentry back into normal life begins.