Tuesday, July 24, 2007

No. 74: Otis Blue

Band: Otis Redding
Album: Otis Blue
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Otis Redding's third album contains his recording of some really well-known songs. Not surprisingly, Otis hits them out of the park, packing them with soul.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: For one, each of the good songs on the record was done by someone else in a superior form.
Best song: Some say his version of "Respect" (he wrote it) is better than Aretha's, though I'd disagree. The best song on the album is the oldie "Wonderful World."
Worst song: "You Don't Miss Your Water" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Sure, it's Otis' best record.

Otis Redding is one of the great songwriters of the '60s, penning "Try a Little Tenderness," "Respect" (on this album), and "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay." More importantly, he had one of the better voices in the history of pop music. His voice wasn't sweet like Al Green's or soft like Curtis Mayfield, it was somewhere below that, with a tinge of grit that gave his music a slightly more dangerous feel.

Most of the songs on "Otis Blue" are not Redding originals (he wrote or co-wrote only three of the 11 tracks) and one of those originals is considered the signature song of another artist ("Respect"). Still, Otis puts his stamp on each song in a way that'll have you reimagining the songs.

The Smokey Robinson-penned "My Girl" loses a little of its innocence when Otis sings it, while the line "Don't know much about history" rolls off his tongue in "Wonderful World."

Otis' versions of Sam Cooke's "Shake" and "A Change Is Gonna Come" are wonderfully divergent, with Otis, well, shaking out the former and crooning, hopefully, the latter.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Otis' version of "Respect." I'll say this: "Satisfaction" holds up under nearly ever cover I've heard (my favorite version, of course, is Cat Power's, followed by Devo's), and this one is no different. Otis seemingly makes up words ("satis-fashion," for one), but fills in the instrumental breaks with "got ta"s and "baby"s that augment the song in a way Mick Jagger only wish he could.

It's probably Otis' strongest album, front to back. And for that, it's deserving of its 74 rating.

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