Entry count: 4900
Otis Redding with one of the all-time great R&B records

Otis Redding

Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul

Released: September 14th, 1965

10.0
Album Review Otis Redding

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1969.

Support Gaslight Records

Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul is one of the great albums of Rhythm and Blues. It’s probably bad form to frontload a music review with such a strong statement, but any other approach would feel disingenuous.

First, it’s an Otis Redding record. In and of itself this is a guarantee of quality. Redding’s vocals provide a master class in soul interpretation, and they maximize the emotional impact of every syllable. Otis Blue is no exception to the rule. On ballads like “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” Redding’s delivery practically drips with desperation. His up-tempo performances are equally adept—Redding’s voice forcefully propelling songs like “Shake” and “Respect”. Throughout Otis Blue, Redding’s vocals are authoritative.

Otis Blue seamlessly translates Motown, rock, and blues into the musical vernacular of Memphis soul through a handful of well-chosen covers.

Second, the backing band on Otis Blue is phenomenal. Although the original liner notes provide little information about the musicians on the session, Otis Blue features members Booker T. & The MG’s, the Mar-Keys, and the Memphis Horns. The album may be called Otis Blue, but the results are red hot. Fluent in all things soul, the band absolutely cooks on funky numbers like “Down in the Valley” and provides a graceful eloquence to support Redding on the album’s tender ballads. Throughout, the arrangements are economical—no clutter, no wasted notes. The songs are stripped to their emotional core and played for all they are worth.

Otis Redding with one of the all-time great R&B records

Yet, Otis Blue’s status as a benchmark album is grounded in more than the musicianship. After all, great vocals and a crack band define every other Otis Redding album. The real difference is to be found in the album’s impeccable material.

Perhaps more than any other soul record, Otis Blue is a veritable Rosetta Stone of the music of the 1960s. Otis Blue seamlessly translates Motown, rock, and blues into the musical vernacular of Memphis soul through a handful of well-chosen covers. On “Satisfaction” Redding takes the Rolling Stones classic to its logical conclusion, considering that the Stones had written the track with Redding in mind. Here he rocks it harder than the original, on top of a pounding bass figure and a persistently punchy horn line. Redding and the band turn in a stripped down and gritty performance on the sometimes-saccharine Motown classic “My Girl”, tersely illustrating the difference in sounds between Detroit and Memphis. The close relationship between electric blues and soul music is apparent in “Rock Me Baby” with Redding and the band romping through the B.B. King standard with sultry aplomb.

Otis Blue also neatly summarizes the soul music that had preceded it. In addition to three excellent Sam Cooke covers, and the smoking version of Solomon Burke’s “Down in the Valley”, Otis Blue features a stunning rendition of William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water”. Bell’s version of that classic ballad had helped define the sound of Memphis soul and gave Stax Records an early hit only four years earlier.

But, like all truly great albums, Otis Blue does more than summarize the past—it captures a moment. Here, it’s largely thanks to Redding’s original compositions. For example, “I’ve Been Loving you too Long” is a synthesis of mid-sixties soul at its very best, characterized by emotional vulnerability, but never maudlin.

These attributes are surely enough to cement Otis Blue’s status, but the album has one more trick: its material also foreshadowed the future of soul music. In 1966, Atlantic Records signed a promising singer and pianist named Aretha Franklin to their roster. Her previous record deal with Columbia had yielded a string of albums that had largely failed to connect with the public. On Atlantic her luck would change with a long string of seminal rhythm and blues hits. Among the first was a cover of one of Redding’s originals from Otis Blue, “Respect”. Franklin’s new version would take soul music to new heights, topping Billboard’s pop and R&B charts in 1967.

It makes sense that Franklin and Atlantic would have turned to Otis Blue for material. For all of its musicality and historical importance, Otis Blue is also an infectiously fun record.

More recent news

Watch Roy Orbison perform 'Oh, Pretty Woman' with Johnny Cash last week

News

October 4th, 1969: Watch Roy Orbison perform "Oh, Pretty Woman" with Johnny Cash last week

Orbison appeared on The Johnny Cash Show in Nashville

 
Mixtape October 1969

Mixtapes

October 1st, 1969: Mixtape October 1969

It's the end of Summer 1969, here's what I'm listening to.

 
Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single 'Pewter Suitor' this week - Listen

News

October 1st, 1969: Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single "Pewter Suitor" this week - Listen

The new single was left off the band's album Unicorn, from earlier this year.

 
'I was just about all through as a man' Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Interviews

October 1st, 1969: "I was just about all through as a man" Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Cash gave a brief interview recently while visiting London

 
The Beatles have released their new album Abbey Road - Listen

News

September 26th, 1969: The Beatles have released their new album Abbey Road - Listen

In the same week as John Lennon quit the band, The Beatles have released a new album

 
Listen to alternate takes of Bob Dylan's 'Lay Lady Lay' and 'I Pity The Poor Immigrant'

News

September 26th, 1969: Listen to alternate takes of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" and "I Pity The Poor Immigrant"

Alternate cuts of tracks from Dylan's last two albums

 
Billy Preston releases new album produced by George Harrison: Listen

News

September 26th, 1969: Billy Preston releases new album produced by George Harrison: Listen

His new album features contributions from George Harrison, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Doris Troy

 
The Doors headlined the Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival last Saturday night

News

September 24th, 1969: The Doors headlined the Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival last Saturday night

With John Lennon watching from the front row, The Doors included part of "Eleanor Rigby" in their solo - Listen

 
The Band release follow-up album to Music From Big Pink - Listen

News

September 23rd, 1969: The Band release follow-up album to Music From Big Pink - Listen

The new self-titled album was recorded in Los Angeles and New York this year. Read a review by Mike Jahn and find the group's upcoming tour dates.

 
Watch Creedence Clearwater Revival perform on American Bandstand last Friday

News

September 23rd, 1969: Watch Creedence Clearwater Revival perform on American Bandstand last Friday

CCR interviewed with Dick Clark and performed "Green River"

 
'The group's over, I'm leaving.' John Lennon quits The Beatles

News

September 23rd, 1969: "The group's over, I'm leaving." John Lennon quits The Beatles

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were signing their new recording contract when Lennon dropped the news

 
Watch Ramblin' Jack Elliott perform on 'The Johnny Cash Show' last night

News

September 19th, 1969: Watch Ramblin' Jack Elliott perform on "The Johnny Cash Show" last night

Ramblin' Jack and Cash performed a duet of "Take Me Home"

 
Loading more