Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Just like Jimi Hendrix, his record- mate from the Monterey Pop Festival, Otis Redding has been able to release a new recording in 2010, despite being dead since December 10, 1967.

This is good news for us.

The disc, a two CD set of recordings from a gig he did at the Whiskey A Go Go in 1966, came out originally in truncated form on vinyl on Atlantic Records.

That record was released posthumously as well. The highlight for me was Just One More Day, a transcendental performance that featured Otis bringing it down while the tenor saxes moaned in the back ground and the rest of the band chants, "Whoo, Lord!"

"I want this day, and the day after, and I want ALL the days, I want all the days..." he sings as if he's in church.

I get all choked up when he says this. Every time.

And here it is again, disc one, cut two. "Show 2, Set 3," says the back cover of the new release. That set, along with Show 3, Set 1 and Show 3, Set 2, comprise the content of this new release. The songs are delivered in the order they were actually performed, with Otis's famously enigmatic in- jokes and comments peppered throughout.

It's the era of his Satisfaction, and his cover of James Brown's Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, both included. All the hits that he had up to that time are there, except for Pain in My Heart but including a pretty hot version of Ole Man Trouble, from his masterpiece, Otis Blue- Otis Redding Sings Soul, one of the greatest records of the sixties, and therefore of all times.

A word about the band: this was his touring band at the time, not Booker T and the MG's as on the Live at Monterey record, nor is it the Bar- Keys, the band that went down in the plane crash. It's a good journeyman bunch, heavy on saxes, with an out- of- tune trumpet that marred the original release. Mercifully, the trumpet is buried in this excellent mix.

That said, they have a sense of dynamics that no white band of the era could touch, save maybe Louisiana's Boogie Kings. The shows really move. Otis is in complete command. There are flubs, mistakes, etc, but they're inconsequential, and no song is done the same way twice, while his testifying grabs at the listener every time.

When I was a kid, there was a DJ on WOL here in Washington, DC named Soulfinger (Fred Correy). He came on at midnight, right after the Nighthawk (now there's a story), and his theme was Agent Double- O Soul, by Edwin Starr. (Not Soul Finger by the Bar Kays, surprisingly.)

Every night he'd open the show by saying, "If your cry to me should be, 'Soulfinger, I have a hole in my soul,' well, I have the sounds indeed to patch it. But if your cry to me should be, 'Soulfinger, alas I have no soul at all,' well, I have the sounds indeed to hatch it."

These are those sounds.

Otis was 26 years old when he died, roughly the same age as Orson Welles was when he made Citizen Kane. Otis was riding the crest of a beautiful music, a music made by black people and white people together, working toward a great end. The music was called Soul Music, the music of the inner heart of the folks that made it and listened to it. When Otis died in the plane crash, much of the essence of the music died with him, so large was his presence.

Now James Brown is dead. Wilson Pickett is dead. Along with Otis, these were the main architects of soul, and now they're all gone. But, as the saying goes, we have the music.

I saw Otis Redding live once at a Xmas show at the DC Coliseum, along with the Marvelettes, Aaron Neville (young, skinny and scared)  and several others. In my memory now, I see him at the edge of the stage wearing the red suit of Live in Europe fame, kneeling on the stage, reaching out to a hundred fans, shaking hands, testifying, screaming "Got to" over and over. It remains the supreme musical moment of my life.  The defining moment of naked, raw soul. And I have used that moment over and over again to console myself, inspire myself, and motivate myself.

So, recommended: Otis Redding, Live on the Sunset Strip.

Otis says hello and goodbye.

Otis does Try a Little Tenderness with the A Team: Booker T, Duck Dunn, Steve Cropper, Al Jackson and the Memphis Horns

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