Jul 24, 2011
Otis Redding cd for Nick C
Here you go, Nik. Try a little tenderness, bruvver.
Now, if you watched the video you prob noticed that The Big O! was backed by Booker T & the MGs and the Mar-keys (the Mar-keys in this instance were also known as The Memphis Horns.) The good news is: That's who backed him on all the records on these discs. Just before he died Otis started using the Bar-Kays as his backing band. & when that plane went down in Wisconsin in 1968 (what is it about Wisconsin? It has claimed Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, Richie Valens, Otis, & Stevie Ray Vaughn. If you are a rock star NEVER fly in Wisconsin airspace ever.) everyone died except for one Bar-Kay, yet they formed a new Bar-Kays around him that had a very long & successful career.
So here you go: The greatest rock singer of all-time with the greatest rock drummer of all-time (Al Jackson, Jr) & the greatest rock guitarist of all-time (Steve Cropper). Enjoy.
Yeh, Aretha stole it, & turned it into a feminist anthem but it is Otis' version that I'll always prefer. Greil Marcus (there's that asshole again) has a great essay about this song & the nature of the dialogue between african-american women & men in these times in his liner notes for the v good Stax comp, The Stax Story.
Ole Man Trouble
This is a song I wanted the Suicide Doors (my band w/ the McClungs) to cover & if I ever get in another band we will cover it. Otis' off-mic work here is tasteful & special.
These Arms of Mine
Well, here we go. This is where it all started & the story is so delicious & true that it demands many re-tellings. Otis was a singer & roadie for one of the hottest groups in the South at the time, Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers. Naturally, Johnny Jenkins was the star of the group. He was an amazing guitar player who could do anything he wanted to w/ the instrument & was arguably the biggest influence on Jimi Hendrix, who had seen him on the Southern Chitlin circuit when they were both trying to make a name for themselves in rock 'n roll. Jenkins, as talented as he was, though, had some problems. He refused to fly in airplanes (maybe Otis shoulda picked that phobia up), suffered from depression & occasional stage-fright. The band rolled in to Memphis for an audition, Otis drove the van & moved all the equipment. The audition did not go well. Stax were not impressed. But Al Jackson Jr told Jim Stewart (the ST of STAX [his sister, last name Axton, was the AX]) that the roadie/driver guy would not leave until he got a crack at the mic. The roadie laid out roughly the pattern & feel of the song he wanted to sing, Otis called it "church chords" & Otis & Booker T & the MGs performed These Arms of Mine, JUST AS YOU HEAR ON THIS RECORD! Amazing. I'm sorry, but that's the greatest debut in Rock history. As for Johnny Jenkins, Stax offered him a contract basically as a favor to Otis. He released one or two singles w/ the label & promptly vanished.
She Put the Hurt on Me
Here's Otis in rave-up mode w/ some great Booker T organ.
What's amazing aboot the Otis/Carla Thomas sessions is that they never sang together. They recorded at separate times. You never get that feeling listening to these tracks.
Of course Otis had hit w/ Satisfaction, & Booker T loved the Beatles. It was prob Booker T who suggested he do Day Tripper. I like how Otis just delivers whatever lyrics he likes. The big rumor at that time was that the Beatles might record a record at Stax. That would've been the greatest record in history.
I'm Depending On You
I'm A Changed Man
Obv a demo from late in his career, w/ a real jazz feel, & fleshed out & realized woulda been a "new" direction for the Big O!
(Is this an apology to Johnny Jenkins?) Another late demo.
A Little Time
It's amazing to hear these demos for his "last" record. It is plainly obv Otis was going for a new modified Soul that woulda broke huge in the charts.
Pounds and Hundreds
Great lyrical conceit.
Here's a trad Otis song w/ a deeper, more clever lyrical idea.
Hard to Handle
I get the feeling this was a warm-up for the group & never really seriously considered for release.
Look At That Girl
Women back-up singers?!
Some great playing by Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn, bass.
This is a "moonlighting" song Otis did when he was still w/ Johhny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers. This & a couple of others complicated his contract w/ Stax.
A Hard Day's Night
Love the off-mic count-in talk. Al Jackson Jr really shines. The 'take it down' part is good, too.
Slippin' and Slidin'
Not even two minutes but a great statement on race relations in Memphis at the time.
Things Go Better w/ Coke
At least a black man was getting endorsements in the 60s
Love Have Mercy
Cropper & Otis really shine here. The 'middle eight'/break is years ahead of its time, too.
She's All Right
More moonlighting from back in the pre-Stax days. If Otis wanted to do this kind of east coast r&b he would've excelled, as well.
Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers. It is obv why they tore up the Chitlin circuit. This is the modern day band, Detroit Cobras, show-closer.
5 star track just for the sound from Al Jackson Jr's drums.
Merry Christmas, Baby
We're hearing it everyday just now. I don't mind, it is tasteful & elegant & lovely.
Pain in My Heart
An absolute monster of a track, Cropper slices thru your heart & you don't even know it cause Booker T is playing like you're at church.
That's How Strong My Love Is
Donald "Duck" Dunn shines here. This is the bass the Beatles & Stones were green over w/ their super-conservative producers.
At Monterey in 1967 there was discussion about who would close the first night. The Who & Otis decided to flip a coin. Otis won the coin toss & there were those of and outside his party that were concerned that a black Soul artist could follow The Who. Otis said, "I've been closing for Sam & Dave for years now. I can close for anybody." & he gave one of the greatest performances in Rock history, winning over a crowd of all-white California hippies to make him one of the biggest stars on the planet.
That's disc one. More soon.