Man oh man do I enjoy Soul. I don’t actually know what served as my introduction to Soul music, as far back as I can remember I’ve just kind of enjoyed it. Something about the usually sparse instrumentation which allows for the singer to take over and completely make the song with no so much their vocals, but their emotions, always worked for me. Not to mention I’ve always been a sucker for a good bassline, which Soul music seems to have an abundance of. But in the early days of the year 2021 Soul seems to have much less of a place in the world of music as it once did. There are some wonderful Neo-Soul artists like Anderson .Paak and the influence of artists like Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and our guy Otis can’t be overstated, but at this point you know me well enough to know that I have a real love for the classics. Today, we’re gonna take a look at a real Soul classic by a real soulful guy, the one and only Otis Redding.
Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul or more commonly just referred to as Otis Blue is the 3rd album by the American Soul singer Otis Redding. One of the more beloved Soul records ever released, Redding’s 1965 album does some interesting stuff. Only 3 of the 11 tracks which make up the album’s 32 minute runtime were written by Redding. 3 of the songs were written by the legendary Sam Cooke who had passed away only months before the album’s release, and the remaining 5 songs are covers of either existing popular Soul songs or popular music from other genres, reworked into Soul. The result is a constantly moving and unique Soul record, staying in a similar style but never stagnating. It helps to know the songs that Otis is covering, but even if you’ve never heard The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, Otis’s Soul cover is a blast to listen to.
What makes this album a good entry point for people who aren’t familiar with Soul? Well I’m glad you asked. Otis Redding may not have had the greatest singing voice ever, but he understood Soul music inside and out. His vocals affect the necessary emotion and mood to make a song good, and his vocals (which clearly win the album) are the driving force behind every single track on the album. Ultimately, it’s just easy to listen to, not that long, and displays a talent for making great Soul from scratch, existing Soul, and even non-Soul songs. Musically, I can’t describe why I like this album so much, which is indicative of how I fell about Soul music in general. You can’t articulate or explain why it works, but you can feel it. And sometimes that’s all you need for music to be great. Otis Redding was one of the best at making you feel something.
I really like this album, and I hope you do too.
I may not have been born by the river, but I will be running on to tomorrow’s album: A Hip Hop record.