Let’s put a few facts on the table. I am a middle-aged, middle class white male from the Midwestern United States. I’ve got no soul, I can’t jump, I can’t dance, and I can’t get the blues. I don’t know the difference between hip-hop and rap, the blues from complaining, or soul from Shinola.
What I do know is I love Otis Redding, and if it is soul that he sings, then I’ll spend my life wishing I had some.
Otis had a voice like silk pie. He could make a blind man see, the dead rise again, and a middle class, middle-age white guy shake it like he’s got a pair.
This particular bootleg is actually a mix of at least three separate venues, all from 1967. As such, the quality of each performance varies from simply super to less than stellar. It also contains a few songs played more than once. The result feels less than complete, a little like listening to rehearsal tapes for an album, but Otis displays enough overt energy in every song to make it well worth listening to.
It helps that his band is cracker jack. They swing, jump, and pop all over the place. With Otis keeping up every step of the way, it is nothing short of a celebration of life, soul and music.
Four songs into the disk, he covers the Beatles' classic “A Hard Days Night.” At first it feels out of place, the music feels to heavy and dense. But in less than a minute, as if by sheer force of will, Otis converts me to his side of things. He’s like a fire and brimstone preacher shouting to his minions that there is a better way, and it involves plenty of horns.
Even on slower songs like the tender “Pain in My Heart,” the band cooks and lights a fire under the sentiment. It is not as soul wrenching as what you’ll hear on studio albums, but it is impossible to complain as the beat moves you out of your seat and onto the dance floor.
In pieces you can hear that’s just where the audience is – moving and grooving and shouting like the apocalypse has just announced the end of times, but first there’s a party to attend. During “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)” Otis turns the audience into part of the chorus and I think they blow him out of the park in terms of sheer volume. They are there to have a good time, and there ain't nothing gonna stop them now.
The differing levels from venue to venue coupled with some of the songs played twice mars the overall effect of this bootleg, but Otis Redding turns it all loose and more than makes up for the problems with performances that are out of this world.
With only a handful of available bootlegs out there for Otis Redding, this is definitely worth seeking out for collectors, fans of Otis, and soul music itself.