Otis Redding - Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965), 5/10

Otis Redding covers contemporary hits with great feeling and a bit of individual flair. The band intermittently matches his feeling, especially on the opener “Ole Man Trouble” but more often add little to the proceedings, forcing Redding to carry the weight of the record entirely on his shoulders, very common of rhythm and blues of the fifties and sixties. His individual talent is clear, as is his unique energy, yet this collection of covers does little more than showcase his individual abilities, even these abilities sometimes completely mismatching with the stylistic sensibilities of each song or clashing with the band. His best songs and recordings are not present here; the album has persisted for its consistency rather than the quality of its singles, apart from the opener, and continues to live on for its general accessibility and ease of listening within the soul music scene, along with Redding’s tragic untimely death. Other highlights include “Down in the Valley” and the final three tracks that bring life and relative variety back into the album before its close. The low point taking place at the beginning of the second half is unfortunately timed to halt momentum built by the first. The three-song homage to Sam Cooke adds another layer of emotional vulnerability to the record along with Redding’s generally commanding and powerful vocal style. Still, some of the most creative and interesting compositions come from Redding himself and while his covers are perhaps his best performances his writing talent should not be overlooked. The major issue with the record lies in the band’s flat approach to performance in comparison to Redding’s fiercely authoritative and robust vocal work. Still an entertaining and fittingly soulful set of songs that sound polished and proficient.