Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Otis Redding
My sister told me she has some new friends, but she didn’t go into any detail. So the other day, I’m in her room rooting around and I found this record … it’s by Otis Redding! She never listened to THIS kind of music before!
The record is In Person at the Whisky A Go Go, a live album from Otis Redding that came out in 1968 but was recorded two years earlier. Now remember, Otis Redding didn’t make a huge impact in popular music until 1967, when he appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival. He had been recording albums and singles for Stax/Volt since 1962, when “These Arms Of Mine” became a minor hit. Redding wrote a lot of his own material, including the song “Respect,” which was later a hit for Aretha Franklin. R&B and soul artists who managed to break through to the Top 40 charts were really accomplishing something in those weird times; but as the 1960s wore on more and more black artists were doing it, including the Motown roster and people like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.
In the months before and after Monterey (in June 1967) Redding recorded a massive amount of stuff, but in December of that year he died in a plane crash. Among the many things Redding left “in the can” was an unfinished original, “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay,” that he cut just a few days before his death. When “Dock of the Bay” was released in early 1968, it went straight to No. 1 – a fine tribute to a massive talent.
In Person At The Whisky A Go Go is one of the many albums issued in the wake of Otis Redding’s death, and it was more or less an accurate representation of his live show at the time of his death. The version here of “I Can’t Turn You Loose” is the best he ever recorded, and “Mr. Pitiful” and “These Arms Of Mine” are great. Otis even throws in a great cover of James Brown’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” as if to say “Hey James, there’s a new Soul Brother No. 1!” The performances may be a little more, ah, subdued than those on Live In Europe (issued mid-1967) or Redding’s landmark live set at Monterey. It’s fun to compare – anyhow, you should own Historic Performances Recorded Live at the Monterey International Pop Festival, the 1970 album with Otis Redding on one side and Jimi Hendrix on the other.
Otis Redding was one of the greatest soul and R&B artists, along with Ray Charles and James Brown. I think it’s safe to say there will never again be anyone like Otis Redding – his incredible talent was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Person At The Whisky A Go Go is simply a great live album, one of the best ever made.