My love for British music and fashion is well known. I had a “mod” band in Kalamazoo, Michigan in the mid-90s, for heaven’s sake. I also have a deep passion for garage rock and early R&B and that passion was sparked by a video I saw while working at Blockbuster Video. We had a VHS tape of the British musical variety show called Ready, Steady, Go! These clips in particular set my world on fire. It’s two of the best soul voices in rock and roll on the same stage: Otis Redding and Eric Burdon of The Animals.
As awesome as these clips are they do pose some interesting questions. How is it that these British kids can so effortlessly and without a hint of self-consciousness affect a musical style and approach so foreign to them? In other words, how can these white kids get away with acting black? And make no mistake, they’re doing it and doing it justice. Is it because blacks do not make up the predominant minority in Britain and therefore there’s less racial strife? Is it because there’s little to no guilt associated with slavery and segregation (unlikely given the “No blacks, No Irish, No Dogs” signs adorning pubs at times)? Or are they just so cool that it simply doesn’t matter? They FEEL it.
I don’t know but these clips of Otis, Eric and fellow British soulman Chris Farlowe should be enough to get you through this cold December afternoon. Shake!
I can’t understand why classic soul artists are frequently utilized for soundtracks and various compilations while their full-length albums are allowed to fall out of print. I understand that the era focused a lot of attention on singles, but surely there were more than a few soul artists that had twelve-inches worth of good material.
Otis Redding is one of those artists, and unfortunately his catalog is often spliced to benefit those soundtracks and compilations. As good as those collections might be, they merely provide a brief reminder that recalls the movie scene or the nostalgic memory. What they fail to do is to provide a picture of the artist, which is something that a decent album has the ability to do.
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul provides a snapshot, one day in 1965, but the music from that lengthy session provides a lifetime of emotion and an eternity worth of enjoyment. As amazing as the productivity of this session is, what’s even more shocking is the quality of what was produced. It’s the kind of album where you lament why we haven’t been able to find an artist of equal caliber since his death over forty years ago before comprehending that Otis Redding may indeed be one of those once in a lifetime artist. And this is what makes his untimely death such a tragedy.