Tuesday, September 22, 2009

475. Live in Europe- Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Album: Live in Europe.

Artist: Otis Redding.

Year: 1967.

Genre: Soul.


1. Resepect.

2. Can't turn you loose

3. I've been loving you too long.

4. My Girl.

5. Shake.

6. (I can't get no) Satisfaction.

7. Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad song)

8. These arms of mine.

9. Day tripper

10. Try a little Tenderness.

Live in Europe makes for a really strange listen. Despite the fact that I’d never heard this release before and I don’t own an Otis Redding album, I could sing along with pretty much the entire album. It’s a basically a collection of Soul standards and some rock cover tunes that I'd have to describe as sub-standards.

The original songs are for the most part ones you know but might not have known were written by Redding. Aretha Franklin had Respect but she had it after Otis did. The Blues Brothers were turned loose on stage to Can’t Turn You Loose but only because Redding was first. Mick Jagger said I’ve been Loving You Too Long but Otis said it before him (and before Ike and Tina). I’ve heard These Arms Of Mine from somewhere that I can’t place at the moment, but wherever it is I’ve heard it, those people heard it here.

You may have heard these songs in other places but Redding outdoes all who covered him. The Blues Brothers perform Can’t Turn you Loose as an instrumental and the musicians backing them learned to play the song by backing Redding on this album.When a young, inexperienced Mick Jagger sings I’ve Been Loving You Too Long it sounds like he’s only been devoted to you for a year and most of that was just a boyhood crush, Otis sounds like he started his devotion during the rule of emperor Trajan. The only cover that outshines Redding is Aretha’s version of Respect which is as definitive as definitive gets. Redding may have written it but it’s her song.

The original that I didn’t know on the album was a truly awful track called Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad song) which is really terrible in ways I can’t describe. The problem is the Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa bit, which isn’t pronounced Fa but Feur-ya, imagine Bob Dylan doing impressions of Star Wars laser fights and your almost there. The general effect is like soul music with added comedy sound effects. The first few listens it reminded me of something and I couldn’t work out what. Finally I realized it was that weird letter that Simon Pegg reads while in prison at the end of an episode of Big Train. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t then I can only offer an apology for wasting your time, which is more than Redding did for including this song.

The cover songs on Live in Europe are a collection of interesting choices. Several are R and B standards: My Girl by The Temptations, Shake by Sam Cooke and Try a Little Tenderness which everyone had taken a turn with but Redding nailed in what is generally considered the definitive version. In addition to these staples Otis decided to try his hand at some of the bigger songs of the day which is why Live in Europe boasts versions of Day Tripper and Satisfaction.

Covering the Beatles and Stones is a great move from a soul giant. They're both bands who became huge with help from the R and B back catalogue so why shouldn’t Redding take something back? A soul version of a number one pop hit scores points with his audience and maybe broadens his fan base. But I can’t help but think he chose two strange songs to cover. Day Tripper and Satisfaction are both riff-based songs. The Stones were masters of the Rock Riff and the Day Tripper is generally considered to be the Fab Four’s attempt at a Stones-like song. They fly on the basis of a guitar crunching out that familiar series of notes. Redding’s band is Horn Heavy and a sure fire way to bugger up a good riff is to play it on a trombone. It's like trying to play classical music on the bagpipes, polka tunes on the cello or country ballads on anything at all- it just doesn’t work.

The undeniable strength of Live in Europe lies with Redding’s voice. He’s one of the great soul singers and this release will convince you if you think otherwise. No doubt you’ve recently heard many of these songs covered by singers on tv shows with words like "Idol" and "Talent" in the name. You’ve watched as pop wannabes belt out carefully crafted versions of these tunes to squealing audiences. The difference between those lads and Otis is that unlike them, Redding isn’t auditioning for anything. Contestants on Idol treat songs like musical resumes, each song is just a CV designed to show off their vocal range and earnest facial expressions. Otis on the other hand isn’t auditioning for anyone. He’s walked out on stage to blow the audience away and relies on his natural talent to wipe the floor with them. It’s what makes Live in Europe so damn good.

Highlight: Shake, a song I didn’t know but think is great.

Lowlight: The Day Tripper riff played on horns and Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa.

Influenced by: A desire to add lust to gospel music.

Influenced: Gormless prannies with big voices and no soul who want to win lots of money on talent shows.

Favourite Amazon Customer review quote: "Otis Redding was completing a highly successful Europian tour. This album is the finale. Otis was the number one recording artist in England at the conclusion of this tour. He had replaced the the Beatles!! This is the best R&B album ever recorded."

-Woah there. I'm happy to praise this album but I think you'll find that when this tour concluded the Beatles released Sergeant Peppers so your "replacing the Beatles claim" might be a bit overstated.

So do you sit up and take notice of Otis or do you wish this album had stayed in Europe? Let me know below.

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