Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Otis Redding - Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings; Otis Comes To Life On This Box Set, A Little Bit of Memphis in La La Land



Photo: Team Rock

Imagine you could climb into a time travel device and transport back to 1966 to see Otis Redding perform at a club on the Sunset Strip. Just imagine... Otis Ray Redding, Jr. was born on September 9, 1941, and he died at the age of 26 in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. During his short life, he distinguished himself as one of the greatest soul icons ever with his singing, his songwriting, and his explosive live performances. Regarding the latter, the Concord Records Group has recently released Redding's 1966 live recordings from The Whisky A Go Go, located on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California. Redding performed at that legendary venue, Friday, April 8 (two sets), Saturday, April 9 (three sets), and Sunday, April 10 (two sets).

Stax recorded all of these shows with the intention of releasing a live album. The result, In Person At The Whisky A Go Go, wound up being a posthumous release in 1968 offering ten tracks. In 1993, Stax released seven additional tracks from that weekend that had not been included on the 1968 album as Good to Me: Live at the Whisky a Go Go, Vol. 2.

Collectors, completists, and fans of Otis Redding were thrilled by the recent release of the complete recordings, with the seven sets contained on six compact discs in the physical box set; these recordings were nicely formatted to seven separate discs, one for each set, on the digital download of the album. It all sounds unedited, giving you each set from start to finish complete with all of the introductions, between song patter, and the stage announcements at the conclusion of each set. Here are the specs for this release:

Friday, April 8th -
First set: 7 tracks, 27 minutes, six songs plus intro
Second set: 13 tracks, 1 hour, 3 minutes, thirteen songs with no separate intro

Saturday, April 9th -
First set: 8 tracks, 35 minutes, seven songs plus intro
Second set: 6 tracks, 31 minutes, five songs plus intro
Third set: 8 tracks, 33 minutes, seven songs plus intro

Sunday, April 10 -
First set: 9 tracks, 44 minutes, eight songs plus intro
Second set: 14 tracks, 59 minutes, thirteen songs plus intro

There are a grand total of 65 tracks and the running time is 4 hours, 47 minutes (this includes six intros and 59 songs); forty-two of the Redding performances and five of the intros are previously unreleased. Although each of the seventeen unique songs had been previously released, the beauty of this package is the opportunity to witness each live set as Redding performed it.



Listening to these live sets, you really get to know Otis Redding. For one thing, Redding addresses the crowd as "Ladies and Gentlemen"; he must say it about a hundred times. You get a sense of the man that no studio collection or edited live album would give you. It feels somewhat revelatory. When he sang live, Redding had two basic speeds: slow, bluesy, and soulful like "I've Been Loving You Too Long", or uptempo where the verse(s) shift into frenetic high gear like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction".

The songs he performed reflect where he was in his career at the time of these shows. He had yet to record "Try A Little Tenderness"; that defining tune was first released as a single in November of 1966. Redding was over a year away from writing and recording his classic "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay", which was first released posthumously in 1968.

Still and all, these recordings show that every accolade he received was deserved and that he had evidenced the greatness that made him one of the most amazing performers of the time. Although I haven't seen direct confirmation of this, I think that European copyright law has something to do with this being released. The law says that any recording that remains unreleased for 50 years becomes a part of the public domain, meaning that it can legally be manufactured and sold by anyone. We have already seen such vault releases from the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Queen, and Bob Dylan. Surely there are more to come.

Classic songs abound in this package, starting with the set one opener "I Can't Turn You Loose". I first heard this number on a single by the Chambers Brothers. They did the song proud, but I instantly zeroed in on the songwriter's name printed right there on the label, Otis Redding. Redding leaves all other comers in the dust with his live rendition.

In Redding's performance of his own composition "Respect", you can hear the greatness of the song, but you see how different his version was in comparison to what the song became when it was recorded by Aretha Franklin for her first album, about a year later. The basic nature of the song changed along with the vantage point of the singer, from a workingman's statement of want to nothing less than a full fledged declaration of empowerment from Franklin. The story goes that the r-e-s-p-e-c-t lyric was suggested by Franklin's sister and was included as they reworked the song.

Even though some songs were played multiple times, Redding mixed up his sets and didn't play the same set twice. Things got interesting Sunday night midway through the second set. Not content to play any more repeats, Redding started doing songs that had not been performed earlier in the engagement. Among these was a cover of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night", a tune perhaps that Otis could relate to; it got the overdrive treatment. But, I think the most interesting track of the weekend was his ten plus minute cover of James Brown's "Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag". This track appeared briefly (a 2:30 edit) on the original '68 LP, but this is the first release of the song in its full 10:13 glory.

Redding's version surely gave Brown a run for his money. Interestingly, James and Otis were both from Macon, Georgia. Brown, at the time, was cementing his reputation as the hardest working man in show business, and Redding was right there with him as this cover amply demonstrates. The James Brown connection didn't end there; each set begins with Al “Brisco” Clark doing his signature, "Are you ready for star time?" introduction, one that I had always associated with James Brown after hearing same on his live albums. Listening to Redding do "Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag" you can hear how into it he was, seeming not to want to end the song. Eventually, after passing the ten minute mark, he and the band shift abruptly into their cover of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". Regardless of the fact that he had already played it earlier in the set, it was a fitting high powered end to a terrific set and a tremendous run of shows.

Otis Redding - Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings
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Tracklist: Click on song title to listen.

Friday April 8, 1966

Set 1:
01. Introduction
02. I Can't Turn You Loose
03. Pain in My Heart
04. Good To Me
05. Just One More Day
06. Mr. Pitiful
07. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Set 2:
01. I'm Depending on You
02. I've Been Loving You Too Long
03. Good to Me
04. Security
05. Respect
06. Just One More Day
07. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
08. Any Ole Way
09. These Arms of Mine
10.I Can't Turn You Loose
11. Pain in My Heart
12. Good to Me
13. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Saturday April 9, 1966

Set 1:
01. Introduction
02. Mr. Pitiful
03. Good to Me
04. Respect
05. Just One More Day
06. I Can't Turn You Loose
07. Ole Man Trouble
08. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Set 2:
01. Introduction
02. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
03. Any Ole Way
04. I've Been Loving You Too Long
05. I'm Depending on You
06. I Can't Turn You Loose

Set 3:
01.Introduction
02. Security
03. Just One More Day
04. These Arms of Mine
05.(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
06. I Can't Turn You Loose
07. Chained and Bound
08. Respect

Sunday April 10, 1966

Set 1:
01. Introduction
02. I'm Depending on You
03. I Can't Turn You Loose
04. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
05.Chained and Bound
06. Just One More Day
07.Any Ole Way
08. I've Been Loving You Too Long
09.(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Set 2:
01. Introduction
02. Destiny
03. Security
04.Good to Me
05. Respect
06. Chained and Bound
07. Mr. Pitiful
08. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
09. Ole Man Trouble
10. I Can't Turn You Loose
11. A Hard Day s Night
12. These Arms of Mine
13. Papa's Got a Brand New Bag
14. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Bonus Video: Otis Redding performs "I Can't Turn You Loose" on the Ready Steady Go BBC program in 1966. There doesn't seem to be any footage available from the Whisky A Go Go, but this video shows what an Otis Redding performance was like in 1966.



Photos: Whisky A Go Go

Otis Redding's Website
Otis Redding's Facebook
Otis Redding's Twitter
Otis Redding's Instagram

Stax Records' Website
Stax Records' Facebook
Stax Records' Twitter
Stax Records' Instagram

2 comments:

Sara said...

Didn't know Dock of the Bay was released posthumously. Makes it all the more poignant.

Fantastic article!

BD said...

Oh My Soulness..................
Hey Hey Hey .

Master of soul power.