Tag Archives: Otis Redding

Bridging Ears Back to Soul

24 May

Leon Bridges

When I first heard Leon Bridges my immediate reaction was that Sam Cooke had come back from the dead. I’m serious. The black-and-white soul sound sent me back to that magical moment when I first explored the inception of Soul music: the early 1960s sounds of names like Cooke, Wilson, and King. Then, I shook myself out of this initial daze. Sam Cooke – A man widely regarded as one of the finest vocalists of all time!?! How could I make such a wild comparison? But, as I took more time to listen to some tracks off Bridges’ soon-to-be-released debut album Coming Home, I realized that the comparison, while lofty, was not ridiculous. Bridges’ voice “sends me” to the soul-saturated sounds of the early 60s, and, while it may not in full bring back the mainstream popularity of slow horns and vocal harmonies, the music is certainly bridging that sounds to the ears of soul ingénues.

Bridges, who was born in Atlanta and now resides in Fort Worth, reached viral success with his song “Coming Home,” which caught the ears of several and helped him secure a record deal with Columbia Records. The overflowing bucket of talent that Bridges exuded did not stay hidden for long. With the help of Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block from White Denim, Bridges recorded his first few tracks – employing the aid of vocalists and bands that helped complement the 60s sound. His renown and success will only skyrocket with his release in June.

Coming Home” immediately takes on the feel of “You Send Me” with tastes of “A Change is Gonna Come,” and Bridges soft croon, a smoother Hozier (to make a modern comparison), has a rich Gospel feel to it that is just the right kind of sweet, not mawkish and not overpowering – it’s a voice that you can sink into, like silky gelato. The song itself is classic early Motown. It is carried by a bluesy piano and guitar mixed with traditional percussion. It is not difficult to imagine Sam Cooke or Otis Redding singing this song, and Bridges’ voice is not really a step down; heck, I am almost willing to go so far to exclaim that Bridges parallels the singers in a sense. Not too shabby.

From the slower “Coming Home” to the early Marvin Gaye-esque “Better Man.” The song features a literal doo-wop backdrop that is combined with a sweet horn section. It is almost minimalistic in its approach, and perhaps that is what I like so much about Bridges and his throwback tunes. In a musical world dominated by heavy electronics where artist after artist attempts to impress with eclectic sounds and instrumentation, Bridges takes a more traditional approach, fitting a wonderful track into a little more than two minutes.

Bridges is an artist worth tracking. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or his Website.

The Rationals Deserve Some of Your Respect

20 Jun

 In 2010, 60’s garage-rock band  The Rationals finally got some respect when they were voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame. Coincidentally, The Rationals’ cover of “Respect,” by Otis Redding is what initially launched them onto the charts for the only time in their six-year existence. But despite the lack of success, their brand of Beatles-influenced garage rock was certainly an influence for later Michigan musicians like The Stooges and MC5.

The Rationals were formed in 1964 and immediately found success in the local market. This prompted some attention by record companies, and the band was signed by A² records in 1965. In 1966, the band covered “Respect” which was picked up by Cameo and released to the country. It found the charts at #92 and earned them some notoriety. Unfortunately for the Rationals, the music didn’t latch on everywhere and the band remained a Michigan favorite but not a national success. After some more singles they fell victim to in-fighting and bad management and broke up in 1970.

It took until 2009 for a collection to be put together called Think Rational which featured a good sampling of the band’s work. And, proving that hindsight is always 20/20, the band was (and still is) heralded as a seminal garage rock act and a true unappreciated treasure. Better late than never I guess. It is well deserved. The music is fresh and lively. It is catchy and twangy, raw but organized, British-inspired but genuinely American branded. Lead Singer Scott Morgan, who is battling liver disease and currently awaiting a liver transplant, had a smooth and almost effortless voice. He also could blow the heck out of the harmonica. The band also featured Steve Correll on lead guitar and vocals, Bill Figg on drums, and Terry Trabandt on bass and vocals.

Here is a video of The Rationals performing “Respect.”  It is a tame cover, well constructed and a true head-bopper. I am a big fan of Scott Morgan’s voice. I also love the Brit-esque harmonies and the harmonica trill. When I listened to this cover I was a reminded of Bob Seger’s early work as a garage rock musician in Michigan with his band the Last Heard. Recorded around the same time as The Rationals’ “Respect” you can certainly spot several similarities (the song also shares a similar chorus with “Gloria” which was recorded by Van Morrison and Them two years earlier)

Listen to Seger’s “East Side Story”

Let me also show you the B-side of the “Respect” single that hit the charts. It is “Feelin’ Lost,” and pays even more tribute to the invasion sound that was pervasive in rock music at the time.

The song is short and repetitive. It features choral harmonies, a short recognizable riff, and a constant drum beat. These are all distinguishable factors of the British Invasion and Garage Rock. The band does it quite well though and it is a shame they did not hit more success. But, alas, we can enjoy it now!

The First Round Continues – March 1966 Madness – 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, 4 vs. 13

15 Mar

Thus begins the true first round of March Madness: 1966 Album Edition. If you are new to the game, let me do a quick sentence reminder of what this is. Over the next few weeks we are going to do a March Madness-style poll game that will narrow down the best album released in 1966 in a time span concurrent with the NCAA March Madness tournaments. Easy enough. All you have to do is vote and have fun. A few days I go I did the premiere post of this year’s competition that saw the #1 seed Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys vs. Buffalo Springfield by Buffalo Springfield. Both good albums, of course, but I think Neil Young would even vote for Pet Sounds, though. It seems that the majority of readers agree. Pet Sounds is winning 5 to 2 currently. Buffalo Springfieldis putting up a deserved fight, though. It is an excellent album featuring some musical superstars. Vote for The Beach Boys or Buffalo Springfield here

Keep voting! Remember, the only way this works is if we receive a whole bunch of votes. Let me thank John Phillips over at http://joebeans2002.wordpress.com/ for re-blogging the first March Madness poll. Do check out his blogs. I am grateful to all of you if you spread this along to others. Let’s make this years March Madness even more exciting than last’s.

On to the match-ups!

#2 seed: Revolver by The Beatles vs. #15 seed:The Young Rascalsby The Young Rascals

 

The Beatles were on last year’s 1967 list twice. They occupy a #2 seed this time around. The Beatles are Duke. They must have been a pretty good band. It is actually striking just how industrious and talented the fab four actually were. Many consider Revolver to be their first deep dive into musical diversity and psychedelics (and it makes sense considering their next two releases). It features hits like “Eleanor Rigbey,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” and “And Your Bird Can Sing.” It goes up against the debut album from the Young Rascals. The album features their versions of “Mustang Sally,” “In The Midnight Hour,” and a little-known song named “Good Lovin” that went on to be one of the Young Rascals most beloved songs. Is this an easy match-up for Revolver? I think Revolver has too many strengths to lose. It is multi-faceted and classic. Up to you all, though!

#3 seed: Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan vs. #14 seed: A Quick One by The Who

  

Blonde on Blonde was released a year after Highway 61 Revisited which is my favorite Dylan album. It is nowhere near a slouch though. Many consider Blonde on Blonde to be Dylan’s most advanced album. The opening track is “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35!” The album also features “Just Like a Woman” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” It is bluesy and folky and if it wasn’t for the fact that two of the best albums ever released ever were ahead of it, it may be a #1 seed. It goes up against a Who album that is no Spring chicken – even though it was the second album released by the band. The album, which originally was called Happy Jack because of the title’s lewd aspirations, features a few great pieces, but mainly a band that would develop into one of the best of the generation. This may be closer than you think.

#4 Seed: Freak Out  by The Mothers of Invention vs. #13 Seed: The Soul Album by Otis Redding

This is a good battle between two bands that seem like they are absolutely nothing alike, but are more alike than it seems. The Mothers, led by Frank Zappa’s keen musical nature, blended doo-wop, blues, and rock, that together formed the experimental rock collage the album was. The Soul Album (features bluesy soul – obviously) was Otis Redding and members of Booker T & The MG’s (STAX Records house band). The album just couldn’t be bad. Will we have a 13-4 upset?

The King of Soul: Still Sittin’ on the Dock

10 Sep

James Brown is considered the Godfather of soul. Aretha Franklin is certainly soul’s distinguished Queen. But, who holds the position of male royalty. Who is the King of soul? The answer is Otis Redding, and, if our quixotic, spinning world did not take him too soon, he would have been 69 years old yesterday.

1967 marked a phenomenal year for music. The Beatles released a little album called Sgt. Peppers, the “Summer of Love” brought a peaceful swarm of long-haired humans to San Francisco, Jethro Tull and Procul Harum were founded, The Doors released their first album and the Monterey Pop Festival became the first heavily attended rock festival, promoting a three-day musical exploration from June 16-18. At that festival was Mr. Otis Redding himself. And, after famously saying “So this is the love crowd,” he gave an excellent show to the grand, and probably stoned audience. Six months later Redding was dead at 26.

1967, Chicago, Illinois, USA --- Otis Redding --- Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis

On December 9, 1967, after Redding and his Bar-Kays were in Cleveland, Ohio to appear on a local television show and perform at a small venue club called Leo’s Casino. On the afternoon of the 10th, Redding, four members of the Bar-Kays, his manager and his pilot died when the Beechcraft 18 airplane they were in crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin.

Three days before the crash, Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” was recorded, and Redding’s unfinished masterpiece – the whistled verse was going to have lyrics put to it – became the first posthumous number one single in U.S. chart history. There was actually so much recorded material from Redding that another three studio albums and a few successful singles were released after his death. The first, The Immortal Otis Redding, released in 1968, was correct in its title. Redding’s brand of soul music is as relevant today than it was back at the time of his death. Search “The Dock of the Bay” on Youtube and you will see numerous covers of the song done by known, modern musicians. He still garners tremendous respect and I believe “The Dock of the Bay,” with its smooth, ocean sound and even the eerie concluding whistle, supports the claim that Redding was, and still is, the very best soul voice to ever grace our radios. Just listen to his effortless croon and his remarkable command.

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