This 2 disc set of live recordings from one of Soul musics icons has been getting rave reviews everywhere. Even before it was released the buzz was buzzing and the spin was spinning. People were right to be excited. These documents of three sets captured at the Whisky A Go Go give us a glimpse of the power of Otis and his traveling 10-piece band at the peak of their power. Okay, maybe they’re not Booker T and the MGs who were essentially the house band on Otis’s recordings for Stax, but the live band (led by sax player Bob Holloway) sure put out some excitement.
First up it’s Show 2, Set 3 (they played at the Whisky for four nights), the emcee welcomes them back to the stage, and they kick into “Security”. This is SOUL music. It’s not the kind of music you relate to intellectually, it’s more visceral. That’s means…it makes you want to move!
The nature of this 2-disc set is that some songs appear more than once, after all it’s three whole sets so the band was playing to three different audiences, and they all wanted to hear the hits. So “Security” appears a couple of times, as does “Just One More Day,” “Respect,” and “Chained & Bound.” Other tunes are covers of recent hits like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Satisfaction.” Otis does the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (he also does a credible James Brown)! In fact “Satisfaction” was Otis’s latest single so it appears FIVE times! It’s in the centre of all three sets, and it’s used as the closer for two of them.
The other set closes with another big Redding classic “Respect”. This live set recorded in 1966 predates Aretha Franklin’s landmark version of the song.
The band cooks, and Otis sings his heart out. This set is a virtual workshop for wannabe soul singers. And surprisingly, for a live recording from 1966, everything sounds great (thanks to Wally Heider who recorded it). The package as released contains photographs and liner notes which weren’t included in the pre-release copy I heard, but the music is plenty! Taj Mahal, who opened these shows with The Rising Sons, recalls the dates, “I’m still real clear about those shows. It was raw and unscripted. It was just the joy of music, you know. The joy of rhythm, the joy of energy…” And for us, happy listeners nearly 50 years later, the joy of recording! Don’t miss this historic, and eternally musical set.
(Stax Records, 2010)