In the 1960s, R&B music was pretty much ruled (on the charts, at least) by Detroit and Motown records. As polished and sophisticated as it was, it still introduced many great Black singers to White America. Not far behind Motown's great work was that of Atlantic Records and its subsidiaries like Stax and Volt. Their vision of soul was something much grittier and rawer, and it wasn't afraid to make sadness exactly sound like that, gut-wrenchingly emotional.
"Redding's third album includes covers of three songs by Sam Cooke, Redding's idol, who died the previous December. Their styles couldn't have been more different: Cooke smooth and sure, Redding raw and pleading. But Redding's versions of "Shake" and "A Change Is Gonna Come" show how Cooke's sound and message helped shape Redding's Southern soul, heard here in his originals "Respect" and "I've Been Loving You Too Long" and in a cover of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which was itself inspired by the Stax/Volt sound. "I use a lot of words different than the Stones' version," Redding noted. "That's because I made them up." - www.rollingstone.com
My vote for the most emotional soul singer of all time (and there are many) would be the late, great Otis Redding. In less than half a decade, Otis recorded some of the most spectacular and heartfelt soul music ever set to wax. Granted, a lot of Otis' albums were of the thrown-together variety a la Motown, but I kept hearing that "Otis Blue" (1965) was the best of the lot.
To say which song on here is the best-known would be a bit tough, but I'll take a guess and say that it's definitely "Respect". Otis' version was a top 30 hit and a great listen in its own right. But we all know that Aretha Franklin practically owns that song now, and we can best say that Otis' version is a pale reminder of things to come. Next in line may be the fiery (and that's an understatement) "I've Been Loving You Too Long". Written with fellow soul legend Jerry Butler, Otis helps create 3 minutes of probably the barest emotions ever released on record, and his "Good God Almighty, I love you!!!" near the end is the epitome of chills down your spine.
Another great Otis original is "Ole Man Trouble" (B-side to "Respect"). Most of "Otis Blue" contains Otis' versions of proven classics, some of which Otis manages to reinvent just like Aretha did for his "Respect". The Rolling Stones' legendary "Satisfaction" was a surefire plus for any soul singer, and Otis trumps their ace by replacing the famous guitar lick with a horn section. Otis doesn't exactly steal "Satisfaction" from Mick & Keith, but it manages to stand right alongside it, and that says a lot. B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby" was bedroom music at its raunchiest, and Otis once again takes a great song and makes it even better. It's the same story on Solomon Burke's (recently inducted into the Hall of Fame) "Down In The Valley". William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water" features a rare restained performance from Mr. Otis, and its slightly more country sound would prove it an appropriate cover for (of all groups) The Byrds.
One of Otis' fellow soul pioneers was Sam Cooke, and even he acknowledged Cooke's important contribution of bringing gospel to R&B music. He pays tribute to his mentor and dear friend with three Cooke classics: the stirring social anthem "A Change Is Gonna Come" (which I'm sure provided the soundtrack to numerous civil rights marches), the booty-moving "Shake" (Otis would later bring the audience to its feet with this song at the Monterey Pop festival), and probably Cooke's most infectious tune "Wonderful World" (don't know much about history...).
R&B music has certainly come a long way since the soul-baring recordings of Aretha, Otis, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett. But music as cathartic as this is certainly hard to come by in this day and age of synthesized and overly-commercial R&B. However, OTIS BLUE is a great example of soul music when it was drawing more inspiration from the church than the charts. - Eric Andrews
Ole Man Trouble, Respect, Change Gonna Come, Down In The Valley, I've Been Loving You Too Long, Shake, My GIrl, Wonderful World, Rock Me Baby, Satisfaction, You Don't Miss Your Water.