Adventures of a University Finalist

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Number 7 With A Bullet

Otis

Otis Redding - Otis! The Definitive... (Rhino, 1993)

Otis Redding - Day Tripper (Live)

"Not halfway, I want you to go all the way now". And with these words, Otis Redding records the greatest Beatles cover of all time knocking that recent Live8 Sgt Pepper shambles into a wide brimmed hat. Why these words? Well it's not just the instrumentation because Clarence Carter would nick the rhythm for his own inferior cut 'Funky Street'. The horns are aggressive, the bass line tempered, and the drums propulsive but no more than other prime cuts. The Mar-Kays and The MGs (I'm not completely sure which play on this live recording but I'm leaning toward the former) were both supreme backing outfits, both rightfully recognised as legends of Southern Soul, but they're merely the foundation for the greatest soul singer of all time. Cooke was more of a cleaner proposition that the Big O with every vowel enunciated, and every note struck with a warm smile and glad tidings. Gaye could be called similar but in his metaphysical pursuit of the sexual, the id, he lost some of his power utilising his voice more as a n instrument to further the groove that he had manufactured. Gaye could be considered as the precursor to the manufactured emptiness of the standard offerings of nu-soul in its loss of priorities. Otis never searched for a mood or any form of wallpaper aesthetic. He sang from heel to crown, putting his body on the line for his music, not through hedonism or drugs but rather letting the music flow through himself as he twisted and contorted like a puppet.
Don't bother tracking down the studio cut of 'Day Tripper' off 'Complete & Unbelievable...', it sounds too polished and restrained for its own good. Here with the man is in his element he tears up the stage from the minute he opens up his mouth. The track begins with the regulation bass line tapping along with the horns working against it with a simple counter melody. The crowd are clapping innocently along in time with the beat expecting a charming by the numbers run through; relief from the rest of the Otis experience with his "knock you on your butt and rub your face in the dirt" power ballads and "dance until you get cramp in every inch of your body" dancefloor stompers. Those audience members are sorely mistaken.
At the end of the opening assault (AKA the chorus), Otis hollers "Do it NOW!!" and the horns unleash a blistering punch at his command and not even Otis' silky remonstration of "Tease you a little bit y'all" came pull them back from the threshold. They've been pushed into a rut of loud, salty blasts of air that propel the band toward the boil. At the start, it was a merely lukewarm run out but within half a minute Otis has turned them into white hot soul-diers ripping up boundaries and spitting out the pieces in sizeable chunks. Its a transformation but one that occurs continuously in sets by the man. The band begin to start at the right tempo but after Otis kicks it becomes bedlam with numerous crescendoes, constant tempo changes, nonsense adlibs, extensive Van Morrison style verbal marathons... the works.
This live version of 'Day Tripper' was my first real contact with the work of Redding, beyond standards like 'Dock of the Bay' and 'Hard to Handle', and it's been true love every since with a Jefitoblog Idiot's Guide now in the works. My favourite song by the great man is 'Pound and Hundreds' with 'Chained and Bound' and 'You One and Only Man' close follow-ups but when I'm chilling with a sloppy wet martini in the Seraphim Bar, this cut will always be the one to get my head nodding with recognition as well as my feet vibrating against the barstool's metal haunches. The Big O may have passed from this world into the Elysian Fields 38 years ago but his gentle Georgia spirit should be both remembered and revered in these trying times.
Tomorrow: Dennis & Carl team up to wilt the tulips with their delicate hymn to the finer sex. Also, thanks to Ben from The Samaritans Are Engaged for pointing out the presence of a certain Mr Waits in Dave Gilmour's Desert Island Discs selection. I always thought that Floyd should stay in the vein of 'St Tropez's elegant whimsy rather than their wretched take of progressive music but you can;t fault Gimour's tastes in music. Delicious.

Buy - Otis Redding - Otis! The Definitive...
Buy - Otis Redding - Remember Me