Otis Redding
" Live in London and Paris "
Stax/Concord Records

Blueswax 8
Rating 8

Otis Redding Blows The Europeans Away, (11/05/08)

It's March of 1967 and on a bill that featured Arthur Conley, Eddie Floyd, and Sam & Dave, backed by Booker T. and the M.G.'s and the Mar-Keys, Otis Redding owned the closing segment for the two different nights that these shows were recorded, which were just four days apart. This recording is taken from performances in London and Paris, the London show is about ten minutes shorter than the Paris performance because of an 11:00 p.m. curfew in London. Crack recording engineer Tom Dowd was flown to Paris (not London) to preside over the recording process. In the extensive liner notes Steve Cropper is quoted as saying that originally the Paris set was the one they wanted to record, which makes sense with the presence of Dowd.

But here we have both nights on one disc, and this CD starts with the London show (where the recording is a little rough) and we get to hear Redding rip through "Respect" at break-neck speed, as well as Sam Cooke's "Shake, "Day Tripper," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," as well as smooth Soul tunes like "My Girl," "FA-FA-FA-FA-FA (Sad Song)," and the gut wrenching closer "Try A Little Tenderness," where during one of several reprises you hear Otis call out for Carla, which certainly sounds like Carla Thomas.

The Paris show starts with the same "Respect" that started the London performance in similar pedal to the metal fashion, but instead of slowing down with "My Girl," (as he did in London) Redding and the M.G.'s keep pouring it on with an intense "I Can't Turn You Loose." Next up is another song not included in London, as Otis calls out "for something we call Soul" and goes into "I've Been Loving You Too Long." More Soul continues with Smokey Robinson's "My Girl" and it's excellent to hear that Stax grit over the smoother Motown version. The sound also starts to improve at this point, as the bass rounds out, the horns get thicker, and you can hear Booker's B3 clearer, as well as Cropper's guitar, got to love Tom Dowd who seemingly is honing in on the right mix for each instrument. A pair of high-paced versions of "Shake" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" follows much to the delight of the frenzied fans, who are also better balanced in the mix. Also added to the Paris show is "These Arms of Mine," which was on Redding's very first recording. Redding then asks the crowd, "Do you like the show?" and rips into another smoking cover of "Day Tripper," which is the next to last tune of the performance. Paris festivities commence with "Try A Little Tenderness," which once again blows the listener down with a rousing finish.

It amazes me, that after over forty years, how well known all of these songs still are and what an incredible performer Redding was.

Otis Redding Live in London and Paris was remixed from the original masters, the results are not always as crisp and clear as we would like them to be, but with Redding's vocals at the forefront and the Stax house band backing him, it's easy to forgive the audio and far better to just sit back enjoy this powerhouse band and Redding's driving vocals. This disc comes in a digi-pack wrapping with a sixteen-page booklet that includes liner notes from Bill Belmont, Ace Record's Roger Armstrong, French author Jean-Noel Orgouz, and M.G. guitarist Steve Cropper. The two sets included here predate the legendary Monterey performance by a couple of months and are at least as formidable (especially the Paris night) as the Monterey set. Last but not least, this was Stax Soul captured in all of its glory. The original tapes of these sets (Atlantic issued an LP of the London show in 1967) have been reassembled and restored for this release. Just drop this CD in your player, then dance and enjoy.

Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com