When I get the urge to hear some soul music, I often go straight to Otis. And when I go to Otis, I tend to go straight to Try A Little Tenderness. It was only when this came on the radio the other day that I remembered what a highlight it is on the immortal album Otis Blue.
The only thing wrong with it is that, like so many of the songs of that era (1965) it’s nowhere near long enough.
Ole Man Trouble is the opening track, setting the tone for an album made up mostly of cover versions: three of them by Sam Cooke, who had died months before it was recorded.
This is one of only three written by Otis himself and it was the first to be recorded, later coming out as the B-side of Respect. It’s been called a blues song, with a classic soul melody, set to country overtones. Which is another way of describing Southern soul.
He’s backed by the cream of the Stax studio musicians: Booker T & The MGs (Booker T Jones on keyboards, Steve Cropper on guitar, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass and drummer Al Jackson Jr) and a brass section comprising members of the Mar-Keys and Memphis Horns… plus pianist Isaac Hayes.
Incredibly, ten of the 11 songs were recorded in a 24-hour period from 10am on a Saturday in July to 2pm on the Sunday – with a break from 8pm to 2am on Saturday night to let the musicians play local gigs.
Coming out at the start of the album era proper (rather than just collections of singles) in September 1965, Otis Blue was Redding’s third album and became his first crossover success, introducing him to a generation of white pop fans.