As the kids say, I’m an Otis stan. (Oh science, I almost wrote “stan” like an old person, with quotes.) So I’m pretty much going to like everything he did.
But I think this record is an improvement on Otis Blue in part because he’s not taking on as many classic songs. And things get off to a good start with “Just One More Day,” one of his very best songs. (Though, honestly, I can’t really imagine someone else doing this song.) He still tackles some famous materiel – “Chain Gang,” “Nobody Knows You” – and some other songs first done by others which I don’t know as well. But his different takes on these are less jarring than they were on Otis Blue in part because the songs are just less iconic. (And, honestly, his version of “Chain Gang” is a lot less gimmicky than Cooke’s.) There’s not a lot of original material here but that’s honestly not really why anyone’s listening to Otis Redding (as far as I know). And I guess that’s why I don’t really care that the material isn’t “first rate” in the way it is on Otis Blue.
The reason people listen is the man’s the voice and aesthetic. And both are in fine form here. Few others have been able to wring so much emotion out of words that might otherwise seem completely trite (or innocuous). The MGs know when to play and when not to and the horn arrangements on this record are some of the best he’s had.
So, hot take: I like this more than Otis Blue, which is often considered his best album, and Complete & Unbelievable, which is often considered his second best. Maybe that’s just the mood I’m in. Maybe I need to listen to all his albums in a row and I’d change my mind. But, right now, this one is doing it for me.