Posthumous release number three .... and who would have expected to hear a classic collection like this ? Produced by Steve Cropper, "Love Man" collected twelve tracks that were apparently recorded and set aside during various 1967 sessions. The album reportedly include Redding's last studio performances; material completed shortly before his tragic December 1967 death. Regardless of their histories, these twelve performances captured Redding, with backing from Booker T. and the MGs, and The Mar-Keys, clicking on all cylinders and, in spite of it's fractured beginnings, the set doesn't sound like an odds and ends offering. Kudos to Cropper for bringing such loving care to the project. Seriously, it's one of those rare albums where there isn't a single bad song on the album. Probably one of a dozen albums I've ever given so many four and five star ratings to. ATCO certainly felt the same way, releasing five singles off the album. So, against that backdrop how do you pick a favorite song ? Hard to do, but if I had to single out one performance, it would be the title track which pulled everything together - killer tune; classic Redding vocals; sizzling support from the MGs and The Mar-Keys, but also served to reveal Redding's playful side. fllow-up choices would be the tunes where Redding was playing around with ways to attract the pop audience - 'Direct Me' and 'Look At that Girl' scoring high. Bottom line, this compilation made it easy to see why Redding remains one of soul's all time greats.
"The Immortal Otis Redding" track listing: (side 1) 1.) I'm a Changed Man (Steve Cropper - Otis Redding - Cullipher) - 2:15 'I'm a Changed Man' opened the album with a breezy, almost jazzy number. Well, as jazzy as a soul great like Redding could get. Backing by Booker T. and the MGs and The Mar-Keys simply kicked this one into a different league. I'm surprised the wonderful introductory section hasn't been sampled by scores of talent less poseurs. rating: **** stars 2.) (Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher (Gary Johnson - Carl Smith) - 3:03 Geez, shame on me for thinking Jackie Wilson actually wrote this one ... As energetic as Redding's 1967 recording was, it's always sounded like a studio vamp, more than a completed performance. Al Jackson's locomotive drumming provided the song's secret ingredient. That said, Jackie Wilson's original was even better. rating: *** stars 3.) That's a Good Idea (Otis Redding) - 2:17 Along with The MGs, The Mar-Keys were such an important part of Redding's unique sound and that's seldom been as obvious as on this gritty soul number. My gawd the man could vamp on a lyric ! rating: **** stars 4.) I'll Let Nothing Separate Us (Otis Redding) - 2:51 I don't think I've ever heard an artist who could pull off a pleading ballad like Otis Redding. You would have thought the man was pleading for his life on this one. rating: **** stars 5.) Direct Me (Steve Cropper - Otis Redding) - 2:18 Steve Cropper's wicked little fills combine with Redding's raspy delivery to make 'Direct Me' one of the album standouts. How could radio have overlooked this one ? Guess it was just too soulful for the airwaves. Only complaint here is the song was too short. rating: **** stars 6.) Love Man (Otis Redding) - 2:17 I constantly have to laugh when I realize how many people came to this song via the flick "Dirty Dancing". In the big picture I guess it doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there ... Anyhow, 'Love Man' is simply one of Redding's most irresistible performances. With a wonderful lyric (how can you not smile when you hear him singing "six feet one, weigh two hundred and ten; long hair ... real fair skin ..." this was a perfect shagging tune. If you can sit still through this track, I'd suggest you are dead. ATCO tapped it as the second single off the LP. rating: ***** stars
(side 2) 1.) Groovin' Time (Otis Redding - Steve Cropper) - 2:46 With what almost sounds like a mash-up of New Orleans funk-meets James Brown, 'Groovin' Time' let The MGs take a bow in the spotlight - particularly the Donald "Duck "Dunn and Al Jackson rhythm section. Yes sir, it's groovin' time !!! rating: **** stars 2.) Your Feeling Is Mine (Otis Redding) - 2:19 It took a minute to find its groove, but when it happened, with its spare, bluesy feel, 'Your Feeling Is Mine' was every bit as good as the rest of the album. rating: **** stars 3.) Got To Get Myself Together (Otis Redding) - 2:25 Another track where Al Jackson and the MGs shine ... Amazing how effortlessly Redding seemed to toss these up-tempo funky numbers out. rating: **** stars 4.) Free Me (Otis Redding - Gene Lawson) - 3:06 A classic Redding ballad that literally squeeze every last ounce of energy out of you. 5.) A Lover's Question (Brook Benton - Jimmy Williams) - 2:52 One of three covers, Redding's take on 'A Lover's Question' was simply great. Abandoning Clyde McPhatter's sweet, but dated doo-wop-ish arrangement, Redding gave the song an up-tempo, breezy arrangement, you could just feel Redding smiling through the song. To my ears it sounded like an earlier effort, but what do I know rating: **** stars 6.) Look At that Girl (R. Stewart - E. Morris) - 2:36 Built on a dynamite Dunn bass line, 'Look At that Girl' was another slice of Redding the pop star. Yeah, it was pop with a deep soul edge and the backing singers were kind of irritating, but Redding's gleaming delivery ultimately won you over. rating: **** stars
The album spun off a series of five singles; many which were released on a world-wide basis: 1969's 'A Lover's Question' b/w 'You Made a Man Out of Me' (ATCO catalog number 45-6654) - 1969's 'Love Man' b/w 'Can't Turn You Loose' (ATCO catalog number 45-6677) - 1969's 'Look at the Girl' b/w 'That's a Good Idea' (ATCO catalog number 45-6723) - 1969's 'Demonstration' b/w 'Johnny's Heartbreak' (ATCO catalog number 45-6742) - 1969's 'Free Me' b/w '(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher' (ATCO catalog number 45-6760)