Saturday, 24 October 2015

Autumnal Covers #8

There's no doubt the Stax label produced some astonishingly good music during its peak period in the sixties. Its biggest star was Otis Redding, whose passing in 1967 marked the beginning of the end for the label. One of Redding's most famous hits was Try A Little Tenderness, a song dating from the 1930s and previously sung by the likes of Bing Crosby, Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke. Redding's version however saw the track take on an entirely different arrangement. It only reached #25 in the Billboard chart in 1966, but has since become regarded as one of the greatest recordings of all-time.

Otis Redding's backing band on Try A Little Tenderness was the Stax house band Booker T & The MGs, who had enjoyed a number of big hits in their own right. In 1969, having been mightily impressed with the Beatles' 'Abbey Road' LP, the band decided to record their own take on the record. Entitled 'McLemore Avenue' (the address of Stax HQ), it was a completely instrumental interpretation of the Beatles record that itself had only been released a matter of months earlier.

The Von Bondies were as much influenced by the r&b stars on labels such as Stax, as they were by the noisy garage bands of the same period. They recorded a version of Try A Little Tenderness which appeared as the hidden bonus track on their second album. It doesn't sound much like Otis' version, but then you wouldn't expect it to. I love it, but I doubt everyone will.

I've also included a segment of track 4 from 'McLemore Avenue'. It only had four actual tracks, but Booker T and the boys decided to expand on the Beatles' approach of song montages and segued a number of songs together, creating lengthy continuous medleys. There's some nice guitar work by the boy Cropper in there too.


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