Otis Clay - Trying To Live My Life Without You

Published Friday 14th June 2024
Otis Clay - Trying To Live My Life Without You
Otis Clay - Trying To Live My Life Without You

STYLE: Gospel
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 182057-31510

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

When in the '60s thousands of African American gospel singers made a stab at the exploding soul music record market by recording secular songs on the habitual themes of finding love and losing love, the majority, of course, never saw the money and fame they were looking for. But that's the music way. Vocal excellence alone was never going to be enough. It takes a lot of things to be perfectly in place to produce a hit single - songwriters who have the knack of creating earworm hooks; accompanying musicians who can bring out all the rhythmic nuances of R&B; and producers/A&R men who have the intuitive ability to pull singer, song and performance together to create something that the radio station gatekeepers could put before Joe Public. But when in 1963 Chicagoan Otis Clay made the big leap from gospel quartets to soul singer he was blessed to tie up with a record company, One-Derful Records, savvy enough to put him with the right songwriters and producers to make some R&B hits. When he moved to Hi Records of Memphis, Tennessee he recorded the timeless music presented here. The soul music cognoscente now consider them some of the greatest Southern soul music ever made. Cross Rhythms has long held the view that many of the secular/sacred divisions held by both the music industry and indeed many Christians are unhelpful. This is a mainstream soul album compiled, strangely enough, in Japan. Just about every track shows just why Hi could give Stax a run for their money as the home of Memphis soul hits. And though the hits they achieved with Otis were, unlike Hi's biggest act Al Green, restricted to the R&B rather than the big money pop market, the blend of Otis' rasping, declamatory vocals that wrenched every bit of emotion out of the song, Hi's splendid house band with the renowned Hodges brothers and songs, often written by country music white boys, made great popular art. The lyrics, almost inevitably, are about the pain of losing his girl and titles like "I Die A Little Each Day", "You Can't Keep Running From My Love" and "Holding On To A Dying Love" give some idea of the emotional impact that a soul man of Clay's calibre could bring to a memorable song. I mentioned that Otis never achieved a big pop hit. The mid-tempo title track was the nearest Clay got to that but years later rock man Bob Seeger took a greatly inferior version into the American Top 10. But that, of course, is show biz. Otis was able to enjoy a revival in his career, eventually being recognised in first Japan and then the USA for his major contribution to soul music history. And, more importantly, he always hung on to his Christian faith, recording some gospel albums and always putting a gospel song in his live sets. If you want to hear what classic Southern soul sounds like, this set, released in 2018, is an essential album to search out.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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