Review Summary: Pain In My Heart offers a plethora of marvellous songs and the debut of a truly inspiring artist: The King of Soul, Otis Redding.
Otis Ray Redding, Jr. is a musical genius who had his life cut far too early. At the tail end of 1967, Redding died in a plane crash that took the lives of all but one person (a Bar-Kays member, Ben Cauley, who was asleep shortly before the impact occurred). Otis was only 26 years old. Though this was a terrible tragedy, thankfully The King of Soul was able to live on by sharing his musical genius with the entire world during his short, yet legendary existence; releasing six incredible studio records and a ton of tremendous singles in the process (some included on this record, such as "Security"
, "These Arms of Mine"
, "That's What My Heart Needs"
and the title-track). Pain In My Heart
is a brilliant debut that helped pave the way for The Big O to become an everlasting household name.
Starting the album off in style, "Pain In My Heart"
is a blue little track that remains so utterly charming to this day due to Redding's enticing, always-changing vocal performance as well as the phenomenal orchestra at his side; an extraordinary group, featuring fellow soul legends such as Booker T. Jones and Isaac Hayes. The lyrics featured on the title track are impeccable, yet contain a perfect amount of brevity, enabling The Big O to inject a ton of soul into this already heartfelt song; especially in lines such as "and now the days / has began to get tough / said I want you to come back / come back / come back, baby"
and "said I want you to love me / love me / love me, baby / till I get enough"
. Alike a lot of records released during this time-frame, half of the tracks featured on Pain In My Heart
are covers; the most noticeable ones being "Stand by Me"
and "Louie, Louie"
. Thankfully Redding and the orchestra breathe new life into these songs; a notion that becomes most evident in the follow-up to the title track, "The Dog"
, which delightfully switches gears and offers a groovy, toe-tap worthy anthem for listeners to smile over.
"Hey Hey Baby"
breaks up the onslaught of covers set across the majority of side one, showcasing the talents that Redding was capable of with writing cheerfully soulful tracks. While the lyrics tend to repeat certain lines over-and-over again, such as "hey, hey, pretty baby / baby, you sure is fine / hey, hey, pretty baby / baby, you sure is fine"
, Otis adds a terrific amount of charisma and humanity to every single word that is wailed. Not one syllable is put to waste on this record, thanks to his consistently endearing vocal performance woven throughout, all songs burst to life, brimming with a brilliant amount of character and class. A perfect example of this is featured in "Louie, Louie"
, the shortest track on the record, but one that reels you in right away with a gripping chorus, along with a nice saxophone solo that arrives during the halfway point.
Side two features the bulk of Redding's original compositions. "Security"
and "That's What My Heart Needs"
provide an outstanding one-two punch. However, while they're both phenomenal songs in every regard, the former is arguably where Otis delivers the most electrifying vocal performance of his entire career. Not only is The King of Soul on-fire throughout, but the whole orchestra are absolutely stunning too. Opening up with a heartwarming trumpet section, backed up a jazzy bass melody lurking beneath this satisfying single, every member has a moment to shine on "Security"
, easily making it the finest track on the record.
Pain In My Heart
shoots by in a sudden blast. Clocking in at around 30 minutes in length, there's absolutely no filler to take note of. Every single song has a shining moment (or more) that will keep listeners invested; for instance, "That's What My Heart Needs"
contains a constantly charming guitar rhythm that is simple, but absolutely effective in the long run, all while the title track and others allow Redding to flex his high-octane vocals in an always pleasing manner. Overall this debut is a classic. Absolutely enlightening and inspiring all the way to the very end, this is masterful musicianship that deserves to be discovered.