Otis Clay

Band members                             Related acts

- Otis Clay -- vocals


  backing band

- Dedrick Blanchard -- keyboards

- Henry Ford -- sax

- Howard Grimes -- drums, percussion 

- Charles Hodges -- organ

- Leroy Hodges -- bass

- Mabon "Teenie" Hodges -- lead guitar

- Paul Howard -- trumpet

- Bill McFarland -- trombone




- The Christian Travelers

- The Famous Blue Jay Singers

- The Golden Jubilaires

- The Gospel Songbirds

- The Holy Wonders

- Cash McCall

- The Pilgrim Harmonizers

- The Sensational Nightingales

- Voices of Hope




Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Soul Man Live In Japan

Company: Rooster Blues

Catalog: R7609

Country/State: Waxham, Mississippi

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 8840

Price: $25.00


Best time to play: snuggle time


By the mid-'80s American soul artists were an endangered species, all but abandoned by domestic audiences who'd move on to disco and other musical genres.  Like many soul acts, Chicago's Otis Clay made a couple of attempts to adapt to changing public tastes, but by and large he stayed true to his Southern soul roots, simply turning his attention to overseas markets, including Europe and Japan.


Recorded in October 1983 at a concert in Tokyo's Yubin Chokin Hall, the album was originally released  by the Japanese Yupitera label under the title "Live Again"  


(Yupitera catalog number YR 38-8802). 


Repackaged for the US market by Rooster Blues, "Soul Man Live In Japan" was an eleven track, double concert set pulling together a mixture of Clay's own hits, misses, and several classic cover tunes (Al Green, The Spinners, O.V Wright).   Then 41, Clay was in prime form throughout the set, showcasing one of soul's most overlooked voices.  The fact he was backed by a crack band featuring drummer Howard Grimes and the Hodges Brothers certainly didn't hurt the results - this was one tight outfit.  So where to start ?   Hard to do it when virtually every one of these songs was worth hearing.  If pushed in a corner, I guess my top three choices would be 1.) 'Hard Working Woman', 2.) 'Nickel and a Nail', and 3.) 'Precious Precious' ...   The set would have been even better had Clay avoided the concert plague of stretching songs to the breaking point.  At least half of the selections clocked in at over eight minutes.  As much as I love a song like 'Trying To Love My Life without You', there simply wasn't a need for more than ten minutes of it.   The album would have been far stronger had those extended vamps been curtailed in favor of adding more songs with shorter running times.  The eleven selections were great, but left lots of Clay's classic material missing in action ...  where were such classics as 'I Didn't Know The Meaning Of Pain', 'Home Is Where the Heart Is', 'I'm Qualified', or 'It's Easier Said Than Done' ?


- Listening to the blazing opener 'Hard Working Woman' you just have to wonder how it is American audiences abandoned classic soulsters like Otis Clay for the likes of today's crop of largely talent less poseurs.   Clay is the real thing ...   This man could single handedly literally out-sing the entirety of today's top-40 roster.  This is also one of those rare examples where an extended live rendition of a song beats the shorter, tighter studio version.    rating: ***** stars

- While it won't make you forget Al Green's original, Clay's cover of 'Here I Am (Come and Get Me)' was quite good - perhaps a bit too deferential to the original and probably three minutes too long (though you got to hear the Hodges stretch out - Mabon "Tennie" was particularly impressive),  but still a blast to hear.   rating: **** stars

- The first mild disappointment, 'Love Don't Love Nobody' was a beautiful bluesy ballad, that served to showcase Clay's dynamic voice, but stretched out to eight minutes was more than enough of a good thing.   rating: *** stars

- O.V. Wright cut the definitive version of the song, but Clay's cover of 'A Nickel and a Nail' was pretty impressive with Henry Ford, Paul Howard, and  Bill McFarland turning in some killer horns.   rating: **** stars

- 'Precious Precious' was one of the best songs in Clay's repertoire and as much as I love the live version, pushing it to over 13 minutes simply was a mistake, especially since the last six minutes was turned over to the band for a series of extended solos.   Yeah, the Hodges were great, but they weren't the featured artist.   rating: *** stars

- One of my favorite performances off his debut LP, the live performance of 'Holding On To A Dying Love' was simply killer; perhaps even better than the studio version.   Be sure to check out Leroy Hodges' dazzling bass line.     rating: **** stars

- With an extensive background in Gospel music, it was nice to see Clay touching his roots with an enthusiastic cover of 'His Precious Love'.  Great backing vocals from the horn section ...   rating: ***** stars

- A paean to his Memphis influences, the extended 'Love and Happiness / Soul Man' suite got off to a slow start, but when the track actually kicked in it was amazing.  All Green and Sam and Dave would have approved of the performance.   rating: **** / ****

- The album's one outright mistake, 'Ellie' was a forgettable ballad made worse by an extended Clay vamp.  I'm guessing Clay included the song since it was written by Japanese performer Kesuke Kuwata.   rating: ** stars

- Luckily the album closed out with a romping version of 'Trying To Love My Life without You'.   Hearing the Japanese audience participate in the call and response section was sheer joy.   rating: **** stars


In spite of a couple of flaws, this remains one of the best live albums I've ever heard.   A must own for any true soul aficionado.


"Soul Man Live In Japan" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hard Working Woman   (Len J. Welch) - 6:01

2.) Here I Am (Come and Get Me)   (Al Green - Mabon Hodges) - 6:22

3.) Love Don't Love Nobody   (C. Simmons - Jerry Jefferson) - 8:00


(side 2)
1.) A Nickel and a Nail   (Vernon Morrison - Deadrick Malone) - 4:58

2.) Precious Precious   (David Crawford - Jackie Moore) - 13:27

3.) Holding On To A Dying Love    (George Jackson - James Dotson - Ronald Townsend) - 5:09


(side 3)
1.) His Precious Love   (Leroy Crumb)  - 6:26

2.) Love and Happiness / Soul Man   (Al Green - Mabon Hodges / Isaac Hayes - David Porter) - 13:17


(side 4)
1.) Ellie   (Kesuke Kuwata) - 11:14

2.) Trying To Love My Life without You   (Eugene Williams) - 10:32