This album works on so many different levels, that it's essential listening for at least three categories of buyer -- fans of Otis Redding and Stax Records (natch), and more general soul listeners, and also anyone serious about their devotion to the work of the Rolling Stones and any other British invasion bands that covered American soul. Pain In My Heart was practically a road map to Mick Jagger and any number of other would-be white soul shouters in the UK, not just on the title track but also numbers like the hard rocking "Hey Hey Baby". For someone only 22 years old at the time of these sessions, and just two years past his first 45 rpm record, Redding exudes astonishing power, energy and boldness, though it's all packaged with greater restraint than his subsequent records did. This was the only LP that Redding recorded during the lifetime of his idol, Sam Cooke, and his version of "You Send Me" is the least stylized of any of his renditions of Cooke's songs -- later on, after Cooke's death, he would throw more of himself into it. The very fact that he was covering Cooke's soul classic shows an essential difference between Redding's and Cooke's early LPs; as Redding was on a soul label, no one tried to make him into a pop singer as that'd done at RCA with Cooke -- thus, he was running on all cylinders right out of the starting gate, though he wouldn't get really interesting or show his full depth until two albums later. But even covering Rufus Thomas's "The Dog", Richard Berry's "Louie Louie", Little Richard's "Lucille", or Ben E. King's "Stand By Me", he's already doing 70% of what we came to expect from Otis Redding in the years ahead -- his writing, apart from "Security", "These Arms Of Mine" and "That's What My Heart Needs", was still somewhat less than memorable, but this is still a first-rate debut and a must-own CD.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder