Otis Redding, “The King Of Soul”, had a short but highly creative 5 year recording career that started in 1962 – the year that his first bona fide release was committed to tape. After several previous attempts to make a record, Otis capitalized on an opportunity to cut the single “These Arms Of Mine” as a “walk-on” when there was some recording time left at a Johnny Jenkins & The Pinetoppers session at Stax in Memphis. (Otis served as Jenkins’ chauffeur and sometime singer).
While there are a number of live performances, posthumous albums, and compilations available, Otis recorded only 6 original studio albums and 11 official singles over the course of his career. “Dock Of The Bay Sessions”, while being a compilation, is an outstanding release that has the feel of a well-planned studio album.
Released by Rhino and promoted as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of “The Dock Of The Bay”, the album consists of 12 cuts from the session that produced TDOTB, and provides some insight as to where Otis was headed with his some of his last musical statements. The set stands in stark contrast to the original “The Dock Of The Bay” album that, in Jon Landau’s hands, came off as an uneven collection with numbers such as “Don’t Mess With Cupid” and Otis’ take on “The Hucklebuck” matched with the title cut and the single of the same year, “Glory Of Love”. (As an aside, I always wondered why Stax chose Jon Landau – a music critic at the time – to make the selections).
“Dock Of The Bay Sessions”, on the other hand, is a cohesive collection that draws heavily on “The Immortal Otis Redding” – the first posthumous release that stands on its own merit as one of Otis’ best – with a majority of cuts offered in mono, (just like you’d hear them on the radio).
In addition to the six selections from “The Immortal Otis Redding” and four from “Love Man”, are two numbers previously only available on the compilation “Remember Me” that need to be mentioned. Firstly, “Pounds And Hundreds”, an all-out Southern Rocker, that sounds like the template Eddie Hinton, (“The White Otis Redding”), used to great success on his raucous numbers throughout his career. And then there’s “Gone Again”, that, on first listening, sounds in structure like a typical Otis ballad. But it varies greatly in its embroidered lyrics that up the ante from the usual plain speak of longing for love typically found in Southern Soul.
It’s an outstanding assortment highlighting Otis’ new voice after a polyps operation. That voice lost some grit but reveals a new soulfulness that wasn’t readily apparent on some of Otis’ earlier work.
Lastly, what’s interesting – at least to me – are the liner notes. The author, Bob Stanley, writes as if there’s some alternate universe where Otis doesn’t die, and this album serves as Otis’ new release to not only capitalize on the success of TDOTB but also to showcase a new Otis on the verge of revolutionizing Soul music.
As a postscript, it’s relevant to note that Otis was in the process of other meaningfully creative endeavours. That is, belying his modest beginnings, Otis, the astute businessman that he was, was in the process of establishing an entertainment empire complete with a recording company, publishing companies, and artist management similar to the Motown model.
Ah, what could have been…
- Rico Ferrara, October 2020
3 thoughts on “DOCK OF THE BAY SESSIONS: A REVIEW”
I learned a lot from this! I knew that the original “The Dock of The Bay” album was thrown together to capitalize on the hit single, and that some of the songs on “The Immortal OR” were from the same sessions as that single, but I never knew the whole story. Stax must have had all these songs but chose not to include them on the original album – makes you think that they did not have much confidence in Otis’ new direction. Good for Rhino for getting it right!
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“Otis my man” “Rico my man” Keep it coming Rico Wainfleet awaits your monthly posts
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Always good to get a new Blues For A Big Town post in the mail, and to have more insight to Otis Redding. Thanks for an informative article on an amazing talent, gone too soon.
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