Otis Redding – Otis Forever: The Albums & Singles (1968-1970) (Rhino)
6-LP set chronicling Otis’ posthumous albums, on colored vinyl!
There’s something about the music of Otis Redding – put on one of his records, and it immediately sets a mood. Otis Forever: The Albums & Singles (1968-1970), a new, 6-LP collection, covers the era immediately after his passing.
A special edition, featuring colored vinyl, is available only at rhino.com.
When Redding’s plane went down in a frigid Wisconsin lake in December of 1967, the world lost one of the greatest singers of all time. At the time, he was Stax Records’ biggest star, and had just wowed the hippie crowd at the Monterey Pop Festival. This set shows what could have been, if he had lived.
These albums came after the death of Otis Redding. But, don’t let that dissuade you – these recordings are fantastic – and some of the artist’s best.
The Dock of the Bay topped the Album charts in both the US and UK, just a month after his death. It leads with the title track, which marked a completely new direction for Redding. Instead of screaming, he almost croons the words. The usual electric guitar is replaced by an acoustic, and then whistling at the end. It stands as one of the greatest soul records of all time.
The remaining album is a hodge podge of singles, b-sides, album tracks and unreleased cuts, yet it still stands up. “Love You More Than Words Can Say” is a great, pleading ballad, while “Open the Door” features Redding talking at the beginning, and the “tap tap tap” percussion, as he sings “let me in / let me in.” Steve Cropper’s tasty guitar lines take center stage for “Don’t Mess with Cupid,” while Redding plays the likable oof in the downright hilarious interplay with Carla Thomas on “Tramp,” which had originally been issued on their King & Queen album.
While Dock of the Bay pulled from a variety of sources, for the most part, The Immortal Otis Redding, featured tracks recorded in the final weeks before his death. “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” is spine-chilling good. Redding made a career out of heartfelt ballads, but this one carries so much emotion. Listen how he stretches the word “remember” – it’s almost as if the singer knew his time was short. Several songs are really funky – the one-two punch of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and the now-classic, “Hard to Handle,” shows that Redding was ready to branch out into new territory.
So much of this is expanding what Redding had done before. “Champagne and Wine” is about as sultry as the singer ever got. “Think About It” has piano and a loping bass line, while he takes Ray Charles’ “A Fool For You” and adds a big dose of Memphis soul to make it his own. The LP ends with “Amen,” which opens with just the singer, then builds to a horn-driven climax.
Love Man was the third posthumous album. It leads with “I’m a Changed Man,” which features an impassioned Redding vocal: he seems unable to control himself as he devolves into “Ya ya ya ya” in the middle. “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher” is a surprising cover of the Jackie Wilson classic – dig those Al Jackson drums. “I’ll Let Nothing Separate Us” is a decent ballad. Better is the groovin’ “Direct Me.” “Love Man” is one of Redding’s finest tunes – pounding and autobiographical, and “Free Me” is another moving, slow burner, this time with organ present.
The final album of unreleased material was Tell the Truth. You’d have thought that they’d raided everything good from the vaults by now, but…you’d be wrong. “Tell the Truth” is gritty soul with a stop/start beat. I really like “I Got the Will,” how the melody seems to build and build. All the albums use the stereo mixes – although Tell the Truth features at least three songs in fake stereo.
The Singles: 1968-1970 compiles the 45’s released during this same period. While the albums use the stereo versions, these singles are all in mono. “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay” is the punchier, mono mix, backed by “Sweet Lorene,” which came out originally on the Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, while “Hard to Handle” should’ve been a bigger hit and signaled a new direction for Redding, instead it became a footnote.
Also included is a Christmas single: “White Christmas” backed with the superior “Merry Christmas Baby.” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” is live and is taken from In Person at the Whisky a Go Go (not included here). The b-side of “Love Man,” “Can’t Turn You Loose” is also from the live album.
One oddity that I noticed: none of these albums carry a barcode on the jacket – meaning, they were manufactured exclusively for this box and are not available elsewhere.
Otis Forever is perfect for that next get together. Let Otis’ music set the mood, and your guests will marvel as the cool colored vinyl. Otis Forever is a bittersweet look at the final notes of Redding’s career. —Tony Peters