Archive | December, 2018

Certain Songs #1413: Otis Redding – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay”

Album: The Dock of the Bay
Year: 1968

I guess it’s possible that Otis Redding would have squandered it. That all of the potential, drive and momentum he had built up over the short time he was a recording artist would somehow gone to waste. But I doubt it. Which is what makes his death — via plane crash like Buddy Holly & Ronnie Van Zant — such an incredible loss.

Luckily(?), he’d had a huge burst of creativity just prior to his death: what turned out to be nearly four albums — four good-to-great albums — worth of brand-new recordings for a grieving Steve Cropper to sort through, starting with the titanic and still-inescapable “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay,” which was recorded just days before and released less than a month after he died.

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Certain Songs #1412: Otis Redding – “Try a Little Tenderness (Monterey Pop)”

Album: Monterey Pop
Year: 1967

I dunno when I first saw or heard the magnificent version of “Try a Little Tenderness” that Otis Redding laid on what he called “the love crowd” at the Monterey Pop Festival. I only know that it was the musical highlight of the whole festival. By a zillion miles.

Yes, The Who smashing their equipment and Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire were spectacular pieces of showmanship, but when was the last time you just listened to them minus the visuals? Hell, there isn’t any point when you can dial up either one on YouTube and get blown away all over again.

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Certain Songs #1411: Otis Redding – “Respect (Live in Europe)”

Album: Live in Europe
Year: 1967

“Here’s a song that a girl stole from me, and now I’m stealing it back” is not a thing that Otis Redding ever probably said before performing “Respect” in front of a live audience, but his performance of the song on Live in Europe was ferocious enough to just about do that.

Or at least that’s what mid-1980s Jim, whose exposure to either Aretha Franklin or Otis Redding was still limited to their biggest singles or soundtrack appearances (including Aretha’s performance of “Shake” in The Blues Brothers), so when I first heard Otis locomotivate “Respect” on Live in Europe — the first song on the first Otis Redding album I ever bought — I was blown away by the sheer unbridled energy of it all.

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Certain Songs #1410: Otis Redding – “Stay in School”

Album: Remember Me
Year: 1967

In 1967, Stax records put out a promotional radio-only album called Stay in School. Featuring many of their top artists — Sam & Dave, Willam Bell, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd and Otis Redding, of course — it mixed original songs with “announcements” from the artists about the importance of getting an education. Oh, and it had liner notes from then Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, because who was more cool to the DJs this was aimed at than Hubert H. Humphrey.

Now, while there were no new official songs from Otis Redding, he did to the opening announcement, and while he could have just — quite literally, perhaps — phoned it in, instead he did a quick one minute song that is a bit of a precursor for “Dock of the Bay.” And while it’s called “Announcement” on the album, when it was collected in 1992 for an bottom-of-the-barrel scraping album called Remember Me and the subsequent 1993 box The Otis Redding Story, it was retitled “Stay in School.”

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Certain Songs #1409: Otis Redding – “Merry Christmas, Baby”

B-side, 1968

I’ll admit upfront that if it wasn’t Christmas time, I probably wouldn’t be writing about this song. That said, if it wasn’t Christmas time, I probably wouldn’t be writing about any Christmas songs, a category with which I’ve always had a fraught relationship.

Happily, though, here we are, in the middle of Otis Redding, and it’s Christmas, so why the hell not?

Recorded prior to his death — duh! — “Merry Christmas, Baby” was the b-side of the “White Christmas” single that Stax put out in late 1968; the first of the posthumous singles not to chart, which doesn’t really mean anything I guess. Like “White Christmas,” “Merry Christmas, Baby” was a cover, and in fact, Booker T & The MGs had previously done a bluesy, jazzy cover a couple of years previously.

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