cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
Album Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.

 

 

"...he continues to be such a strong influence on music and vocal performances so many decades later." - [BBC Music reviews] .. .. .. "One of the finest pure soul albums of the ’60s, and some would contend ever." - [Americansongwriter.com] .. .. .. "We can only marvel at the utter quality of the music and the sublime expression of pure soul music" - [This review]

This is album review number 202 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.

The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

I love dipping into my crate for Blues, R&B and Soul albums, and this album is possibly the best Soul album in my collection.

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
Album label – [CLICK to enlarge]
It is the 1966 album by the late and great Otis Redding – “The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul Complete & Unbelievable.”

I have the original US pressing released on the ATCO VOLT RECORDS label – Volt 415.

The album has 12 tracks, six per side with seven of them written either by Otis Redding or Otis, in conjunction with other writers.

 

What an album!

I previously reviewed another Otis Redding album from my collection – “Otis Redding – Otis Blue“, and here is what I wrote about his background in that review.

Otis Redding was born in 1941 and given the name Otis Redding, Jr. He and his family moved to Macon Georgia when he was five years old.

At an early age he began his career as a singer and musician in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church. Determined to help his family financially, he began to compete in the local Douglass Theatre talent shows for the five-dollar prize. However, after winning the competition 15 times straight, he was banned from competing any further.

At 19 he joined Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers and would also sing at the “Teenage Party” talent shows sponsored by local celebrity disc jockey King Bee. These were held on Saturday mornings initially at the Roxy Theater and later at the Douglass Theatre in Macon.

In order to do a recording session in October 1962 at Stax Records, Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, including Otis, drove to the studio at Memphis Tennessee.  This was the first time Otis had been in a recording studio – it would not be his last.

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
A young Otis Redding – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

At the end of the session, Stax co-owner Jim Stewart who had been overwhelmed by the power of Otis’ voice, allowed him to cut a couple of songs with the remaining studio time.

The result was “These Arms of Mine”, released in 1962 and Otis was on his way to fame.

A total of six albums were released during Otis’ life (and a further four posthumously). Redding died just three days after recording Dock of the Bay, and one day before the third anniversary of Sam Cook’s death.

Like other notable music greats before and since, his death was a result of an airplane crash. The year was December 10, 1967!

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

His death was as tragic for soul music and American music in general, as was Buddy Holly’s.

It can be said that the halcyon days of Soul was during the period that Otis sang and it is just as easy to justify this statement. They were the halcyon years of the style and mainly because of him. Certainly he wasn’t alone, with artists such as Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Solomon Burke (to name a few), but he shone brighter than any of them.

In 1967 he replaced Elvis Presley as the world’s top male vocalist in the Melody Maker poll, a position Presley had held for eight years.

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

Now to this amazing album.

In some ways both the front and rear covers might be considered as a little schmaltzy today. “Dressing” Otis in clothes to represent him as a teacher and having him appear to be leaning on a large “Dictionary Of Soul” probably wouldn’t cut it today.

The rear cover provides us with a selection of soul words and their meanings as if taken from this “dictionary”.

Personally, I find it not just fantastic, but it is now in so many ways an iconic cover and certainly recent re-releases have kept faithfully to this artwork.

PICTURE

SIDE 1

  1. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)
  2. I’m Sick Y’All
  3. Tennessee Waltz
  4. Sweet Lorene
  5. Try A Little Tenderness
  6. Day Tripper

 

Side 2

  1. My Lover’s Prayer
  2. She Put The Hurt On Me
  3. Ton Of Joy
  4. You’re Still My Baby
  5. Hawg For You
  6. Love Have Mercy
cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
Rear Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

So, just how do you make one of the worlds best Soul albums?

Easy! You take a man who was at the top of his game, a soul singer unlike any before or after, and put the very best soul music musicians behind him.

That’s a great start.

Supporting Redding on this album was the BEST –

Booker T. & the M.G.’s—organist Booker T. Jones, pianist/guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, Jr.

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
Steve Cropper; Booker T Jones; Donald “Duck” Dunn & Al Jackson Jnr – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Then Redding takes blues, country and even pop and adds his own compositions and lets them loose on the “Memphis Boys” and the result is Dictionary Of Soul.

Side 1, track 1 is Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)

What a great track to open this album up with.  Written by Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper it is one of those tracks that grabs you by the throat and demand you sing along.

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soulFa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa

I keep singing them sad, sad songs, y’all
Sad songs is all I know
I keep singing them sad, sad songs, y’all
Sad songs is all I know

It has a sweet melody tonight
Anybody can sing it any old time
It touches your heart
Puts you in a groove
And when you sing this song
It’ll make your whole body move

It goes, Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa
Your turn
My turn
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa
Your turn now

All my life I’ve been singin’ sad songs
Tryin’ to get my message to you, honey
But that’s the only song, y’all, I can sing
And when you get through singin’
My message will be to you

It goes, Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa
Your turn now

It’s a lovely song, y’all
Sweet music, honey
It’s just a line, oh but
It tells a story, baby
You got to get the message
A stone message, honey
A lovely line, baby
I’m worried in mind, watch me

Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa
Your turn
Everybody’s turn, everybody
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa
One more time
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa
Worried in mind, y’all
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa…

I mean this track sets the bar so high and it’s only the first track!

Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)

Track 3Tennessee Waltz. Only Otis Redding could take what amounted to a waltz and turn it into soul.  “Tennessee Waltz” was a popular country music song written twenty years earlier in 1946 and first released in January 1948. The song became a multimillion seller via a 1950 recording by Patti Page.

However, the difference between the two versions is putting it bluntly – stark!

Track 4 –Sweet Lorene. Oh my soul! This is simply amazing. Co-written by none other than Isaac Hayes, Redding throws everything into this track. The “Memphis Boys” just ooze class and we have one almighty fine track – “Ou we ni”!

Sweet Lorene

Track 5 is Try A Little Tenderness.

The track was first recorded on December 8, 1932, by the Ray Noble Orchestra and then by several other artists including Bing Crosby.

Put the track n the hands of Otis Redding and it goes from hit to, classic!

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
CLICK to enlarge]

 

Otis just leaves nothing in the emotion tank. He sings from the depth of his soul and the backing instrumentation is simply superb.

It starts as a slow powerful soulful, almost a sad song, before it builds, and builds and builds into a frantic R&B grab you by the balls track.

Try A Little Tenderness

The final track on Side 1 is Day Tripper.

This IS one of the Lennon McCartney tracks that just leant itself to reinterpretation. Here Redding shows he can take a pop song, and in all honesty one that can be thought of as not a great Beatles track, and turn it into a stomping soul song as if it were written for that style.

Oh, and I bet the Beatles wish they had those Memphis horns on their version!

Side 2 kicks off with My Lovers Prayer. Written by Redding it was released as a single in 1966. it is often said to be his his answer to ‘When a Man Loves a Woman”, which was written and sung by Percy Sledge.

It is yet a definite highlight, and once again reminds us of just how powerful and emotional his singing was.

Track 2 is She Put The Hurt On Me.

This is the hidden gem on the album. This track doesn’t mince words – it isn’t sophisticated and has no hidden messages.

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

Otis just tells it as it is with his women while providing us with a wonderful uptempo dance track.

Wait a minute
I gotta tell you about it
She give me twenty two minutes of love
I had to think about it
She give me forty minutes
I had to talk about it
She give me sixty minutes
I couldn’t do without it
She give me one hour of love, y’all
She give me that yeah

She Put The Hurt On Me

Track 3 is another Otis Redding composition – Ton Of Joy.

Opens with the oh sweet sounds of the Memphis brass it sits in a beautiful groove. This is a “confessional” song. It’s smooth, its pretty damn mellow and it’s also plaintiff.

Track 4You’re Still My Baby.

Originally recorded by the1950s hit man Chuck Willis, with  “You’re Still My Baby”, Otis gives it a right royal work over work in an exercise in free rhythm.

Track 5Hawg For You.

Ahhh, how does the “Soul Man” deal with pure R&B? Well he provides us with a real earthy rendition and at time I’m sure the great Muddy Waters would have been stunned at it’s pure blues edge.

In case you thought the King of Soul” couldn’t sing the blues – check this out!

Otis makes 12 bar blues sound soooo good! “Take me wid you when you go man!”

Hawg For You

The final track is Love have Mercy.

This is yet another track that has Isaac Hayes’ finger prints all over it. It opens with a simple chord progression and a snappy snare before Otis and the rest of the band come in.

Love have mercy, yeah, on my soul. How many kisses, y’all, have I stole. From other girls they didn’t belong to me. That’s why the payback is just misery, yeah

It was the B-side of Try A Little Tenderness and what a “groovy track to finish the album off with.

This was this amazing man’s his final studio album before his untimely death on December 10, 1967, when he would perish in a plane crash that also claimed most of his backing band, The Bar-Kays.

We can only marvel at the utter quality of the music and the sublime expression of pure soul music and while there are some brilliant tracks, such as “Dock of The Bay” on other albums, in my mind this is his piece de resistance.

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul
His memorial stone – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

What beautiful music would have eventuated if not for his early death ? – a question and pondering’s we have with other great stars, like Buddy holly, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon.

There have been a few re-releases of this album and the best would be the 50th Anniversary double LP and Cd release that has the original tracks plus bonus tracks.

However, if you would like to have the original release there are copies on Discogs from around $25Au – but watch out for postage costs.

cream of the crate album review # 202 : otis redding – dictionary of soul


VIDEOS:

Sadly there are not many live performances by Otis Redding and here are some of the best.

 

Dock Of the Bay

 

Mr Pitiful

 

I’ve Been Loving You . . .

 

Shake


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –

cream of the crate: album reviews #151 – 200

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.

#201.  The Atlantics – Great Surfing Sounds Of the Atlantics