Why I chose The Dock of the Bay

I didn’t settle on The Dock of the Bay until the moment before I posted my choice on the Facebook thread, though I think it was inevitable. The first album that any of us pick  is special, we could approach it as a joke if we wanted, but we all care deeply about sharing music we love and think is noteworthy. The three albums shared so far demonstrate this: Austin chose a beloved album that he wasn’t even sure any of us would enjoy, while Alex wanted to introduce us to one of the greatest rap albums ever recorded.These choices end up being more personal, more revealing, perhaps even more vulnerable than we intend.

This is why The Dock of the Bay was my pick this week. Most simply, I’ve been listening to it non-stop for months, especially the title-track. Otis has a voice that is intoxicating. So many singers lilt or glide through a song, but Redding digs into it. He doesn’t savor or relish, there is an honesty and desperation to his voice that separates him from countless others who enjoy their own vulnerability too much. If you let yourself relax and focus, you might believe he was singing directly to you, or from you. This is where I’ve found myself so many times this year, whether weeding the garden, or watching from the roof of the barn the wind roll across the brome grass hills. Dock of the Bay is hopeful and melancholy,  as if there is as much to be found in the negative space of the album; a few months ago I was listening through and I thought of a painting by Monet which has much the same effect on me (not to mention the same theme).

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet. Try listening to “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” again while looking at it.

As of the time of writing this, only Austin and Jason have published responses to tDotB, and both of them mentioned how the first track steals and completely overshadows the rest of the album. This is surprisingly fitting for my first album pick. Both Alex and Austin can confirm that I used to never listen to entire albums; I didn’t believe in their value as a cohesive work of art, instead opting to pick and choose the songs I loved, the mixtape philosophy, if you will. It was only with their help that I admitted that yes musicians probably have some purpose in their compilations and that an album in its entirety might be more useful for exploring a theme or time period than one song. So here is an album that is both: a mind-numbingly good single with some chasers and a cohesive exploration of one man’s experience of love and loneliness all wrapped up inside his own head (by the way, “Tramp” the apparent emotional-misfit, is much more interesting if you consider that it is the only duet, the only time Otis actually tries to speak with a lover. Regardless of the depth of his soul, he utterly fails at communication).

I don’t know if my enjoying tDotB so much says anything about me, but I think the fact that I chose it as my first album does say something important. I believe that whether we intend it or not, the first album we each pick will play out as a thesis for our musical taste. For however long this blog lasts and however many albums we each pick, they will always be in relation to these first ones, and each new album will add to the narrative. With his first choice, Alex gave us something spectacular. Austin gave us something sublime. I tried to give you all something earnest. I cannot wait for the rest of you to share your first albums and to share that part of yourselves.

Image result for adventure time love
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3 thoughts on “Why I chose The Dock of the Bay”

  1. If you like “Tramp,” you should know Otis did one (maybe two?) full duet albums with Carla Thomas, who is the woman berating him on “Tramp”. “Tramp” would be a leftover from those sessions.

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    1. I’ve heard several of the duets Carla and Otis do and I like the sound a lot, see “Bring it on Home to Me” (the Sam Cooke version is better, but who’s counting?). If things had worked out differently, “Tramp” would be on another duet album and tDotB would be better for it. That said, I think “Tramp” works here -even if the seams show- both in terms of the message within the album and in the posthumous “here’s a taste of what could of been” aspect.

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  2. I loved this. I love your insights into how much the first album defines us. I thought this was a great choice and look forward to many more. I will try looking at that picture while listening to “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”. I usually don’t mix pictoral art with music, but it sounds intriguing!

    Liked by 1 person

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