Otis: More than just Maybach Music

I apologize for my tardiness with this review, but here goes.

Otis Redding is someone I am familiar with, but on a very shallow level. Everyone knows “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”, through years of radio play on Oldies music stations. Kanye West and Jay-Z paid tribute to Otis Redding in their 2011 hit “Otis”, featuring samples from the song “Try a Little Tenderness”.

When this song came out, I gave Otis Redding a try and listened to this album and thought it was good, left it at that, and moved on.

But going back several years later and trying to get my untrained ears to dissect this album has been fun. Every time I attempt one of these album reviews, I find myself trying to approach it from an objective point of view, but honestly, that’s just not me. Music to me falls somewhere between a disaster and a banger, between terrible and a complete jam, or even in the realm of bad or a wailer. I am not an objective critic and I think I should stop trying to be one.

As discussed previously on other blogs, the title track is the best. I feel that there is not much more I can add. Song is legendary.

With that out of the way, Dock of the Bay is a banging, slapping, pocket a.f. work of art. Otis has so much power and soul in his voice, giving us the chance to feel the emotion he is conveying in his songs. “I’m Coming Home” is a fantastic example of this. Otis has been left by his woman, leaving him a “lonely little boy, nowhere to go”. Otis is pleading to his woman, wanting to come back to her, with the chorus a powerful cry to get his woman back, to return home. The raw emotion in this song makes it one of my favorites.

Then there is a song like “Don’t Mess with Cupid”. Otis has been scorned by a woman, her throwing his love away like it was a piece of trash. This song starts with a guitar lick that is very similar to “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. I love the instrumentals behind Otis on this song, with the banging on the cymbal and the horns fitting the cutting edge of Otis’ voice perfectly. I think this song is an absolute jam, and wish it was sampled more in modern music.

The final song that stuck out to me was “Tramp”. The female voice on this song is Carla Thomas and she is a perfect 10/10 on this song. When she says “You know what Otis… you’re country…”, I can literally feel the sass and hate this woman has for this man. Otis is trying to prove his love and monetary worth to this woman, but all she still thinks he is a tramp. And she says it in such a way that I actually believe it. This is my favorite song from this album because it seems the realest. 10/10.

Overall, I enjoyed coming back to this album and thought it was a nice choice by Connor. It is cool how we are venturing out of the Hip Hop genre we typically live in and are venturing into newer (older) territory. This album is an album of love, losing it, hating it, accepting it, craving it. This album fits the general mood of life, and was a thoroughly enjoyable listen!

Rating: 8/10

Favorite Song: Tramp

Favorite Lyric: “You know what Otis… you’re country…straight from the Georgia woods…” – “Tramp”

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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.

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