On November 10, 1967, soul music's version of "The Day The Music Died" happened. A plane crashed in Lake Monona near Madison, Wisconsin. Aboard were soul star Otis Redding & 4 members of the band The Bar-Kays. All but one Bar-Kays member perished in the crash. Otis, then on the verge of breaking through to pop audiences, was only 26 at the time. Naturally, with his death, unreleased recordings were released posthumously, probably more as a tribute to him than as a last-ditch attempt to cash in on his name. 1968's THE IMMORTAL OTIS REDDING was one of those rare posthumous albums that didn't tarnish the career Otis had worked so hard to build.
"[Sittin' On] The Dock Of The Bay", of course, was recorded just 3 days before Otis' death & became the first posthumous #1 hit of the rock era. It seemed that Otis was more popular in death than he was alive. The DOCK OF THE BAY album (1968) had its share of previously unreleased songs that were later released & became hits. Apparently, Otis was quite prolific, for the songs kept pouring out afterward & the appropriately-titled THE IMMORTAL OTIS REDDING is just even more icing on the cake.
Unlike his absolute best album (and one of the greatest ever made) OTIS BLUE (1965), which mostly contained covers, IMMORTAL has more originals on it, proving Otis was just as accomplished a writer in his own right (he did, after all, write "Respect"!). The truly moving "I've Got Dreams To Remember" (#41 pop, #6 R&B)was co-written by Otis with his wife Zelma & considering that his death was just around the corner, it's enough to bring a tear to the listener's eye. The same goes for the traditional (but swingingly arranged by Otis) "Amen" (#36 pop, #15 R&B), which had been a hit for the Impressions 5 years earlier. Otis' version is just as heartfelt & proof that he hadn't forgotten his raising as a child of the church.
Other somber tunes that didn't become hits include "A Waste Of Time" (a forgotten masterpiece of Southern soul), "Champagne & Wine", "You Made A Man Out Of Me", Ray Charles' "A Fool For You" & "Think About It". This is definitely perfect midnight music to either mend your broken heart or give the one you love a little somethin' (wink wink).
But while Otis may be an expert at loving up a storm, he still has the equal ability at getting the listener up & moving. "Hard To Handle" (#51 pop, #38 R&B) was no doubt exposed to a new audience thanks to the Black Crowes' 1990 revival & I was even surprised to find that it was a cover. While the Crowes' version is just as much their own, Otis' version still moves like hell. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" (B-side to "Dreams)", "A Thousand Miles Away" & "The Happy Song" (#25 pop, #10 R&B) work just as well at bringing up the dullest of parties.
While the digging up of a deceased artist's unreleased material would border on the obscene & darn near disrespectful, with Otis Redding, it was clear that the music he hadn't released yet or still intended to work on further was just as good (and, in some cases, better) than what did get released. In fact, Otis had so much music left in the can, that 4 posthumous albums were released & the verdict is that it was indeed worth it (can anyone tell me if LOVE MAN has ever been released on CD?). THE IMMORTAL OTIS REDDING proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that while Otis may have left us at only 26, his music is indeed immortal & that probably he had plans to dazzle us with even more great music. Now, we can only wonder.