Monday, 5 December 2016

Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Ragged Glory" (1990)



Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Ragged Glory! (1990)

Country Home/White Line/F*!#in' Up!/Over and Over/Love To Burn/Love To Burn//Farmer John/Mansion On The Hill/Days That Used To Be/Love and Only Love/Mother Earth (National Anthem)

'Life' had the songs, 'Freedom' the pizzazz and 'Landing On Water' had, erm, what did that album have exactly? Anyway it was 1990's 'Ragged Glory' that made Neil into a star again in such a way that everyone assumed he'd always been and his status in the history books (up for grabs right up until the late 1980s) has never been brought into question since, even when some of his albums were - how shall we put this? - crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. In one fell swoop Neil and a surprise return for Crazy Horse helped establish grunge as a true musical form, sold more copies in the United States than any album since 'Trans' eight years before and healed the rift between the singer and backing band that looked in 1987 every bit as fractious as CSNY on a bad day. That's not bad going for one little record, though in many ways this isn't a little record - it's a big one full of major concepts, large angular riffs and mammoth running times thanks to jamming and extra feedback that makes even the shortest songs on this album sound like a 'journey'. In AAA film terms 'Ragged Glory' is the 'Lord Of The Rings' trilogy - it goes on for hours, nobody quite knows what it's about and not a lot actually happens across any of it, but the scenery is nice to look at and it's an ensemble effort with no one stealing the show (unlike 'Life' and, indeed, life). What's more, this album hit the lucky streak with the timing: had this record come out even a few months earlier it would have been pilloried for being long, self-indulgent and over-extended but in September 1990, with Pearl Jam kings and Nirvana young princes, this album sounded just enough like the old Crazy Horse to get old fans salivating and make younger fans think that at least one old rocker knew what they were all about. In a career that had seen Neil weave his own path as far away from current musical fashion as it was often possible to get (country music in 1984? Weird shit in the mid 1970s? A song about a singing fish at the height of punk?!?), someway somehow he managed to mirror the public consciousness again on this record and will - in an even more likely turn of events - hold onto it until at least 'Broken Arrow' in 1997 (some loyal fans would put that date even later). Though not quite recorded in his garage (the then-current fashion amongst young pop stars) this record made in Neil's converted barn came as close as any of his peers at understanding what the era was all about.
However, given that this isn't 1990 and you're not all skateboarding youngsters with holes in your jeans and baseball caps on the wrong way round (though hello to you if you are - and how the hell did you stumble across this site?!), does 'Ragged Glory' still stand up? Well that's the bad news really. 

While some albums are just outside the laws of usual human physics (including many Neil Young ones - 'Tonight's The Night' doesn't care about space or time), some others only really work in their respective periods. There are a few albums around like that: 'Sgt Peppers' made most sense in 1967 and not a month beyond, while 'Tommy' might have died a death in any other year but the mystical-cynical one of 1969 and 'Graceland' was so 1987 it's actually quite painful to hear past that decade or even that year. 'Ragged Glory' is one of those albums: to contemporary ears it sounded like the future while to modern ears it sounds like the past, far more so than the genuinely early Young albums like 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' and 'After The Goldrush'. Though there is plenty of good and poignant material here (most of them dealing with break-ups including highlights 'Love To Burn' and 'Love and Only Love' plus Neil's biggest self-hating song 'F*!#in' Up') somehow even the best of it sounds a little overcooked, jammed past breaking point or left to stew with the guitars left next to the speakers for three more minutes than is strictly necessary. Two of the songs here were abandoned in the mid-1970s for not being good enough to release on such what-the? albums as 'American Stars 'n' Bars', which while not unusual for a Young song's evolution does perhaps demonstrate that songs weren't pouring out of Neil the way they had been in 1987-1989. Though usually the messiness is what makes Neil Young albums so enjoyable, 'Ragged Glory' is the album at which the line between 'primal, hungry and instinctive' first thought risks becoming 'self-indulgent and a bit lazy' worst thought, something that happens a lot on later Young albums. Though often glorious and unashamedly ragged most of the way through (and a big relief after some of the 1980s productions on Neil Young albums), this is also in retrospect the moment when the rot set in. In other words, if you're modern fan working your way back through Neil's catalogue and you read the usually adoring reviews of this album, this is the point where you might come unstuck and decide to do something less time consuming or painful on the ears - like nailing yourself shut in a tumble-dryer for an hour. Which is pretty much what listening to 'Farmer John' sounds like anyway to be honest.

Still, in context, you can hear even with modern ears why this album made quite the impact that it did. Suddenly, after years of 'playing' with other genres, this sounds like the 'real deal Neil'. Like 'Freedom' but more so, Neil was writing songs that fans didn't have to imagine being sung in some new genre in their head for a change or wondering how Crazy Horse might sound if they were allowed to gallop rather than canter on a tightly controlled lead. Neil sounds as if he means every single word he sings for the first time since 'Trans' (and then not quite the whole LP, just the inventive bits). 'Old black', his faithful guitar, blows off the cobwebs in a way we haven't heard since at least 'Zuma' in 1975. There are no studio gimmicks, no synthesisers, no country music guest stars, no backing vocalists and not one superfluous overdub. Best of all Crazy Horse are encouraged to be themselves, not to spend their time being told to play riffs and complicated patterns that Neil would have performed better if he'd just brought some session musicians in. 'Ragged Glory' may not have the material or ideas of 'Life' or that album's desperate need to sound even more contemporary than this one, but it does sound like the Crazy Horse album fans had been waiting for since 'Rust Never Sleeps' in 1979. The collective sense of relief at hearing Neil speaking to us directly for once, instead of hiding his private life behind nonsensical songs, genres or technology after so long was a relief to say the least.

Which is interesting given that half of 'Ragged Glory' is, in retrospect, one of Neil's most revealing albums of all. If 'Ragged Glory' has a sound that unifies this sometimes disparate album then it's of a man and his band staring out of a tiny window and hoping that things are going to be ok,. inside and out. We now know, in the 21st century, that Neil had been juggling marriage and quite genuine love for wife Pegi with love for actress Darryl Hannah back to sometime in the late 1970s. Though Neil doesn't split up his marriage until as late as 2014, it's on this album where he seems to first start thinking seriously about whether he has the guts/disloyalty to do it or not, with 2002's 'Are You Passionate?' the 'sequel' when he oh so nearly goes through with it anyway and 2014's 'Storytone' the apology moment when he finally does. In 'Love To Burn', an odd song to write for your 12th anniversary, Neil admits to being visited by a 'spirit' who urges him to 'take the first step to grow to be tall' while later verses have a guilty Neil being visited by his ex screaming at him ('Why'd you ruin my life? Where you taking our kids?!') On 'Love and Only Love' romance is a 'battle' as Neil tries to escape and find quiet to listen to the 'real' voice in his heart. 'F*!#in' Up' is so clearly an autobiographical song about something, given the passionate way Neil sings it, even if we never quite find out what (though in the context of the other songs it's fairly easy to guess). The fact that these three songs are the backbone of the album and easily the best thing here points to just how much stronger these more 'real' songs are, especially musically (the passion on the solo is always a clue as to just how deeply Neil 'feels' a particular song). 'Over and Over', meanwhile, has Neil half-sheepishly, half-joyously running back to his wife, his sudden moment of madness over with - for now. 'Country Home', too, is a rare song of family life - even if, technically speaking, it's about Neil's previous family life with Carrie Snodgrass from the first half of the 1970s (nobody's sure quite when this song was written but 1974 seems a good guess). The leery 'Farmer John' cover may also be significant given that Neil last played this lusty song as an unattached teenager and Crazy Horse sound to all the world as if they're sixteen and have only just that week picked up their instruments.

The other, less interesting half of 'Ragged Glory' looks out towards the outer world for the first time in a decade ('Hawks and Doves' being the last real album to do this). 'White Line' is another old song written as long ago as 1977, about Neil's wanderlust spirit as he enjoys walking out on his problems down the middle of a road and out into the sunshine, not knowing where it might take him (many fans assume this is a drug song, but if it is then it's in title only!) 'Mansion On The Hill' is a Dylan re-write that imagines a golden utopia where the 1960s spirit lived on inside it's four walls, untainted by the bitter uncertain world outside. 'The Days That Used To Be' is a second Dylan re-write that does much the same, a toast to musicians loved and lost and wishing good times could come around again. Finally 'Mother Earth' is a reminder of the future on this largely backward looking second half, only the second of Neil's occasional ecological anthems (the first being 'Here We Are In The Years' way back on his first solo work in 1968). In that sense 'Ragged Glory' is kind of like 'Freedom', an album of emotional rollercoaster rides from all parts of Neil's life bookended by perhaps his most well known anthem of injustice and protest ('Rockin' In The Free World'). However it's notable that Neil will try and keep his two mindsets separate across his next two LPs, developing 'Harvest Moon' as a near-whole collection of emotional love songs (and probably all of that album is most definitely written for Pegi) and 'Sleeps For Angels' as a record almost entirely about the outside world (minus the two songs that bookend that album!)

Even though this album is big enough in scope to take in the future of the planet and mankind, however, it is at heart still something of a small and humble album. 'Ragged Glory' is much more grounded than usual for Neil - there are no side-trips into Aztec-land, no mysterious songs about astronauts watching boxing matches up in space and not even a hint of a singing fish. These tales of love, lust and romance going right and going wrong are unusually direct for Neil - very direct given some of the cryptic messages we'd been getting in the 1980s - and if there's a word for this album then it's 'earthy' (in the final track's case 'mother Earthy'!) The feedback howls are all so very real and natural, the performances - while often inspired, especially on the two ten minute songs - are still recognisably simple and charmingly clumsy in true Crazy Horse style and this sounds like an album made in a garage-come-barn in a few days rather than a posh studio way out of town. No wonder the suddenly-earthy music world of 1990 (after so many years of digitised synth pop) really took to this album: it's not 'grunge' exactly but it's part of the same musical movement back to exaggerating the real and letting the natural arc of the songs dictate play, even to the extent of killing off radio airplay (Only four of this album's ten songs clock in at under five minutes). Reportedly Crazy Horse were on such hot form that they just recorded one song after another without much of a break and that's how this album sounds, more like the ragbag approach of 'Zuma' than the more polished one of 'Rust' or 'Life'. Legend has it that they accidentally recorded two cooking versions of 'Love To Burn' because they couldn't remember recording the first one at the very beginning of the sessions (it's the second one included on the album!)

The horseplay on this album is clearly up a notch from 'Life'. Quite often on this album it's hard to tell where Neil's solos end and Frank Sampedro's begin with the Horse closer in style to 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' than before. Ralph Molina sounds much more certain, never adding more beats than he needs to play and giving the songs impressive breathing space while being right on the money for a big hit when he needs to be. Billy Talbot is allowed to 'choose' which chords and notes to play, occasionally holding back and occasionally speeding up like the days of old - it's his style, more than even his partners, that gives this band their distinctive sound and allows them to sound like more than just another simple rock band. The sound certainly suits the group more than the stick-it-there-dear of 'Life'. However it's still a shame that there isn't a tad more interplay across this album - hear the five songs from this album that also appear on the tie-in live release 'Weld' - they just have so much more life about somehow, perhaps because the band know them better. Crazy Horse may be simple, but they're not 'thick' - left to their own devices they really do know how to play. While the 'groove' is there on many songs, you can't help but wonder what a Danny Whitten-era horse might have brought to these songs. Understandably, after so many rows in the studio the last time around, the Horse sound a little, umm, 'spooked' and afraid to step into new territory rather than the same few chords (Neil might have picked up on it too, with a rare B-side only recording made near the end of these sessions titled 'Don't Spook The Horse' - it's a shame it's not on the album actually as it's dry humour would have worked well set against the meatier songs). In other words, it's good to hear Crazy Horse allowed to play like nature intended Crazy Horse to play again - but it's a shame that Neil was so determined to record the songs after the band have barely had time to learn them, never mind embellish them. One thing that can be said for this album though is how genuinely decent the harmonies are pretty much all the way through: after years of being laughed at by CSN (and laughing at them in return) Crazy Horse have really learnt how to hit the sweet spot, even at speed and on songs they don't really know that well. The Horse have a much 'fuller' sound here than usual and are much more like their original incarnation as a doo-wop band ('Danny and The Memories') than they ever sounded before or since.

Overall, then, 'Ragged Glory' is a bit of a mixed blessing and an album full of contradictions. In context it's a much-needed return to where most fans believe Neil's roots should always have been that maybe doesn't shine with quite the same sparkle today now we've had so many simple 'n' quick albums in the same league ('Greendale' 'Are You Passionate?' 'Psychedelic Pill', heck almost everything Neil's put out in the 21st century...) or the same patience for lengthy band jamming sessions and hours of feedback. The material is both beautifully earnest and 'real', with at least three major additions to the Young canon that stand as tall as anything else in this period - even if the other seven are a bit more disappointing. Neil is on a real writing roll - but still has to rely on one cover song and two unreleased twenty-year-old songs to pad out the CD. 'Ragged Glory' was heralded as a return to form and is in so many ways after such a difficult 1980s - but at the same time, it doesn't quite live up to the promise and certainly not the variety offered on 'Freedom'. A crude album full of swear words that ends with a mature song about how we have to overcome our prejudices to make peace. A good album - not a bad album, not a great album, but a good album and sometimes that's enough to send your career into the stratosphere, especially for fans still recovering from 'Landing On Water'. Occasionally monotonous, slow and repetitive, frequently exhilarating and  fascinating, this is only a true 'classic' album to those of us who bought it at the time and realised just how well it 'fit' into both the mood and the music of the times. Even a further quarter-century on from then, however, 'Ragged Glory' is aptly named, a good mixture of the ragged and glorious, and another major step in the big comeback Neil experienced during the 1990s.

 'Country Home' is a rather odd place to start this album's analysis of love and breaking loose. A song about how wonderful it is to be at home with 'peace of mind', it seems at odds with this album's other songs about wanting to cut loose and run away - either from a marriage or from a planet. The track makes more sense when you learn that it's a song that dates back to the early 'Zuma' sessions when it was titled, rather more irreverently, 'spud's blues'. Neil clearly thought the earthy down-at-home vibe would suit the Horse and the album but I'm not sure it does. Yes Neil and Sampedro sound good on their ringing guitars and this is the closest 'Ragged Glory' comes to a happy track suitable as an opening number. Already, though, the guitar solos seem close to interminable and the song isn't all that really, being just one much-repeated chorus and the odd comical verse. Neil's country bumpkin narrator isn't one of his best either, singing odd lines about parking on a flat because his car doesn't have good enough brakes to cope with a hill (he may have had his first visit to America in beloved hearse Mort in mind here) and that he doesn't mind if someone else pinches his harvest because at the end of the day they're only potatoes (I'd like to think this is some deep rumination about other singer-songwriters capitalising on the 'Harvest' style country-rock vine Neil left behind when Danny Whitten died and he 'went all weird', but I have a nasty feeling Neil wasn't thinking any more beyond actual potatoes here). There are better unreleased songs in the Young canon than this one but it's inclusion on the album is interesting. Presumably it was one of the first songs Neil wrote about the 'Broken Arrow' ranch he bought when fleeing his marriage to Carrie and when he first got together with Pegi and it's at one with other songs about country delights such as 'Homegrown' and much of the 'Comes A Time' LP (where this song might have fitted in nicely with a country-rock setting). So is it Neil reminding himself about everything he might have been forced into losing if he took and left for a new girl (and presumably a new home?) A song with roots - literally in the case of the potatoes - revived at a time when Neil felt like he didn't have many.

'White Line' is a 'Homegrown' outtake (ie the album abandoned in favour of 'Zuma' in 1974) and this song has even less right being on the record, even if it is arguably a superior song. Clearly a song about the bad vibes towards the end of Neil's marriage with Carrie and his desperate need to run away and go anywhere, it might also be revived here as a subtle reminder of how lonely Neil was once before he found ranch and wife. It's very much at one with the late vibes of the 'Doom Trilogy' though and it's spiky guitars and feeling of overwhelming helplessness is very out of step with this album's self-controlled guilt and nostalgia. The 'white line' is a clever idea though: far from being a song about drugs - as everyone who bought this album or saw the song pencilled in on setlists assumed for years - it's about freeing yourself from addiction and routine, of being brave enough to take the first step into the beyond even though you don't know where it might take you. Though the song starts with Neil as much in pain as he's ever been ('I was adrift on a river of pride...you were my raft and I let you slide!') by the end the song feels more hopeful, with Neil 'rolling down the road' he's travelled so many times before for the last time with the sun about to rise out of this blackest of night and offer illumination to more than just is eyes. That said, though, the song still ends on a question mark and an unfinished chord, hovering in the air as if the narrator is paused mid-step wondering whether to turn round and go back home again anyway. Though apt for the 1974-ish arrangement, you'd expect a more settled and confident Neil of 1990 to take that bit out - or is this song, too, a reminder of bad times in the past and why Neil should stay put? Crazy Horse effectively play this song as a sea shanty, with lots of to-and-fro-ing as the guitars weave in and out of each other but the plodding oom-pah pace and the slightly lazy way Neil throws his guitar frills around make for one of the lesser performances on the album, a rehearsal away from being good enough for the album and a miracle away from being great.

Thankfully 'F*!#in' Up' rescues the album before it sinks too well. Choppy, angry chords really make this song feel like Neil is scowling at someone while some of the most bitter and self-pointed lyrics Neil ever wrote make it clear he's pointing the finger at himself. The heavy riff which is one of the best he ever wrote keeps pulling Neil's head down to face the floor every time he thinks he's found a solution to his problems and sounds like the pit of despair bringing him down again. The lyrics too are dark, even for Neil and full of evocative passing images that seem to tell the tale of a love affair gone wrong. There are the 'keys left hanging in a swinging door' that hang in the balance, Neil's inner wild beast that's chewed through his restraining leash and got the better of him and the lover he leaves walking away to her old life, as distressed as he is, 'comatose but walking still'. The first verse is particularly interesting - sung in the third person before the switch to first in the second verse, Neil is clearly the 'mindless drifter on the load', laughing at his self-pity when knowing inwardly that as a millionaire rockstar he carries 'such an easy load'. All of these disconnected images, interrupted by punctuating cries of guilt and shame, are amongst the most real moments on any Neil Young album. However it's the conclusion that thrills as Neil finally breaks away from that head-banging riff to force his guitar upright, 'Old Black' screaming in pain as he cuts against the tide of what the Horse are playing and bounces his way round the song's chords, twisting this way and that to find a way out until it falls awkwardly back onto that same riff again anyway, all that energy spent and wasted. It may be his most expressive solo ever - or at least a tie with 'Dangerbird' (even more so the version on 'Weld' performed with added dog barks, howls of pain and one of the definitive Neil solos as he channels his pain and guilt to perfection in an ear-damaging conclusion of feedback, noise and hurt - the album version just has one humming note for 90 seconds more than the song needs). This glorious song almost single-handedly rescues the reputation of this album and shows that even approaching his 40th birthday Neil was as loud, dangerous and real as any of the younger, hungrier wannabe rock-stars snapping at his heels. Ironically the album's low amount of rehearsals and simplicity really helps this song compared to the others on the album - with less 'f*!#in' Up' than usual!

'Over and Over' is a more playful song about Neil's conundrum of staying put or wandering on to pastures new. Of all the songs on this album it's the one that sounds most like a traditional Crazy Horse song, with Neil's hopeful uplifting lead pinned back against Sampedro's rather more despondent rhythm and held in place by an unrelenting rhythm section. Repetition is the watchword of the lyrics too as Neil promises to always return to the one he loves (Pegi, presumably). Neil says he 'loves the way you open up and let me in' - a possible reference not just to her opening the door after he's been away but the way she talks about her feelings and lets him back into her life even after he's strayed. Neil remembers making love with his wife or at least some significant other and figuring 'it really wasn't that long ago' (chances are it was fourteen or thereabouts if it is Pegi), before lamenting that before long 'our dreams went up in smoke'. However, Neil promises that the old feeling they used to share is back again and he won't wander anymore - at least until the next song as it turns out. A great guitar solo is full of all the gusto and loving and excitement of the lyrics and you can see why Neil wanted to use this take of the song for that reason alone, but it has to be said that even for Young the vocal is a little, erm, lopsided and very much sounds like a rehearsal take. This is all the stranger given how tight and impressively full Crazy Horse's backing vocals are, with a depth and gracefulness we haven't heard since the Danny Whitten years. Not a great song then and not a great recording, but there's still enough life in both band and material to coax a more than passable effort out of this track - though several repeats and eight minutes of it still seems a couple too many somehow. Apparently even this simple song gave the band some difficulties, mainly because it starts on the last beat in the bar - Neil, keeping his temper unlike similar problem on 'Life', bought Frank an answering machine and phoned him up with the riff so he could practice!

'Love To Burn' is another album highlight, a churning worried song with a suitable riff that sounds as if Crazy Horse are pacing up and down the bran, worrying. A Dylanesque song full of cryptic comment and semi-religious imagery, it might just be Neil's spin on fate and how it's intervened in his love life again. Neil's been out on a walk, out through 'the valley of hearts' which may just be the poetic name for where a girlfriend lives. She's not happy: he's been delaying leaving someone to be with her for too long and says that even if they take it slower, to move in a different direction you have to start.  The announcement destroys Neil's narrator, via another barnstorming guitar solo full of pain and guilt and confusion, as he plays out the scenario in his mind - the repercussions, the rows in a 'house ful of broken windows', the hurt exes, the thought of being denied access to his children. Neil 'knows' that his new lover is right - he's got love to burn that's just too much for his missus and that he knows how love works after years of practice: he has to give into it, let down his guard and go qwith what his heart is telling him. And yet all that pain is too much for him and even while Neil imagines his wife (or next best guess) yelling at him 'why'd you ruin my life?!' he still imagines the pair crying into each other's arms and looking for protection, asking each other 'how did it come to this?' By the end of the song Neil is so split in two his solos are positively schizophrenic, falling with relief onto a slow humming safe note that offers a brief respite before feelings suddenly charge up within him again and leave him to howl with guttural anxiety and distress. Crazy Horse, meanwhile, do what they do best and simply nail the beat, trapping the narrator in a prison of his own making he can't escape from no matter how hard he tries. The very end of the song finds us right back at the beginning with a straight repeat of the first verse and a final conclusion, mid-note almost, as Neil still struggles with his conscience. A memorable ten minutes full of some fine solo-ing, although the version on 'Weld' with Neil even more on the edge is the one to hear - this studio version is merely very very good. Something tells me as well that the extended feedback-drenched finale on the studio version is here simply so the Horse can make the ten minute running time to the second (back in 1990, when CDs were still fairly new and rumours were rife and songs were short, there were still people who said your CD player would explode if it went past 9:59; thankfully, as an owner of 'Live/Dead' where almost all the album runs past ten minutes, I knew mine would be safe...)

Over on side two 'Farmer John' offers light-yet-noisy relief. Something of a grunge classic, this simple song based on two chords was one of the first Neil ever wrote and was in the setlist of his school-band The Squires for years. It's a cute song full of teenage lust and love, a big hit for double-act Don and Dewey in 1959 and usually sung at a fast, breathless tempo of excitement (that's what happens on fellow AAA album 'Meet The Searchers' back when the song was brand new). I love the original and most covers of this song (it helps that I did once go out with a farmer's daughter who very much had champagne eyes if anyone did, though I never found out what her dad was called). But this version is a mess: slowed down to the point of stupidity so that a riff that once resembled excitement and freedom now sounds like a man being bludgeoned to death with a cricket bat repeatedly (so, a little like listening to 'Landing On Water' then). The Horse are having fun and Sampedro especially is having a whale of a time repeating every last 'wo-o-o-o-ah' until it starts becoming a hypnotic cry. But what should be a light and fluffy song now sounds creepy as hell and after four slow repetitive minutes even this clever riff can't stand up to the assault. The original is a teenager experiencing love for the first time and being brave yet cocky enough to ask her father for her hand in marriage already, clearly way before he knows her or her family well enough; this version sounds like the only way Farmer John is ever going to see his daughter again is in a bodybag. There are a few other Young songs that mine this seedier aspect of his work too - and all of them are bad, with this cover right up there with 'Bite The Bullet' ('I love to hear her scream!'), 'Motorycle Mama' and 'Dirty Old Men' as probably a bad idea best left to more misogynistic groups like The Rolling Stones who we are at least used to sounding like this.

'Mansion On The Hill' is, by contrast, the most 'together' recording on the album and an obvious candidate for first album single (though it flopped, as did an edit of 'Over and Over'). This song is a very 1960s piece, with its allusions to a utopia full of peace and love living on in a building even though it had died out in most every other corner of the world. The melody even sounds 1960s-ish, as if lots of Bob Dylan songs have been stuck together (this song has the metre of 'Lay Lady Lay' with the lyrics of 'Blowing In The Wind' and the riff from 'My Back Pages' in there among others). However, true to form, this isn't just some nostalgic fest from a hippie going back to Woodstock for a while - it's been hinted at in interviews and assumed by some reviewers that Neil was writing about the Charles Manson murders here and that this song is a sequel, of sorts, to 'Revolution Blues'. That's not always evident in the lyrics though (the plot runs as follows: Neil meets an 'old man' who looks like him, recalling his own song from 1972 and remembers his 'wild eyes', while the road to peace and love takes a wrong turning 'around the next bend'). Given what Neil said in 'Revolution Blues' where he clearly connected with something dark in Manson's hippie hating pysche though, it could be about Charlie again, who was of course known to Neil through his friendship with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. Or it could just be about CSNY again, with the trio still trapped in a house listening to songs about love and peace even though they've lost a connection with how the outside world has moved on while Neil walks down the rocky path leading away from the house. Either way 'Mansion On The Hill' is certainly one of the more memorable songs on 'Ragged Glory' and the performance is as tight as Crazy Horse could ever sound without losing their characteristic touches (as they do on parts of 'Life'), but 'Downtown' is a later, better song based on what it means to be the only person still attending a hippie party after everyone else has left and with just two verses and a slightly irritating chorus this is the one song on 'Ragged Glory' that runs under, not over, it's natural running time.

'The Days That Used To Be' is said by Neil himself to be ripped off wholesale from Dylan's 'My Back Pages', but actually it sounds less like that song than 'Mansion' once the guitar riff moves on and Neil's vocal line goes in a different direction. It's not one of his more original songs though even though once more Crazy Horse make the most out of the song by playing tight yet loose and Neil's angry vocal is a treat. For an album that so many youngsters greeted as being 'one of their own', it's interesting to note just what this lyric's say - that Neil can only identify with his peer group and feels alienated from the young who seem to be speaking a different language. Neil's generation followed their own dreams, stood up to authority when they knew it was wrong and laughed at their elders taking money, but time has worn hippie principles down and suddenly even the people Neil believed in and rubbed shoulders with are selling out for money and fame. Latching onto the fact that all his friends are buying posh cars (Neil kept all his past breaking point and beyond - see 'Fork In The Road'!), Neil asks in a clever metaphor if the posh automobile they've bought is really taking them to where they want to go. However there's not much else going on in this song - no resolution, no solution, not even any particularly real burning sense of injustice, just a weary shrug of the shoulders as Neil moans ultimately ineffectively. However if all Neil's average material was played with as much raw polish as Crazy Horse offer up here that would be fine by me and if ever a recording rescued a song then it's this one, with Neil's lost little boy lead and Crazy Horse's pretty spiffing harmonies which offer some small comfort of unity in a world that's not the way it used to be anymore.

'Love and Only Love' is the longest song on the album, pushing past ten minutes by a full eighteen seconds. Like other long sister song 'Love To Burn' but in reverse, it's a hymn to love and it's healing powers and how it can last long past the point when other things in life break. It's almost a biblical epic this one, starting with 'the book of ages' and featuring more lengthy solos than any other Young song till 'Change Your Mind' in a couple of album's time. This time the mood is buoyant, as in one of Neil's more charming metaphors he compares two lovers meeting each other, hungry for each other's warmth, as a 'little girl who couldn't wait', an impatient toddler wanting attention now. Then there's the line 'tomorrow is a long time - if you're a memory'. Don't know what it means, but it's clearly part of a lyric that's been put together with more care than a lot of this album. Some of Neil's solos too are incredible even for this album, alternating between hope, despair and, well, ragged glory to coin a phrase (though again the performance on 'Weld' is still more lively yet) and Sampedro's nagging rhythm is the perfect counterpoint to Neil's howling lead. What this song lacks, though, is a narrative as involving as the one on 'Love To Burn' or that song's same emotional commitment. After two such promising verses you wait in vain after a lengthy (but enjoyable) guitar solo for Neil to cut back in with a killer verse that's going to absolutely nail the song  and make sense of this age-old tale of love and its ability to heal, but no - we just get the first verse repeated again (and despite the ten minute running time this song only has two!) Still, this is one of the few songs on the album I wouldn't cut down at all, with some excellent telepathic interplay between the players and enough variety to make this perhaps the most enjoyable ten minute burst on the record.

The album ends with a 'sermon', though, as 'Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)' reminds us all of our responsibility to our planet as passengers upon her. The song is 'faked' up to sound live (you can hear this song's first genuine live version on this year's live record 'Earth' if you wanted to but I wouldn't bother - The Promise Of The Real have a hard time playing the simple Crazy Horse tunes despite their, well, promise on their own recordings) thanks to some sound effects and cheers. It's a shame that Crazy Horse's harmonies have given up the ghost here, just when there's so much emphasis on them, while Neil's feedback-drenched guitar riffs sound a little too much like Jimi Hendrix celebrating/sneering at the American national anthem for comfort. It's all a little underwhelming given the gravitas of the song and a little too out of tune for most ears though Neil's poetic words are heartfelt. The most CSN-style lyrics Neil had written in a very long time (what a shame this song wasn't on 'American Dream' instead of the ones Neil did write!), it finds Neil in full 'pagan' mood (his religion of choice according to his autobiography), praising the sun as 'the goddess of light' and apologising for how humanity is treating the world, whose fate rests 'in their changing hands'. The conclusion is as stark and serious as any Young song: 'respect mother Earth and her healing ways - or trade away our children's days'. Unfortunately, while the message is to be respected, the messenger sounds more like a sour school teacher than anything else and the sing-songy melody (so clearly written to be a right-on anthem) isn't one of Neil's best. It's all a bit of a downer - for all sorts of reasons.


'Ragged Glory' is a bit of a mixed blessing then - probably as mixed as any of the ill-received albums Neil put out with Geffen in the 1980s. The difference is, though, that this record sounds so much better than some of the others: the Horse are ploughing their own furrow - as it were - and Neil sounds more inspired than tired compared to late, even if some of the songs could be better and (if you take the feedback and endless solos out) longer. Reviewing albums is a funny old business: if this record had died a death and no one had bought it I'd be scratching my head trying to work out why and telling you all to go out and buy a copy because, while it isn't even close to being Neil's best work, there's more good than bad here and some nice performances of occasionally average material while only the ill-fitting cover song is truly wretched. Instead I'm left equally scratching my head over why this, of all of Neil's average albums, should be loved quite so much as it is and why it helped re-ignite Neil's critical standing in a way that a superior but poorer selling album like 'Freedom' didn't. This album is no masterpiece, but there are parts of it that are - which puts this album on a par with 'Psychedelic Pill' and 'Life' as the rather-good-but-not-great second tier of Young albums made with Crazy Horsepower, somewhere beneath 'Everybody Knows' Zuma' 'Rust Never Sleeps' and 'Sleeps With Angels' (but not anything like as low as 'Greendale'). If you love the band  then you'll quite like this record; if you hate the band then this album won't do much to change your mind. Talking of which, the Horse will be back in only a couple of albums' time - just long enough for Neil to 'change his mind' about his style yet again...

Other Young related articles from this site you might be interested in reading:


'Neil Young' (1968) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/neil-young-1968-album-review.html

'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' (1969) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-everybody.html

‘After The Goldrush’ (1970) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/neil-young-after-goldrush-1970.html?utm_source=BP_recent


'Harvest' (1972) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/neil-young-harvest-1972.html

'Time Fades Away' (1973) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/neil-young-time-fades-away-1973.html

'On The Beach' (1974) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/neil-young-on-beach-1974.html

'Zuma' (1975) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-zuma-1975.html

'American Stars 'n' Bars' (1977) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/news-views-and-music-issue-70-neil.html

'Comes A Time' (1978) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/news-views-and-music-issue-29-neil.html

'Rust Never Sleeps' (1979) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2014/01/neil-young-rust-never-sleeps-1979-album.html

'Hawks and Doves' (1980) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/news-views-and-music-issue-26-neil.html


'Harvest Moon' (1992) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/neil-young-harvest-moon-1992.html

'Sleeps With Angels' (1993) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/news-views-and-music-issue-121-neil.html

'Mirror Ball' (1995) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/news-views-and-music-issue-103-neil.html

'Broken Arrow' (1997) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-broken-arrow.html

'Greendale' (2003) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/05/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-greendale.html

‘Prairie Wind’(2005)  http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/neil-young-prairie-wind-2005.html

'Fork In The Road' (2009) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/neil-young-fork-in-road-2009.html

'Le Noise' (2011) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/news-views-and-music-issue-94-neil.html

'A Treasure' (1986/2012) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/news-views-and-music-issue-147-neil.html


'Storytone' (2014) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/neil-young-storytone-2014.html

'The Monsanto Years' (2015) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/neil-young-and-promise-of-real-monsanto.html

The Best Unreleased Neil Young recordings http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/neil-young-best-unreleased-recordings.html

Otis Redding: Non-Album Songs 1960-1967

Non-Album Recordings Part #1: 1960
Well, everyone has to start somewhere. After a prized stint as one of Little Richard's backing singers, Otis signed up to become the lead in a pop group named The Shooters who clearly tried their damnedest to appeal to a white audience. Otis sounds most uncomfortable, with a hesitant and rather clipped delivery that doesn't have any of the usual emotional impact or soul associated with Redding. The band sound a lot more comfortable than he does though, especially co-singer Jackie Meachon whose a much better fit for Otis' size and strength than his later duets partner Carla Thomas. The band were successful enough in Georgia for local record label Evolution to take a punt on them, with one lone single released under that name. Already Otis - aged nineteen - has written both sides of the record, the A side along with Jackie. [ 1] 'She's Alright' wasn't a big hit and you can see why - it's not bad, just a little like everything else around in 1960, while Otis' Little Richard influenced squeals don't put him in the best light. Signing to a backing chorus of 'uh-huh-huh-huh-oh-yeah-baby!', though, few nineteen year olds could have pulled this off. More than anything else music sounds a hobby for Otis here, something to keep his mind hopeful in between digging ditches, rather than any really serious attempt to find his 'style'. Still, there are far worse pre-fame AAA recordings out there. Find it on: the 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' box set (1993)

The rarer B-side is worse but actually sounds a little more like Otis, with a grunt and groove closer to soul than pop. [  ] 'Tuff Enough' is dominated by a saxophone part and has a clever swagger, even if Otis' lyrics ('Just a moving and a grooving all through the blue, looking for something that looks like an old canoe') sounds one heck of a lot  more than merely seven years away from 'Dock Of The Boy'. Otis and Jackie co-sing and seem to have strong charisma together, though, so it's a shame they never did more together. Even so, both sides of this Shooter single undeniably miss their target. Find it on: this one is rarer I'm afraid, although your best bet is a curious 1967 release made to cash in on Otis' success, 'Here Comes Soul! From Otis Redding and Little Jimmy Curtis', the record label Marble Arch covering up the fact that they only have rights to two pre-fame singles by filling the rest of the space with Curtis' actually rather good period soul.
                                                                
Non-Album Recordings Part #2: 1961
A year later Otis was back without his band and with another record label to have another go. [  ] 'Gettin Hip' is generally accepted as Redding's first 'real' song and performance, with a heavier soul feel about the song although as the title suggests it's still very much down the 'novelty pop' end of the soul market. The new label, Confederate, had slightly more clout and national appeal though it wasn't exactly competing with the big boys back in 1961. The biggest change has been in the lyrics: Otis has been wronged by his baby and he's not about to take anymore. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, though, he goes all Little Richard and berates his girl, telling her 'get outside darling - I don't want you no more'. A female chorus ten start intoning 'hippity hip' in the background as Otis wises up to what's going on in his love life. Well, Otis was only twenty and clearly still in learning mode, but far more than the previous single the ingredients are here, he just hasn't learnt how to turn the 'love man' oven up to temperature yet. Find it on: 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' box set (1993)

The B-side [  ] 'Gama Lama' is better known from the re-recording Otis made later on in the year alongside his new band as 'Shout Bamalama'. Both songs are among the stupidest Otis ever made and celebrate a short-lived dance craze that's a world away from the power of 'Shake'. Sounding more like Chubby Checker, a high-pitches Otis tells us what they're dancing to now down in Alabama, while an unlisted guest singer grooves more simply alongside him. Note though, if you're lucky enough to track down a copy, how much Otis relies on the funky backbeat of the drummer in a sign of things to come. Actually the tune's got a groove on this one and with different lyrics might well have eclipsed the A-side. Find it on: sorry guys, your best bet once again is to track down the 1967 rarity 'Here Comes Soul! From Otis Redding and Little Jimmy Curtis',.

Otis' next move was to form a new band with his new pal Johnny Jenkins, who'd organised a music talent contest which Otis won but only with Jenkins' agreed help on guitar. The two became firm friends and decided to throw their fortunes in together, hiring Jenkins' friends Sam Davis, drummer Willie Bawden and perhaps most significantly saxophonist Ish Mosley, whose prowess may well have shaped Otis' thinking from beat music to soul music with horns. Still very much wearing his Little Richard influence on his sleeve, Otis tears into [  ] 'Shout Bamalama!' the much tighter, groovier version of 'Gama Lama'. Though the lyrics are still downright daft ('A lord have mercy upon my soul, I bought a chicken from the store, I had one last night and one the night before, I'm going back in the morning to get ten more!') their phrasing at least is more in keeping with the Otis we all know and love, lengthy and expressive with lots of cries and shouts and 'have mercies'. Otis' vocal is even more transformed with a full proper band behind his groove and though the band never play anything remotely complex the simple hypnotic beat is all Otis needs to find his 'voice', an earthy roar from the gut that frankly is rather wasted on the novelty lyrics. Given how much Otis struggles with his on-stage dancing over the years (he was always compelled to move when the music played, but the slick routines of Sam and Dave or James Brown were too polished for a singer who always sang from the heart), it's a real shame that no footage exists of Otis doing the actions/. I have a feeling it would have been hilarious! For the record, there was no dance called 'The Bamalama' doing the rounds either in Virginia or Louisiana, Otis just made it up, although there was a group started in 2008 to celebrate a new soul dance craze in this song's honour. Their dance moves look pretty daft too! Find the song on: 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set, 1993)

Perhaps the rarest of Otis' recordings - one never re-issued as far as I can make out - is Balamamming B-side [ ] 'Fat Gal'. Actually, I can see why: Otis' most sexist song set to a simple revved up 12 bar blues it's probably a song best forgotten (think 'Shortnin' Bread' played fast). Otis at least sounds rather good again though, giving his all in his vocal as he tries to see round his gal 'each time she wiggles in her seat'. He's still upstaged by a bonkers sax solo, though, which would have been quite daring by period standards, leaping round all over the place. There's no doubting the band's energy or enthusiasm but, boy, I bet Otis was in deep trouble with his new wife Zelda when he got home! (For the record Zelda has always been slim - then and now!) Find the song on: err, the original single really - that's it! (hint though: try Youtube)

Non-Album Recordings Part #3: 1962

Impresario Phil Walden was friends with Johnny Jenkins and thought the guitarist had hit potential, offering him a session with Stax recording legends Booker T and the MGs.  The band, who'd recorded but not yet released their biggest git 'Green Onions', were already becoming known in the industry as something special after playing on a wide range of hit records by Rufus Thomas and Wilson Pickett. Jenkins needed a lift to the sessions and asked Otis, hoping too that his friend might get a shot at a recording deal and they could become partners or label buddies. Walden wasn't so sure: Redding just didn't look like a music star, large in every sense of the word and towering over everyone else in the room. Redding's obvious nerves didn't help either. The session ended early, with everyone seemingly happy with how things turned out (though sadly Jenkins' single never does seem to have been released - poor reward for his friendship and loyalty). The new boy asked a favour: given that the time was already booked, could they listen to his friend sing a couple of tracks? To their unending credit the MGs - who could have stormed out in protest - were more than willing and according to guitarist Steve Cropper had already taken a shine to Otis 'backstage' on first meeting. Otis, though, wasn't sure what to sing and had a quick discussion with his friend and the band about what they might know. Figuring something uptempo and commercial was his best Otis launched into  [  ] 'Hey Hey Baby!', a Little Richard-style dance song with Chuck Berry style overtones ('You Can't Catch Me' especially) that may well have been based around Richard's own 'Hey Hey Hey Hey!' (it's the second half of the 'Kansas City' medley the Beatles covered). Though Walden was apparently less than enthusiastic - he didn't like Little Richard and thought his style was on the way out - he was impressed enough with the size of Otis' voice to ask if he had anything else. Otis replied with the yearning ballad 'These Arms Of Mine' which did indeed knock out everyone in the room and was quickly rush-released as Otis first single. with 'Hey Hey Baby' on the back. The single only made #85 in the Billboard charts but, given the lack of promotion or publicity, was impressive enough for Stax to ask for more and Otis was truly on his way (we've taken the decision to review the A-side as part of the first LP 'Pain In My Heart' as that's where most people will look for it, although it really belongs here). Actually 'Hey Hey Baby' is better than anyone in the room seems to have realised, showing off a gritty vocal display that Otis won't really make his own again until around 1965 with the songs 'Shake' and 'Respect'. Considering both his tender age and his nerves, Otis' vocal is highly impressive, pushing the song headfirst into a basic groove that's both easy enough for the Mgs to play at speed but also complex enough to hold their interest. The only thing really lacking are the words, as Otis wails and moans about his baby's sexy ways making him feel really ill, but even those are a step above his earlier songs and, by 1962 standards, rather par for the course anyway. Find the song on: 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set, 1993)

Non-Album Recordings Part #4: 1963

[5] 'Mary's Little Lamb' was the non-album B-side to second 'proper' single 'That's What My Heart Really Needs', another track reviewed as part of the full 'Pain In My Heart' album. A far poppier and commercial song than the A-side, it's as close to soul-pop as Otis came after leaving his early bands behind and is clearly being made in the hopes of getting a one-off novelty 'hit'. Set to the same sort of tempo and chords as Stax  rival Ben E King's 'Stand By Me', it's re-telling of the nursery rhyme that plays it straight for two verses before breaking off to make the point by metaphor. Ever since he was a child in the classroom Otis has been told that obsessions are natural, that loyalty and companionship are good and cried his eyes out at the thought of Mary being separated from her lambs at the school gate. That sure ain't happening to him now that he's found someone he never wants to get separated from, no doubt inspired by his recent marriage to Zelda. Otis tells Mary not to be so blue - he'll be waiting for her after school and will follow her home as besotted as any lamb. A girl chorus sound rather pleased about the invitation on a backing track that doesn't at all sound like the MGs' usual work, dominated by horns and a slinky shuffle beat. Interestingly Otis sounds far more at home singing this than he did the 'A' side. So Mary bought an Otis Redding album, it was hot as fire, and every time that gal played that song, she learnt more and more about desire. Find the song on: 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set, 1993)


Non-Album Recordings Part #5: 1964

There aren't many non-album Otis recordings once his career gets underway, with Redding including most of his A sides off his records and more often than not choosing B sides from whatever his last LP happened to be. One of the exceptions is [  ] 'Don't Leave Me This Way', Otis decision to include the rather unfinished song on the back of a potential hit  ('Come To Me' from the next album as it happens), no doubt enhanced by the fact that his new boss Phil Walden helped write it. A slow chugging blues brightened up by a fiercely aggressive Otis vocal and a bright ringing horn part, this feels like lots of other Redding trademarks stuck into a blender: the pleading, the argument that Otis would die without his lover, the 'Mr Pitiful' type sadness that this could be happening to him, even the horn lick acting as a brick wall unmoved by Otis' pleas are all tricks that have been tried before. The performance goes a long way to adding the magic lacking in the song, however, which is better than it's rather unloved and unknown reputation suggests. Find the song on: 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set, 1993)

The originally unreleased [  ] 'Little Ol' Me' is most remarkable for being the start of a great writing partnership between Otis and guitarist Steve Cropper. The two had found an instant rapport and became close even before Otis became a 'star' as worthy of Cropper's time as the Wilson Picketts and other soul legends he was spending time with. You can hear shades of 'That's How Strong My Love Is' in this song, which features some nice ringing guitar (very Merseybeat at times) and a more regular metre than Otis was used to writing in this period. Redding's lyrics, presumably written to the melody, prove to be a good fit as Otis breaks in the first of his self-deprecating characters, disappointed that they can't offer more to a loved one except their real selves. However the narrator can offer a promise no other man can: 'I'm the one who really loves you so'. In context Cropper's guitar rushes almost sound like coy flirting, leading Otis on to ever greater admissions of honesty and faith. Far too good a song to leave in the vaults for the best part of a quarter century, when in typical record company style it was released twice in the space of a year. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992) and the 1993 box set 'Otis! The Definitive Redding'

Rather less deserving of release was the basic swing of [  ] 'Don't Be Afraid Of Love', another Redding-Walden collaboration, this time alongside songwriter Oscar Mack. Having two other writers butting in seems to have robbed Otis of some of his personality here, although he does a good impression of one of his biggest heroes Sam Cooke on a song that shares many of his song's distinctive bum-di-di-bum beats and a much bigger though less intense backing than Otis preferred style. For once in his life Otis isn't singing full power enough to sound as if he isn't afraid of love, while some of the patois lyrics ('Everybody, every girl, need love, no no no , if you want it, you get it, just ask for it') are among the weakest in the canon. Probably best left in the vaults, though interesting as a one-off experiment all the same. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992) and the 1993 box set 'Otis! The Definitive Redding'

Recorded by both Sam Cooke and Little Richard, two big Redding idols, [  ] 'Send Me Some Lovin' was inevitably going to turn up in Otis' set lost at some point. Sadly it doesn't seem to have got beyond the basic take stage, with Booker T and the Mgs uncharacteristically 'off' during a rather slow and drawn out version. Otis clearly knows the song better than they do, but even he doesn't sound quite right here, caught off by a song that causes for him to combine two of his favourite styles (slowed down aching ballad but without the sad words meets high uptempo aggression in the lyrics but without the thud and thump of a full power band), leaving him sounding slightly schizophrenic as he switches from one extreme to the other. There's nothing here a couple more takes and a couple more polished solo spots couldn't have sorted out, however. The dating of this song is guesswork by the way - by Rhino rather than me, as Otis' session notes were in such a scramble they made some 'educated guesses' on their 'Remember Me' rarities set. I see no reason to argue with the dating though, especially as this sounds like the sort of performance you do for your favourite performer when they're still alive, rather than the sad and mournful performances Otis will give on three Sam Cooke covers in 1965. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

What is it with AAA band members and coca-cola commercials? The unlikeliest acts have all done them: The Moody Blues, Jefferson Airplane - and Otis Redding. Though named [  ] 'When A Man Loves A Woman' this is sadly not the famous Percy Sledge song which would have suited Otis to the ground (all aching power and compulsive belief in fate), but a sort of Otis original that sounds like it was trying to be something else before the 'things go better with coke' lyrics got added. Across 90 seconds Otis and the MGs purr not to a girl but a drink, Otis giving his all so much you barely notice the madcap lyrics  ('A man and a woman with a love so real can even make a bag of peanuts seem like the choicest meal'), adding a sighing 'things go better with coke' chorus that's less advertising jingle and more guttural growl. There is, by the way, an official 'Otis Redding' cocktail made up of Hennessy, Tobasco Sauce and Cough Syrup - this too goes better with coca-cola so I'm told! Find it on: the 1993 box set 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (1993)


Non-Album Recordings Part #6: 1965

[ ] 'Come To Me' never really sounded like a natural fit in the Redding catalogue anyway, being a slow plodding blues that features Otis in falsetto for the most part. The first version of the song, recorded at the start of the sessions before the song started evolving, sounds even less Otis with a sad and dreamy vocal and a big fat echoey production that's very different to the usual sparse sounds of Stax. The song gives way to a more 'normal' middle eight, though, with the power in Redding's voice coming over more clearly than in the finished product. Minor it may be, but a nice find for collectors. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

Less a song than a rocking groove, [44] 'I Can't Turn You Loose' became something of a cult song amongst blues aficionados, covered far more frequently than its status as the B-side of flop single 'Just One More Day' warranted. Credited to Otis alone, it's actually Steve Cropper and Al Jackson Jnr who are the stars here. finding a fat and heavy groove and having fun with it while Otis emotes over the top on his favourite theme: the fear of separation. Telling his baby to start 'shakin', he tells her how no matter how far apart they drift there's no way he'd ever split up with her because he'd be lost, promising to 'never lose you'. he also sings 'hold on' in such a way that you half expect him to launch into support act Sam and Dave's big hit.  Though solid and in keeping with the 'heavier' pop sounds of 1965 (this is 'Ticket To Ride' meets 'My Generation' with added claws), this song lacks the usual Redding box of tricks and the variety or feeling Otis usually brought to a song. Great riff, though and sometimes that's all you need. Find it on: most decent Otis Redding compilations

Four Sam Cooke songs on 'Otis Blue' would probably have been one too many, despite the debt Redding owed to his recently fallen hero. [45] 'Cupid' was probably the right one to go, a slightly bland tale of heartbreak, a #17 hit for the writer in 1961. You can see why Otis liked it so, with another song that requires him to do a lot of pleading and acting - though this time he directs his requests to Cupid's bow and arrow after feeling so unhappy in love for so long.  Pretty but slightly forgettable with a basic piano riff and some dramatic horn parts, Otis sounds slightly gruff here too which might be another reason why this song got left behind. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' box set (1993)

[46] 'I'm Depending On You' is a second rare non-album B-side this year and one that seems to have been overlooked for far too long. An uptempo companion to 'I've Been Loving You Too Long', it makes for a fine pairing as the two songs are kind of in reverse, the horns here pushing Otis on while his vocal slightly drags behind, putting the brakes on. Otis is again infatuated and obsessed, sure that he'll be helpless without a love in his life, but this time his excitement seems to work: this isn't a one-way street this time with her agreeing to give a 'last chance to save our romance'. Otis has done everything he can and made his sentiments clear - this time it's up to his girl to prove that she wants this to work as much as he does. The song's breathless excitement and rush of energy suggest that Otis thinks the result is a foregone conclusion, however. Find it on: 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set, 1993)

More guesswork as the compilers of 'Remember Me' place [  ] 'There Goes My Baby' to a few months either side of Christmas 1965. Actually I'd still place it closer to 1966  and the heavier feel of the 'Soul Album', with this song a lot simpler than the recordings for 'Otis Blue' and thereabouts (unless this track is an exception). A sprightly Leiber/Stoller song with a fast pace and a great throbbing bass part from Dunn, it's closer in feel to Motown than most Redding covers. Otis himself is in great voice, stomping his way through the rather basic lyrics about searching for an absent girlfriend and wondering where she is, investing the song with a lot more power and care than it probably deserves. A fine horn lick is the icing on the cake, managing to match both the restless urgency of the music and the what-will-I-do-without-her? feel of the lyrics. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

[  ] 'The Boston Monkey' seems a more likely guess for the tail end of 1965, given that the dance was something of a craze that year. The 'missing link' between 'Shout Bamalama' and 'Shake', it involved a couple dancing facing each other and acting 'like monkeys' - waving their arms in the air, scratching their arm-pits, hopping down from one foot to another and finally meeting in the middle...to check each other for lice! Needless to say this wasn't one of the longest lasting crazes of the 1960s and most of the 'songs' based on the style were almost certainly sly references to heavy drugs (a 'monkey' being an old blues term for heroin, which makes a lot sense of The Beatles' 'Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey' if nothing else). Otis sounds as if he's having a breakdown as he gets more and more desperate, pleading his girlfriend to 'wiggle your knees' if she has any feelings for him at all. Surprisingly Otis doesn't get a slap but a grooving horn part instead and a chunky guitar part from co-author Steve Cropper who, to be fair, probably expected Otis to come up with a rather better lyric for this song. A real one off, with Otis still searching round for a style to suit him even this late on in his career. We should, I think, all be thankful that he found it soon after recording this recording which, I suspect Otis would never have been able to live down had it come out in his lifetime. Even when re-found in 1992 the idea of Otis wiggling his knees and catching fleas wasn't exactly the memory of him we had in mind... Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

Non-Album Recordings Part #7: 1966

[  ] 'Remember Me' would have been, at the time of recording in 1966, just another bluesy type ballad for Otis to plead for his lover to take him back and argue all the reasons why he thinks he should stay. That quarter century wait in the vaults, though, made this song sound almost supernaturally eerie. 'Please don't forget me my child' sings Otis from beyond the grave, his voice right at the late 1965/early 1966 peak when it's at its most 'alive', 'We are all only here for just a little while'.  Credited to Otis solo, it marks a huge step up in his songwriting as the singer comes up with a lyric that works on a far deeper level than just boy-and-girlfriend-in-a-huff. Otis argues not that he's perfect for her or loves her so much but that he belongs by her side because they've been through so much together, nursing each other through sickness and health and promising that one day in the future 'you're going to realise how big my heart is'. I'd say it's pretty big judging by the powerful performance Otis puts in her, sizzling on every note and using every last ounce of energy to keep his girl's attention on him. Cropper's melancholy guitar riff set against some melancholy horn-blowing suggests that all won't be well, but there's no trace of that melancholy in Otis' performance which is full of confidence and bravado, utterly convinced that the couple belong together and can never be split apart. This is at least a candidate for the single best recording Otis made during 1966 matched only perhaps by 'Just One More Day' and the two songs are similar, living eating and breathing the emotion on offer here. You wonder how on earth it got left behind. Though Otis and his management team weren't exactly immune to lapses of taste and missed opportunities (there are some great recordings left back in the vaults and a fair bit of rubbish on the albums), could it be that this song cut just that little bit too close to the bone? Rumour has long had it that Otis was considering the unthinkable across 1966 and 1967: getting a divorce from Zelda both in response to and in order to continue a string of affairs that were just seen as an inevitable part of the pop/soul star's lifestyle back in the mid 1960s. As usual, Otis is pleading to stay despite doing something 'wrong' and being the guilty party, but this song seems more 'final' somehow, with Otis imagining for the first time a long-term future without the love of his life by his side. Powerful stuff and by far the highlight of the rarities set named after this song. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

[ ] 'You Got Good Loving' is again rather unreliably dated to 'mid 1966', which does make sense - it sounds like a 'Dictionary Of Soul' outtake with that slightly harder edged soul feel of 'Day Tripper' although if true it would have been an oddity for the sessions - the only song not about guilt or betrayal. Instead it's a revved up Otis in 'Hard To Handle' mode, going at it hammer and tongs against a heavy pounding backing track and a jolly horn part. Otis instead promises to always give 'whatever you need' to his girl and to always be there for her, while trying to portray himself as the perfect husband. Though Otis sings the song straight, without any hint of game-playing going on, you have to ask in the context of his 1966 work whether he's being entirely fair... Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

Most soul singers tended to cross-breed, singing songs that others had made famous - especially live. This was one of the biggest differences between the rock and soul scenes back in the 1960s: with so many bands to choose from pop 'n' rock fans tended to be tribal, choosing their favourites and staying loyal, whereas soul fans knew that the people who saw one particular singer would most likely go to gigs by another. Otis was unusual in this respect - the only soul writer he covered in any big way was his beloved Sam Cooke, with most of his cover songs either written for him by friends or borrowed from the rock world anyway. [70] 'Papa's Got A Brand New Bag' is easily the most famous soul song Otis didn't write, with Otis doing a good job on James Brown's energetic classic. The band sound more stretched than Otis does, the horns reduced to playing the same twiddly horn part for several minutes, but Redding himself proves there's more to the singer than just pretty ballads. In context, though, this admission that the singer has just found a 'brand new bag', sixties parlance for a whole new way of thinking and seeing the world, sounds more like hope than reality with Otis slightly stuck across 1966. If he'd sung it in 1967, though, that would have made perfect sense...Find it on: 'Live At The Whiskey-A-Go-Go' (Recorded 1966 , Released 1968), the longer version of the gig released as 'Live On Sunset Strip' (2010) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (Box set 1993)

Another surprise live exclusive is a fast-paced version of The Beatles' [  ] 'A Hard Day's Night', clearly written as 1966's equivalent of 'Satisfaction'. It seems odd, actually, that the track never made 'The Soul Album' as it's another strong choice - stronger in fact than 'Day Tripper' which did make the record - with Otis emoting over how hard he's been working and improvising like mad around the fab four's slightly cheeky lines about how much work they've put in for their fans. Otis, who'd spent his career bouncing between the thrill of the stage and the security of 'home', is particularly strong on McCartney's middle eight, turned from a few happy seconds into a typical piece of Otis yearning for love and comfort, turning the word 'tiiiiiiiight' into a ten syllable word. The Beatles had already gone through their 'Otis/Stax' phase by the time this live recording was made (that's what the 'Rubber Soul' title referred to, with dates booked to work with Steve Cropper and everything) but were reportedly very pleased with Otis' cover when it finally came out posthumously in 1968. Find it on: Good To Me: 'Live At The Whiskey-A-Go-Go Volume Two' (Recorded 1966 , Released 1993), the longer version of the gig released as 'Live On Sunset Strip' (2010) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (Box set 1993)

One of the more merciful Redding culls was [  ] 'Trick Or Treat', a rare Halloween special that comes over like a twisted version of 'Respect' - 'If you play nice with me I'll play nice with you, but if you cross me...ooh dear'. Written by Otis' close friends Isaac Hayes and David Porter, it's very much in the Redding huffing-and-puffing style and is closer to the 1970s brand of funk than pure soul. The highlight is a horn part that just sways in the breeze, teasing the listener as it hangs this way and that like a pendulum moving from good to bad, while Al Jackson's killer backbeat is almost worth listening to the song for alone. Alas it's not much of a song, though, and you can tell that Otis feels slightly uncomfortable playing the 'nasty' character for once. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set, 1993)

Otis' second go at a song about Cupid did find release, as the B-side to 'My Lover's Prayer'. The fact that [  ] 'Don't Mess With Cupid' - which inevitably rhymes with 'stupid' - never made it to an album in Otis' lifetime suggests that the singer wasn't enthralled by what seems to have been written by Steve Cropper for an Eddie Floyd session. By MGs standards it's rather thrown away, with a 'Mr Pitiful' style backing but none of the wit or charm, while Jackson simply plays the basic drum lines without any distinctive special features. Of all the songs Otis actually okayed for release, it might well be the worst.  Find it on: 'The Dock Of The Bay' (1968)

Another fast and heavy Otis shuffle left in the vaults back in 1966 was [  ] 'Loving By The Pound', an urgent original in the 'Hard To Handle' format once again. Otis is on bright vocal form as he quite literally throws his weight around (or mentions of it at least) and gives his undying faith with every last part of it. The moody unrelenting backing track and a horn part that gives him the evil throughout the song suggest otherwise, however. The 'Remember Me' doc guesses at 1966 as a rough dating - this seems to make sense as this track sounds like another 'Dictionary Of Soul' era composition where Otis is trying to sound like the perfect husband but his guilt keeps getting in the way. Otis wrote better takes on similar themes, though, with this song bordering on unmemorable by MGs standards. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

Much of 1966 has seen Otis casting around for a new style - [  ] 'You Left The Water Running' suggests that at last he might have found it, by accident as it turns out, with this originally unreleased track deeply significant in Redding's development into the next year. As slow and sad as 'Dock Of The Bay', with a more adult tone and a real folk-rock feel about it, 'Water Running' would have been as big a shock and a career jump as it's close cousin had it been released. Otis sings double-tracked in a much softer style than normal while Jackson plays percussion and Crooper plays exactly the sort of think you'd expect from a  Byrds/Eagles album. The story goes that Otis was visiting co-writer Rick Halls at the FAME studios he ran in Alabama when their intended recording star Wilson Pickett was due to record the song - Otis said he'd liked the song and, with time to fill, agreed to record it as a 'demo', the session men getting carried away as time went on and pushed into making it a full scale production. Otis, clearly singing in Pickett's smokier, more relaxed style, is audibly having a ball and Pickett's version, though as near identical as possible, is nowhere near in terms of charm or charisma (you can find it on 1967's brilliantly titled 'Wicked Pickett'). The song was released without comment in 1989 on the minor label 'Stone Records' - the first 'new' Otis recording since 1970 - and caused quite a stir of interest before being shut down (Zelma Redding didn't even know of its existence, never mind granted her permission for it). Journalist Dave Marsh sought permission from the courts to buy up the existing copies that were due to be pulped and gave them away to close friends and family of Otis' estate as a missing relic - these limited copies are now the rarest and most valuable recordings in the Redding discography (so if you own one and hadn't realised, remember you read it here first folks - and did we mention what good value these AAA books are?!) The single was famous enough in record collecting circles to be name-checked in Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity', where the record boss has to keep a straight poker face when a lady comes in clutching several singles of her husbands, including this special edition. For once the hype round a song is worth it: it's great to hear Otis singing in a different style, the pressure off him and I'm convinced it's where he first discovered he could sing with the 'smaller' voice he uses here and on 'Dock Of The Bay' for the first time. A classic. Find it on: The rest of the world caught up with the first official release on the short-lived 'Otis Redding Story' compilation of 1987 and later 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' box set in 1993.

Finally for this section, one-take Otis had a rare second thought about his approach to future classic [  ] 'Try A Little Tenderness'. The song was already something of a live favourite by the time Otis came to the 'Dictionary' sessions and a song he desperately wanted to get right. What had sounded so fluid and natural on stage, however, took a while to take shape in the studio and this first go at the song is simply too slow, with the sudden changes of pace and throttle too obviously marked across the song. You can tell, though, that the band are only a smidgeon away from perfection - thankfully they nailed the song just a few hours later, leaving this curio take as a fascinating glimpse into how the band's arrangements developed. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

Non-Album Recordings Part #8: 1967

Hold steady my fellow Redding bedding-fellows, this section might last a while, containing as it does three album's worth of material recorded in around six weeks plus a few other assorted extras, many of which are among the cream of the Redding crop... Until November, when Otis hit his stride, Redding's final year of 1967 had been his least productive since 1964. One duets album and two non-album singles were all Otis had to show for a year that had brought him a bigger audience than he could ever have wished for and none of the recordings released that year show Otis anywhere close to his best. His first solo single of the year, closely following the duet 'Tramp' into the bottom reaches of the charts, was [  ] 'I Love You More Than Words Can Say', a slightly dour romantic ballad that marks the first of only two times in his whole career that he sang a track co-written by organist Booker T Jones. The song had most likely been intended for other co-writer Eddie Floyd's albums but Redding may have jumped in when he realised that this slow smoky song of pleading was so close to his own natural style. The song clearly is a good fit for Redding, who as always pours what most people would call 110% of his soul into the vocal, if that phrase wasn't too much of a mathematical absurdity to use. Unfortunately it's such a good fit it sounds like a tribute act: it's too perfectly moulded to his slow-burning box of singing tricks and the song goes exactly where you expect it to melodically and lyrically (slow sweeping horn part - check; lyrical references to pain and leaving - check!, pleading - on bended knees, check!) There's nothing wrong with this song by any means, but it doesn't offer anything extra we hadn't already heard and was a poor choice for single, flopping at #78 in the US charts, Otis' lowest since 'Security' when he was a newcomer. Find it on: 'The Dock Of The Bay' (1968) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set 1993)

B-side 'Let Me Come On Home' is better, though more for the mother of all jams that's going on behind Otis than because of what the singer is doing for once. Credited to Booker, Jackson and Cropper together - a rarity that, though you wonder why Dunn missed out on a name-check - it seems likely that the song started organically the way 'Green Onions' did, as a riff everyone joined in with. Otis may have been handed the backing track as a fait accompli to emote over - he certainly sounds more uncomfortable here than we've heard him for a while, unsure of quite where to put his vocal parts and sounding a little removed from everything going on. The groove is a god one though, with a classic na-na-na-na-na-na horn part that's like a sped-up 'Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa', the band rising and falling with each repeat cycle of the melody. Too good for a flipside, though this song probably wouldn't have done much better as the A-side either. Find it on: 'The Dock Of The Bay' (1968) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set 1993)

The last official single of Otis' lifetime tends to get short shrift amongst fans. Certainly Billy Hill's rather boring and sugary original of [  ] 'The Glory Of Love' - later covered by everyone from Benny Goodman to Peggy Lee - doesn't seem exactly prime Otis material. But Redding clearly saw something in this song's lyrics about the healing powers of love and turns in an arrangement that's another stepping stone to the still and quiet of 'Dock Of The Bay' alongside one of the most emotional vocals of his career.  The lyric seems to put into words a mystery that Otis has been trying to uncover his whole life through - why we put ourselves through pain for someone we love. Otis has given his all, seen his heart break, but he doesn't care because he also knows about the good times, the shared unity of a couple who when the world gets tough have 'got each other's arms'. Otis sounds genuinely moved, as if this is a philosophy that hadn't occurred to him before and he sounds somewhere between moved and cowed here, reflecting the darker guiltier side of his work in 1966 with a sense of peace and understanding common to the records he was making at the very end of his life. Unloved, low selling (it peaked at #60, even after the extra push of Monterey a year earlier) and largely forgotten, Redding makes a short and slightly wobbly song sound like the most important thing in the world. That's the glory of Otis and after a difficult few months he finally seems to have re-found his mojo and discovered a new low-key way of doing his usual style that's goose-pimply effective. Find it on: 'The Dock Of The Bay' (1968) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set 1993)

Home is clearly on Otis' mind a lot across 1967 and this is his second B-side in a row to obsess about the theme. [  ] 'I'm Comin' Home To See You' - released on the back of 'The Glory Of Love' - is more in keeping with earlier, playful Redding originals before the world got serious. Here Otis is waiting to go home after a long time away (presumably on tour) and he's dancing around with mad delight like a child, thrilled that at last his hard times seem to be over and he can get a much needed rest. Of course being Otis it's not long before the fun and games stop: 'It's been so long since I've seen you, I won't know what to do' he worries, though thoughts of a 'baby who sets my soul on fire' set him off again in another display of vocal acrobatics. Easily the funniest, happiest song of Redding's final year, it's actually rather sweet that his entire released recorded legacy should end with this one song that so reflects his earlier younger self and finds him so happy and contented. 'Home' is a special song full of unbridled joy and a reminder that even 'Mr Pitiful' had good days sometimes. Find it on: 'The Dock Of The Bay' (1968) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (box set 1993)

The real song that feels like an 'ending', though is [  ] '(Sittin' On The) Dock Of The Bay', an eerily perfect song with which to close a career though at the time Redding and co-writer Steve Cropper considered it a beginning, a whole new style to explore and the first of a ridiculously prolific forty-six songs all recorded in the last few weeks of Otis' life, almost all of them gems. 'Dock Of The Bay', though, still sits head and shoulders over most of them.  Otis began writing his saddest song back in August 1967 during a brief boating holiday, maybe even the one he's rushing back for on 'I'm Comin' Home To See You', watching the ships roll by and thinking about his life (his colleagues were confused by the lines about the ships 'rolling' until Booker T raced back to Georgia for the singer's funeral and - not wanting to take a plane for obvious reasons -waiting in line at the dockyard for a boat to take him there, realised Otis was singing about 'ferries', which were so big and fat they 'rolled' as they turned into port). Neil Young claimed later that he'd purchased the exact same houseboat in Sausalito, California during a break from the Buffalo Springfield and had just missed a chance to meet his great hero. Otis realised the song was special so, after he got stuck on the end of the first verse, he pocketed the song and returned to it across the 'King and Queen' tour, scribbling lines on hotel napkins until he had a full song using the 'loser' character ort 'Mr Pitiful'.  The song really took shape when he handed over his collection of hotel stationary and serviettes to Steve Cropper, who came up with the distinctive bluesy guitar line almost straightaway. Using the idea of the ships rising and falling on life's tide, Cropper's clever guitar part reflects his partner's words nicely and the pair worked hard at the song over the next few weeks, convinced that it was going to be 'the big one', the top ten hit Otis had never had in his homeland. The basic song was finished on November 22nd 1967, with Cropper adding the 'seagull' guitar effects during overdubs on December 8th, just two days before Otis' death, while Otis re-did his vocal and filled in an intended horn part to be added later with some off-key whistling over the fade that was never intended to remain on the song (an earlier take begins with producer Jim Stewart joking that it's just as well it's going to be replaced because Otis 'is sure never gonna make it as a whistler!)

Actually the whistling is perfectly in keeping with a song where the mood is lower, the stakes are higher and the mood is quieter than any previous Redding recording. There's no hysterics or pleading from Otis this time, soul's gentle giant responding to the great hype and energy of Monterey by going quiet and inward. Though Otis takes three verses before he refers to it head-on the loneliness and self-pity he's felt his career through has taken on new form here, leaving him vulnerable and anxious. Realising in the song's one golden burst of power that 'nothing's ever going to change' he resigns himself to a life as an also-ran, accepting life is never going to be as brilliant as he wanted to be, the hint in the song being that he's either houseless or jobless or both, with nothing to do but sit at the dock of the bay 'wasting time'. You sense it might be Otis imagining what might well have happened in his life had he remained a well-digger all his life, without the lucky breaks that felt like they were meant to be. It may also be a slight feeling of angst that he'd been 'abandoned' by the fates that had been looking out for him up to Monterey, with bad musical, business and if the b1966 lyrics are to be believed marital decisions across the second half of the year marring what should have been the greatest period in his life. The agony in the song is that even here where everything is stationary lie is moving more than the becalmed narrator: the ships roll in and out, the tide takes the moored vessels up and down bobbing on the currents of life, but for Otis there's nothing to live for 'and it look like nothing's gonna come my way'. The irony of course is that right at the point where Otis feels like his struggles have all been for nothing he hits upon the solution to his musical cul-de-sac of the past year, with a track that gloriously swaps hard-edged soul for a hybrid of soul, folk rock and pop that's utterly original and utterly brilliant. Of course this song sold by the bucketloads after Otis' death (with Cropper more or less press-ganged into finishing the song the same week his good buddy had died, with the promise that someone else would do it if he didn't; the sound effects were the main gist of what he changed but even these had already been discusses between the pair; astonishingly the boss of Stax rang up to ask Cropper to do the mix again as they felt Otis' vocal was too 'quiet'. Refusing to do the mix all over again and go against his friend's wishes, Cropper cleverly compromised by remixing the song back into mono for first pressings, with Otis' vocal at the front effectively 'doubled' in size without overpowering the music anymore. The song proved to be the elusive #1 Redding had been waiting for his whole life - but would surely have been so even without his cruel death to help it up the charts. Several times in this book Redding came as close to perfection as any singer and song can be. Here he found it with what must surely be the best use of his 'Mr Pitiful' character and voice. Find it on: every decent Otis Redding compilation! Oh and 'Dock Of The Bay' (1968) of course.

Two alternate takes of [  ] 'Dock Of The Bay' also exist, taped at those first sessions on November 22nd. They sound as if Otis hasn't quite worked out the sound he wants yet, getting Al Jackson to play mean and funky, while the horn parts are louder and more aggressive and mocking than sad. Cropper also strums his guitar rather than soars with it, all of which makes Otis sound as if he's more likely to fall in the dock than anything else but already the song sounds rather good, especially the slightly tighter second take. Find them both on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

Goodness knows sitting through 'Dock Of The Bay' is powerful enough, but if you're after more in the same field then the closest Otis came to capturing the same mood was the unbearably sad [  ] 'I've Got Dreams To Remember'. Oddly left out of the immediate posthumous Otis re-issuing frenzy - it would have been the perfect second single of 1968 - it features Otis singing about himself in the past tense via the only lyric his wife Zelda ever wrote for him. In the context of Otis' recordings across the past year it's pretty eerie, Otis' wife offering her own 'goodbye' song on a lyric that, like her husband's own, seems caught between guilt and frustration, throwing in memories of how great life used to be when it was just the two of them and not the whole world. Her husband's touring mean he's only a shadow, a 'dream' that used to be really good but has now become a nightmare. Though the genders have been changed round for the song, her lines about seeing her beloved with 'another man' also sounds like a cry from the heart, as does the sighing recrimination 'these eyes of mine, they don't fool me', mirroring Otis' first song for her 'These Arms Of Mine'. By now Zelda knew her husband's music as well as anyone and goes for the big 'Mr Pitiful' push here too: 'Nobody knows what I felt inside, all I know is I walked away and cried'. To his credit though Otis, though, cleverly, doesn't go for the big full-blown dramatic touch here. Instead he sings this song with a gorgeous detachment, clearly living every word but keeping just that bit of distance from the song so that he can get through it, living the life of the 'ghost' in the song whose living in such an unsure, broken relationship he no longer feels a part of it. Otis only breaks down on the finale, screaming 'Take me away, I don't want to remember!' Had this song been released in Otis' lifetime, with the singer effectively singing about himself on a song so spookily quiet and different to his usual style, it would have impressed every bit as much as 'Dock Of The Bay' surely would. Heard in 1992, a quarter century after his death with a 'rumour' from the few people who heard it that this was a song worth waiting for, it was exceptionally moving, Otis singing that the good times are over and all that he's left are 'dreams' of how life used to be. Otis then fades away from us with only dreams to remember life by, dreaming on an even more moving alternate take that 'you got the message' but never quite sure if he ever got through.  Scariest, most Twilight Zone lyric given the events less than a month later: 'You were so far away even an aeroplane couldn't reach you'. Otis purrs as if singing from some limbo-land, with a scream of 'take me away' over the fadeout for good measure for anyone who isn't a heap of nerves yet. Anyone who can sit through this one and remain in one piece just isn't listening to it right, with a gorgeously low-key MGs performance high on gospel organ and Cropper's sigh of a guitar lick the icing on the cake. One of the very greatest things in the Otis canon, this overlooked song never got quite the fuss it deserved, one last great dream to remember Otis by. I'm used to Otis Redding records making me cry, but I don't think I ever shed as many buckets as I did to this one, eerily perfect, spookily dramatic and exactly the new direction Otis had been searching for most of the past year Find it on: 'I've Got Dreams To Remember' with the outtake version heard on 'Remember Me' (1992) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (Box Set, 1993)

Almost as good but ridiculously different was the true follow-up chosen for 'Dock Of The Bay', a rare jolly Otis song that would no doubt have been picked as the second single anyway had Redding lived as it has 'hit single' written all over it. [  ] 'The Happy Song (Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum)' is an obvious re-write of 'Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)' but as the title suggests in a much happier mood, with Otis so carried away with his happy mood he can't help singing nonsense tunes at the drop of the hat. The least 'Mr Pitiful' style of Redding's carer, it's a fluffy but infectious collaboration between Redding and Cropper that's based around one of the guitarist's best riffs, bouncy and fun.  The narrator is back with his baby and she always make him feel happy (which is news to us, but never mind...) and the song even gets autobiographical when the girl (surely Zelda) turns off the light, coquettishely kisses him and soothes his troubles away, murmuring 'Big O, everything's going to be alright!' Sadly this song is one of Otis' hardest releases to track down, being passed over for 'Dock Of The Bay' for some reason, but  peaking at an impressive #25 in the singles charts even without Otis around to promote it. One last great dose of enthusiasm Otis style, this song's pure cuteness is impossible to resist! Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968), 'The Otis  Redding Story' (1989), and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (Box set 1993)

Oddly, the posthumous 'Dock Of The Bay' album had over two records' worth of material to choose from, but the closest thing to a previously unheard track on the whole record (assuming you'd bought the 'Dock Of The Bay' record, bizarrely matched with Dictionary's 'Sweet Lorene' as a B-side) was the distinctively trivial [  ] 'The Huckle-Buck'. A messy jazzy improv, it's probably the most unfinished and un-releasable moment on the whole record. It was first 'released', if that's the right word, on the limited edition and mainly spoken word Stax album 'Stay In School - Don't Be A Dropout' LP which didn't even sell the few copies printed to an audience who really didn't want to stay in school longer than they had to. Ironically given the context, it's a 'dance' song that smacks of juvenile delinquency, perhaps included here as a nod of the head to where the story started back in 1961 with 'Shout Bamalama' because this is another short-lived dance craze being put into song by an over-energetic Redding. This time, though, it's a very old dance dating back to the 1940s and first recorded by Paul Williams and the Hucklebuckers who made it their theme song. Closer in style to James Brown, full of panting and growling, it's not a natural fit for Otis' style and lacks the emotional depth of his best work. The craze died out in reality after the rather sexual dance was banned in most Southern American states. No one seems to have told Otis that, though, who gives his all on a track not really worthy of his talents or his tribute LP. Find it on: 'The Dock Of The Bay' (1968)

The B-side [  ] 'Open The Door' is as it happens rather better known after being picked for inclusion on the best-selling 'Dock Of The Bay' album too. It's the closest Otis has been to gospel for a while, with Booker T aiming for church while the horn players keep noisily rap-rap-rapping on the sacred door. Otis himself is the one doing the banging, taking the metaphor of a loved one locking him out physically as a metaphor for what she's been doing her whole life, getting down on his knees to plead through the keyhole that he's been 'wrong' and he's 'sorry'. The song ends in an epic improvisatory fade that takes up a great chunk of the running time with Otis using every last bit of will power and argument to taunt, cajole, plead and force his girl to open the door, though she remains stubborn right up to the very end. A song more in keeping with the tracks of 1966 than 1967, it's yet more evidence of Otis' stormy love life but also his realisation that it's the family the other side of the door that is his real calling. Find it on: 'The Dock Of The Bay' (1968) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (Box Set, 1993)

Otis was uncharacteristically OTT on that recording; had he lived chances are he might have gone for the rather better, humbler alternate take of [  ] 'Open The Door' first released in the 1990s. Otis doesn't yell here but sings quietly and low-key, 'Dock Of The Bay' style, as he tries to argue his case with arguments not passion or strength. It works rather better, with the horns down a notch or two as well and Booker T's sterling playing at the fore again where it always belonged. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

More traditional than all this change of style is Steve Cropper's jazzy little song [  ] 'You Made A Man Out Of Me', co-written with Stax songwriter Deanie Parker. It's probably the closest that Otis ever came to singing on the tradition Booker T and the Mgs solo style, with a jaunty little melody and a solid beat together with an unusual 'laughing' horn part and a brief Dunn bass solo. Otis sounds slightly out of place, as if his vocal was only considered afterwards and I suspect this song might have sounded better kept as a band jam. It's very contemporary sounding too, with the feel of many late 1967 'new Vaudeville' Victoriana songs that were clogging up the charts back then and  an olde worlde feel that mixes colliery bands and string quartets. The lyrics hint at something interesting about to happen ('You make a man just wanna change his mind') but sadly never quite develop past the stage of 'you made me feel like a real man!' - interesting given that this lyric is the only example of Otis singing a lyric written by a female outside of his wife's! Find it o0n: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

[  ] 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' is, surprisingly, not the much covered soul/blues classic but a new Otis original performed in a strangely upright 'funk' style despite using the usual 'Mr Pitiful' character. Another song of guilt, perhaps building on his work across 1966, Otis sighs that he failed not at loving but 'loving you your way', kicking himself for coming up short and realising that 'I'll have to pay for my mistakes'. Otis is in a deeply self-pitying mood, but complains that he's not being allowed to 'wallow' - hence, perhaps, the unusually aggressive MGs backing track here that all but nag him into action. Most similar Redding songs of the period have the singer soft and quiet, whispering his guilt and hiding behind the horns, but not here - this is the 'loudest' Redding vocal in some time, placed really up front in the mix as if suggesting the narrator isn't going to hide behind anything anymore but stand up and admit his wrong-doings. An overlooked track. Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

One of the most influential and oft-covered Redding originals was [  ] 'Hard To Handle'. So well known is this track, in fact, that it's a surprise to learn that nobody really knew it until after the singer's death and so rapidly did it become a famous part of the soul songbook. It's an unusual track for Otis once again and one of his more successful adaptations of his usual style, with the narrator this time refusing to be guilty and saying 'you knew I was like this when you met me - so why are you surprised?' As if proving his point Otis' vocal line is even an awkward fit for the song, carrying on after the MGs have reached a natural full stop with the catchy chorus 'Pretty little thing let me light your candle, 'cause mama I know I'm so hard to handle now, yes I am!' Weirdly there's a hint of homosexuality for the only time in Mr 'Love Man's career as he sings about 'boys and things coming in by the dozen' - was this song a demo, perhaps, written for Aretha Franklin as a follow-up to her cover of 'Respect'? (It's certainly more in her confident style than Otis', though he sings the hell out of the vocal just to prove there's more to him than pretty ballads). The song also contains one of the very best couplets of Redding's career: 'I'm advertising love for free - so won't you place your ad with me?' Good fun. Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

Closer in style to the usual Otis yearning ballad style is [  ] 'One Thousand Miles Away', an original that puts all of the usual Redding trademarks to good effect: punchy horns, ebbing and flowing vocal lines, that guitar, that voice!  The production sounds notably punchier, though, as if the MGs are being recorded as a rock band with horns rather than with the usual slightly softer style of soul. Lyrically this is a return to the B-side 'I'm Coming Home To See You' only the metaphor of the lovers being separated is used to show them drifting apart, now leading two different lives. Otis still sings 'What's mine is yours, honey, I want you to have it' but he can't share the experiences which are the really valuable discoveries of his time away and he simply isn't the person who left to go into the big wide world all those years ago. 'You got me suffering!' Otis complains over a typically extended improvised fadeout, but unlike some other songs he shares part of the blame here too. A bit Otis by numbers, but it's only the fact that everything here has been done before that stops this track from being a classic - everything about it is well done and it would have fitted nicely into Otis' work from a year or two earlier. Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

Don Covay was a big name in soul circles in the early 1960s, famous not just for his own songs but co-writing with the best: Aretha Franklin and Chubby Checker. Otis' only co-write with his fellow soul giant on [  ] 'Think About It' is an intriguing experiment that doesn't sound like either man's natural style. A slow sleepy ballad, but one without the intensity associated with Redding or the sheer catchyness of Covay, this instead sounds like a typical Redding song of guilt twisted into a happy-go-lucky song by his co-writer and coming out as not quite either.  Otis knows that his girl is about to leave and asks her to re-consider one last time, hanging her clothes up in her closet for her to make sure she stays another night at least. Otis turns as lyrically cross as we ever hear him: 'I'm the one who saved you from a long and lonely life! I'm the one who gave you your first taste of paradise! Look how you're paying me back!' The odd thing is, though, Otis sounds unmoved and detached again, singing without his customary emotion and without his usual pleads and sobs. It's as if the closer we get to the 'heart' of Redding's real feelings the stiller and calmer he becomes and this makes for another eerie track where without the hysterics there's just an icy coldness and aloofness so unusual to Redding's other work but in keeping with his late 1967 material. It's impressive, though in a whole different way to usual, with a pretty horn part that hints at the love that's still there between the couple but is quickly dying out by the minute. Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

The best song on the 'Immortal' album barring 'I've Got Dreams To Remember'  - the first of three posthumous sets released in 1968  - is probably [  ] 'A Waste Of Time', a sort of 'My Lover's Prayer' in reverse. Now all that Otis is pleading for is a quick release from a situation that's become too much to bear, one where for the full 24 hours his heart feels heavy and empty 'and that don't leave no time for play'. Adding to the heavy autobiographical oppressive feel of the song Redding recounts the long list of girls who say 'Otis I love you' but he lets this fact pass without comment before trying another tack: he's put so much faith and time into this marriage, so why is it not working? 'Somebody understand what I'm saying!' he splutters over an extended finale, annoyed that only he can see that this relationship is going to end in misery if it carries on like this so it might as well end now. Another powerful original from a writer whose become more and more prolific the more he realises how much his own writing can work as therapy, this sounds like a trial run for something Otis was building up to say but was never brave even to do in his lifetime. Once again, it's powerful stuff with the MGs backing church-like, the calm before a certain storm. Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

I can't decide whether [  ] 'Champagne and Wine' is more of a promise or a threat. Remembering the early days when Otis treated his girlfriends to the finest things money couldn't afford back then,  he reflects that he's now able to offer the love of his life this sort of thing on a regular basis - so why isn't it working out? Admitting to a string of affairs, Otis also sings believably that 'you're the one girl I can't forget' and offers a lyric full of personal reminiscences about meeting in 'Side Street' and sneaking off to 'make love' without anyone knowing, infatuated with each other. Only Zelda really knows if this is all true, but it sounds it with an Otis vocal so informal and at peace that you wonder whether he's even noticed that they've started recording yet. Redding's promise, that 'every day gonna be like Sunday' and 'every night you're gonna have the stars in the sky' is sweet, delivered in the tone of a man who knows he's on his last chance and is on his best behaviour while meaning every single word he sings. Sweet. Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

With so much going on in his brain and in his big ol' heart, the late 1967 sessions didn't leave much room for the usual Redding list of covers. Ray Charles' [  ] 'A Fool For You' is the exception and while it would have been a good choice for any other album, with Otis again in his 'Mr Pitiful nothing-seems-to-go-right' character, it seems oddly out of place for these deeper, more authentic songs. First recorded as a mid-selling single by Charles in 1955, it's one of the oldest songs Otis ever covered and a little too traditional, with Otis even aping his colleague's vocal style, which needless to say doesn't suit him quite as well as his own. You hope Otis would have thrown this song out had he lived to compile this album 'for real'. Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

A plea for forgiveness and tranquillity, you can see why the usually irreligious Otis Redding would have fallen for a traditional Christian hymn like [  ] 'Amen'. Otis may have first heard the song through his dad's work as a preacher (he gets a name check as 'pappy' on a typically Redding improvised rant) or might have learnt it through his friend Curtis Mayfield who also cut a version with his band The Impressions in the 1950s, or indeed both. In the context of the 1967 recordings it's a little bland, a one-note song asking for forgiveness that doesn't test the MG's creative skills at all bouncing between two chords and not exactly pushing Otis' vocal to the limit either. But in the context of Otis' death you can see why this became one of his bigger-selling posthumous singles, a tale of redemption from beyond the grave whereby Otis' last will and testament (for now) is that his troubled soul has found peace at last. Amen to that. Find it on: 'The Immortal Otis Redding' (1968)

A compilation regular, [ ] 'Love Man' is 'fast' Otis playing up to his  soul star image with a wicked grin. More of a groove than a song, this track just about gets by thanks to the tension of an unexpected switch of keys and a playful sense of autobiography as Otis tells us he's 'six feet one, weigh two hundred and ten, long hair and real fair skin' - not all of which are necessarily true (by 1960s standards Otis had a very sensible haircut indeed - the length of his hair at Monterey was probably the shortest in the sea of 90,000 people). A chance for Otis to strut his stuff and return to his repetitive stutter ('cause 'cause 'cause 'cause) for the first time in a while, it would have been interesting to know what Otis would have done with this song if he was alive: an A side? A B side? An album track? Back in the vaults? In 'our' world a public who'd been in mourning for a year already really took this song's sense of cheekyness to their hearts, loving the autobiographical element. As a groove, though, there are better and more complete Redding originals out there. In case you were wondering  - though you probably weren't - the B-side of the single was the 'Live In Europe' version of 'I Can't Turn  You Loose', with all the other 'unreleased' tracks kept back for the album later in the year. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969) and most Redding compilation albums

Talking of which, the 'Love Man' album never quite matched the range or experimentation of 'The Immortal Otis Redding' with songs that could easily have come from earlier Otis albums although all appear to have been recorded along with the other November/December 1967 crop. [  ] 'I'm A Changed Man' promises much with its revved up horn part and Redding lyrics pleading that he's turned over a new leaf, but it's an excuse for a knees-up rather than a heartfelt confessional to rank alongside his best work. The song is most memorable for the jazz-style scat singing Otis tries in the middle, which makes for a nice contrast to his usual soulful huffing and puffing in the middle. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (Box Set 1993)

Gary Jackson and Carl Smith's oft-covered [ ] 'Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher' is a very 1960s song full of hope and optimism and a slight sense of drugs and 'trips'. 'Day Tripper' aside Otis never went in for the latter much, but otherwise it's a song that ought to suit him to the ground, one long romantic sigh over a jolly backing that gives him space to soar. Except he doesn't: this is one of perhaps only two or three examples of Otis in ropey vocal form in the studio and he sounds as if he's getting a cold, his body sinking lower and lower as he tries to sing higher and higher. Otis probably intended to come back to this song and do it again the next year as this sounds like a 'paused' song rather than the finished thing. Perhaps another take would have allowed the MGs to really swing too - this slightly staid arrangement sounds like they're still learning the song, probably learnt by Otis from jackie Wilson's version. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969)

The album highlight by far is [  ] 'That's A Good Idea', an Otis original that harks back to the pain of 'A Waste Of Time' and other songs on 'Immortal'. This time it's Otis' girl who wants to be apart for a bit because their relationships going nowhere and a bitter Otis calls her bluff, storming out himself. As with 'Respect' Otis sounds a little paranoid over her spending his money and seems to think for the first half of the song that he's better off without her. Suddenly though, without telling us, something has changed. Otis turns up abashed, chocolates in hand, to tell his girl she 'looks better than any ol' movie star' and spends a whole verse enticing her to throw off her shoes and come sit with him on 'daddy's table' (the mind boggles). Suddenly the reconciliation is the part that sounds 'like a good idea', with Otis dropping the dry and sarcastic tones of the opening (Otis is surprisingly good at sarcastic for someone who spent so much of his singing life playing 'honest') for a more joyful performance. No one seems to have told the MGs of the change in mood, though, as they attack the exuberant half of the song with the same anger and power as the first. An interesting idea, perhaps a couple of takes away from being nailed. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969)

Almost the last Otis classic, [  ] 'I'll Let Nothing Separate Us' is another Otis original weepie, one that's perfectly in keeping with a style that dates right back to 'These Arms Of Mine'. Otis' vocal is immaculate as he pours out every last bit of his soul on a lyric on which he expresses his undying love. A cross between the opening of 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' and 'My Lover's Prayer', this is Otis doing what he was born to do, playing cat and mouse with the listener as he vows that no matter what happens he will always be there to hold his lover's hand. 'When this world comes to an end I'll be standing there' Otis promises with such passion that you utterly believe him - who'd have guessed listening to this moving track that Otis was about to leave us for good just a few weeks down the line? A lovely MGs performance, slow but not too slow and with a noisy horn lick that struggles to hold the song together, is the perfect backing. How on earth was this gorgeous song passed over the year before? Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969)

One of the final Redding/Cropper collaborations was another experiment that could have led to quite an interesting new direction for the band. Coming off more like a psychedelic Johnny Cash song than anything else, [  ] 'Direct Me' is a song about Redding's desperate attempts to find where his girl has run off to. Hiring the FBI and CIA to search for clues, Redding promises a '$10,000 reward' and name-checks an old favourite when he says that when he catches up with her he'll keep her 'chained and bound'. Otis sings at the start that he's been 'crying for five ling years' which is an interestingly exact detail to give: could it be that he's dating the year back to 1962 when he began his singing career in earnest and began travelling away from home so much? Is this song Otis' paranoia that his wife could be up to anything without him home to keep an eye on her, worried that she's up to the same things he's up to? A restless backing track brings Otis ever closer to rock, with Cropper's single spiky guitar lick central to the song and almost no soul overtones here at all. Though not the greatest thing either man wrote, it's great to hear Redding and the MGs playing with expectations of who they are and offering up a very different sound. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969) and the 1993 box set 'Otis! The Definitive Redding'

[  ] 'Groovin' Time' is another Redding/Cropper original that is another hard-hitting track based around a great riff that doesn't really have a full song to go with it. Playing up the euphemisms for all they're worth, Otis says that his girl complains about their 'groovin' time' together and says 'if you can't love me boy then you might as well let me be!' Otis' narrator, so used to being 'The Love Man', is heartbroken and finds comfort in all the vices his girl doesn't like either: the pool-hall, Broadway, 'funky night clubs' or 'hanging' around with ol' Pete'. Suddenly, after years of singing about how great homelife sounds when you're at the end of a weary tour, the shoes is on the other foot: home is a prison, where Otis is locked up with nothing but drudgery and a nagging wife. The backing track sums up both the drama and the impotence well, somehow managing to be both urgent and sluggish, Redding trapped in a claustrophobic world he can't escape. We're used to hearing Otis play 'the victim' - that's one of the things that made him stand out from the usual run of soul singers who just boasted about their prowess all their time. But this would have been a brave move for Otis is released at the time, a virtual admittance that he isn't a superman and a lyric in which he most definitely comes out second best. A shame there isn't just a little bit more going on in this rather repetitive song, but who knows - Otis might have re-arranged it completely for his next record had he lived. It's certainly more than good enough for an 'outtakes' set and again proof of how brave and inventive Otis was becoming in the last few months of his life. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969)

[  ] 'Your Feeling Is Mine' is another overlooked song, another of those Redding songs that's getting closer to rock in style than soul. A sort of cross between the unity of the 'Monterey' crowd and the sad sad songs he's been writing a lot of recently, this solo Otis original gives him plenty of space to confess his love and obsession as well as sounding more 'pitiful' than ever. Otis' vocal is gorgeous, full of pathos and quiet mourning at the start and inspired to a crescendo in the middle as Redding stabs at the song, desperately scrabbling away at the MG's metronomic riff. 'I hurt your feelings girl - and you hurt mine'  the song starts, 'but I still love you more than anything else in the world'. Realising that without his wife his heart's breaking, his eyes are going blind and his weight is going 'down, up' Otis pleads with his girl to rescue him - if not for her sake then for his in honour of all they've been through together. A soggy heap on the floor by this time, Otis has never sounded more desperate, though he kicks into his 'Love Man' persona as he tries to 'thank' his girl by hugging her, then kissing her, then...well it's probably best the song ends right there actually. Though only a verse long, with no real chorus and a slightly unfinished air, you can tell the song already means an awful lot to Otis and of all the songs from his last sessions this is the one that most feels like it 'got away', that it's a draft away from greatness. Even as a fragment, though, this is impressive stuff and another of the highlights of the 'Love Man' LP. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969)

If I didn't know better I'd say that [  ] 'Got To Get Myself Together' dated earlier than this - say 1965 when the storm clouds were mainly on Otis' head than in his life. This latest Redding original (1967 was by far his most prolific year) has the 'bounce' of the earlier recordings without the pure joy of period tracks like 'The Happy Song' and the Mgs have fun stretching themselves on a fast paced song that demands a lot from them at last. Unusually, it's Otis whose waiting at home for his baby to show, eagerly devouring a 'ten page letter' she's written outlining when she'll be back and what they'll do. Otis, though, is feeling depressed - will she really be as wonderful as he remembered? Will things really be like they were? He sees dark storm clouds over their heads ('full of rain, with snow on the side')  and fears for the worst, although there's no sign of this in the music which bustles along merrily, oblivious to the doubts he has in his heart. Even so, he does pull himself together by the end, telling him that for every raindrop he can imagine there's an equal sized joy at meeting up with his lover again after such a long break. Another revealing song but again a track that desperately needs a little something extra to be finished, with Otis stuck in the same groove for pretty much the whole song and, unusually, with no real 'peak' to soar on. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969)

Gene Lawson, Philadelphia DJ and talent scout, gets a rare credit on [  ] 'Free Me' alongside Otis himself. You can kind of tell it's written by a 'fan' - it name-checks a whole load of Otis songs ('Turn Me Loose' is the opening line, while there are also references to 'Chained and Bound' and build heavily on every song where Otis has ever apologised), while the melody sounds like parts of every slow yearning Otis ballad strung together. All that said, this is not a bad song though with Otis clearly finding something in the lyric he connects with even if he's sung all this many times before, while the slow burn groove the MGs find is intense, fizzing with drama as a horn part express everything Otis has left unsaid. 'Unchain me from your love' Otis pleads one last time as he tells us how 'weak' all this worry has left him. Not a classic, but certainly not bad. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969)

[  ] 'A Lover's Question' is pretty bad though, a plodding take on a plodding song by Brook Benton and Jimmy T Williams, best known from a Clyde McPhatter hit back in 1958. Otis probably chose it because it sounds like a Sam Cooke song - breezy without being happy and telling a wordy story about lovers in trouble. However it sounds like an inferior Cooke song, with nowhere really to go past the chorus of doubt where Otis wonders whether his lover is kissing someone else when he's not there. The revved up backing seems at odds with the lyrics though and not in a clever 'la la la I'm in denial' way like some other Redding compositions. Otis sounds a touch gruff on this track too, suggesting he was either suffering with that mystery cold again or that this was only a warming up exercise, never intended for public consumption. Which, to be honest, is probably how things should have been left. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969) and 'Love Songs' (1998)

[  ] 'Look At That Girl', Otis' last release of the 1960s, couldn't sum up that era more if it came with a miniskirt and love beads. The MGs are playing like they're on one of their slow cookin' instrumental LPs, oblivious to what Otis is up to, while he's been joined by a girl band who sound like a Chipmunk version of The Supremes. perhaps that's a deliberate choice for this Stewart/Morris composition, which seems to have been written especially for Otis (and certainly seems only to have been recorded by him). It is, after all, a 'memory' song recounting where two lovers first met and as such is presumably set in the mid-60s anyway. Afraid of getting up on the dancefloor himself, Otis simply admires his girl from afar and drops in some very 60s hip speak such as 'the way she dance to the music she got me going out of my head!' The only evidence we have that Otis even considered adopting his usual style to the 'hippie-pleasing' tones of the Monterey crowd after his success, it's not exactly a happy hunting ground with Otis  made to sound trivial by the girl backing singers (shades of Carla Thomas again...) and sounding deeply uncomfortable on a song he clearly doesn't really understand. The track is worth hearing for the MGs repeating their best psychedelic R and B 'Hip-Hug-Her' style groove though, unique to this song in terms of the records they made with Otis. Find it on: 'Love Man' (1969) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (1993 box set)

The songs Otis was working on when he died can roughly be divided into inward-looking autobiography full of guilt and remorse (as released mainly on 'Immortal' and 'Love Man') and hard-hitting full-on soul that uses even more of a 'character' than before (ironically on the less authentic album named 'Tell The Truth'). [  ] 'Demonstration', another collaboration between Otis and Don Covay, sums up the latter approach well with Otis showing off his prowess 'Love Man' style. Otis proudly boasts that he was 'born to be a lover' and offers to give the audience 'a demonstration' - we're perhaps grateful that technology hadn't yet developed to the point where Otis could do just that by 1967. However Otis' vocal is still for now in the vulnerable, humble style of his other tracks suggesting either that this is a rehearsal vocal due to be replaced at a later date (a standard working practice after all) or that Otis isn't all that comfortable with the lines Covay has given him here. A song like 'Love Man' is so over the top it borders on parody and self-deprecation, something Otis is good at, but strutting and boasting never came as comfortable to Otis as it did to, say, James Brown and he sounds a little out of place here. The MGs, though, love the new sound which is bold and aggressive and plays right into their strengths, especially Booker T lighting up the piano with some dazzling twirls. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970)

The laidback and funky [  ] 'Tell The Truth' suits Otis a lot more despite being one of the rare cover songs of the period taken from the Lowman Pauling songbook. The MGs come on like an express train, with Cropper's sliced guitar a neat foil for Booker T's playful organ and one of the best throbbing Dunn bas lines. Otis, meanwhile, is back to one of his favourite themes of obsession, telling his girl that it was hard to fall in love with her 'but oh so hard to stop!' The second song to namecheck Steve Cropper, the spiky guitar solo is the highlight of a song that's perhaps lacking a little extra something to become a classic but is nevertheless the single best cover song of Otis' final year of recording. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (1993)

I've never been quite sure why Otis insisted on recording so many James Brown songs. Not because they're bad songs but because the two singers were such polar opposites: Brown really struggles on the slow emotional numbers that is Otis' bread and butter, while Redding never sounded quite as comfortable doing hard edged dance-style numbers that came so naturally to Brown. While the live take on 'Papa's Got A Brand New Bag' just about got away with copycatting Otis' rival's style, there's less excuse for the rather bland studio cover of [  ] 'Out Of Sight', a minor hit for Brown in 1964. Basically one long chat up line, it's assertive and aggressive and full of double entendres as Brown winks 'You've got a sweet disposition but...you know what you're doing baby!' while a horn part comes close to a nudge and a wink. Otis could do sly but he was always better off being direct and he sounds slightly lost here, the sound of a man copying something he admired without being quite sure why he admires it or why it works, sounding woefully miscast. Perhaps that's why this is one of his most obscure recordings, 'out of sight' on his last and relatively poor selling collection of 'new' material for twenty years. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970)

Otis sounds happier on [  ] 'Give Away None Of My Love', an original that's one of the few to use hippie parlance like 'freak out' and have the crossover appeal to the Monterey crowd everyone expected from the last few months of Otis' life. A chirpy horn part and a fun boogie woogie Booker T part is the perfect setting for Otis to promise the end of the earth to his girl once again, like the good ole early days of 1964. But as usual in this final period there's an edge to the work that makes it sound darker than just a pure love song. The first verse is interrupted by Otis shouting 'listen!' after every line, as if this song is an argument rather than a  love song and the chorus makes it clear that he's not the sort of man to admit his feelings freely. Otis is on stunning form throughout with a delightfully rich and powerful tenor that's full of character and charisma and the overall performance saves what's otherwise a so-so song. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970)

Back in the early days Otis used to give us as many Little Richard impressions as Sam Cooke ones, before he latched onto his own style and discovered his knack for ballads. It's rather fitting, then, that Otis should return to his first musical hero for these late period sessions, with the original [  ] 'Wholesale Love' probably the closest to a straightforward rock song he ever wrote. Cropper unleashes an impressively heavy guitar part and a riff, credited to Otis unusually, that's perfect for boogie-woogie-ing. Only the lyrics don't quite match the tune on this one, with Otis making no reference of the curious title throughout and reduced to silly teenage romance lyrics about how his heart 'goes flippity flip'. For a man whose just written 'Dock Of The Bay' it's quite a comedown, but for the beat alone this would have made a fair B-side at least had Otis lived. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970)

[  ] 'I Got The Will' is more 'I gotta gotta gotta' grooving from Otis on a track that's more of a riff than a full blown song. Though Otis sounds rather good (if a little breathless) on the vocal and the MGs suit the song's simple pure power well, my guess is this song was a demo written for someone else to cover - maybe Aretha Franklin again. For a start the lyrics are written from a girl's point of view and the song tries a little bit too hard to follow the 'Respect' chord changes - that song having proved to be Otis' most popular 'cover' song in the pre-'Dock Of The Bay' years. Though the melody is also dementedly catchy, the lyrics mark another growth spurt in Otis the songwriter, a development on the idea of the 'Mr Pitiful' character. Effectively telling us that the narrator has the will to love but not the way or means, Otis keeps punching through verse after verse still searching for the perfect girl without changing direction or slowing down to look at the view, desperate to reach journey's end. There's one big problem with this song, though, that suggests it was incomplete: there's just one 'proper' verse with two much repeated choruses that alternate four times in a row. Even granted that this sort of song is meant to work through a hypnotic beauty, 'Will' seems as if it's missing something - that Otis has got the idea and the will, but lost it in the execution. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970)

You might not know Arthur Alexander's name, but if you have an interest in Merseybeat you'll certainly know his music: The Rolling Stones and The Hollies covered 'You Better Move On', The Beatles covered 'Soldier Of Love', The Searchers covered 'Where You  Been?', The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers covered 'A Shot Of Rhythm and Blues'  and finally The Beatles and Humble Pie both covered 'Anna (Go To Him)', five of the greatest R and B songs of the 1960s. A storyteller with Chuck Berry's eye for storytelling detail mixed with the sort of aching and longing of Otis, the pair would surely have become great collaborators in the years to come had it not been for Redding's premature death. Sadly the pair only completed one song together, [  ] 'Johnny's Heartbreak', a rather clichéd 1950s style song that isn't really worthy of either talent. Set to the same marching beat as 'Stand By Me' with lyrics about a man remembering an old romance that's gone cold, it's most interesting for the postmodern middle where the narrator drifts off into a lonely sleep, an Otis Redding record the perfect soundtrack. The second most interesting point is the ending, the song turning into a soulful cry 'I don't want to be wasted, I don't want to blind, I don't want to live in this daydream anymore'. Though no stranger to the bottle, Otis was certainly closer to tee-total than alcoholic throughout his years - surprisingly so for a soul singer - and seems to have sworn off drugs early on in his career. Alexander wasn't quite so lucky, although his biggest problems with booze and amphetamines won't happen until the 1970s, when he'll quietly retire from the music business and become a bus driver. In truth this song sounds more like 'Arthur's Heartbreak' and an early cry from help, delivered with the same empathy Otis gives every other 'loser' narrator but one you sense that isn't strictly Otis' story to tell. The end result is a bit of a let-down given the talent involved; much better might have been for the pair to unite on their similarities rather than explore their differences, with a slow-burning epic full of dramatic emotion that, squared on top of each man's solo style, would have surely stopped the soul world on its tracks. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (1993)

For my money the single best song on 'Tell The Truth' might well be [  ] 'Snatch A Little Piece', a double pun on wanting a rest ('ie a little peace') and 'snatching a piece of your heart'. An uptempo 'Hard To Handle' riff starts the song as one of those Otis growlers that's going to stick with a groove come what may, but the song is actually a lot more complex than that. The opening hard hitting verse drifts off into a lovely dreamscape where the MGs stop pounding at their instruments and start coasting, hazily reflecting on how best to get through to Otis' woman before the moment passes and the band goes *bang* back into the same groove again. Otis is clearly having fun playing around with styles, trying to match his two most extreme genres together and he gives another fine performance that manages to sound both desperate and a little bit smug, the narrator assuming that it's his right to wear a cold and aloof girl down eventually. Intriguingly, the main hook line ('Loving you is my destiny...') sounds very similar to the main phrase in 'Get Back'. We know The Beatles were fans, but this track wasn't out till 1970 - a year after its first performance on the Apple rooftop - so it seems likely it's just coincidence though the two tunes are remarkably close. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970)

Another Little Richard cover [  ] 'Slippin' and Slidin' is sadly a rather obvious choice and - stretched out to fit a more laidback soul template - sounds hopeless, even more toothless than John Lennon's misguided mid-70s cover. A nonsense song like this one really needs to rock and you can't fault Otis' vocal which gives his all. The MGs, though, seem to have backed off and slowed down, trying too hard to mould this slippery song into their usual mould while the horn parts have swapped their usual urgency for lethargy. Not one of Otis' better moments, I would hope that this song was a rehearsal warm-up that got out of hand rather than a true attempt at cutting an album track, though that said it all seems a little too large and polished for that. In fact it's over-thinking that's killed off this cover, not a lack of studio time. Not a patch on Otis' earlier, similar cover of 'Lucille' from the beginning of his career. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970)

[  ] 'The Match Game' really should have been the album's single - it has a sort of 'finished', polished feel that few of the other 'Truth' songs possess and though not the deepest or most adventurous Otis composition is too pretty to dislike and too catchy not to sell. Otis wrote it with his old friend David Porter and as usual when the two get together they talk not in honesty and guilt-trips but metaphor. There's a double pun in the use of the term 'match': on the one hand Redding simply means a partner for life, but on the other he means someone whose more than just another person or a mirror but someone who has the potential to light up your life like no other. The danger, as he sees it, is that the relationships with the most to offer tend to burn themselves out the quickest. Torn between reckless warmth and fear of the future, Otis tells us that 'your love can make me burn down a building!' and that he feels a 'tattoo' of a fire burning on his body whenever his girl walks near to him. However, evidence that Otis isn't taking this song quite as seriously as other period pieces about love can be heard in the extended improvised fade: 'Strike the match now baby-cakes!' which is OTT even for him! An overlooked song, which might not be a classic but seems too good and too commercial to have been passed over for two full LPs already in addition to the 'Dock Of The Bay' record. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (1993)

Otis sings a little higher than comfortable on the otherwise delightful slow-burning funk of    [  ] 'A Little Time', yet another original and a song more in keeping with the mood of late 1967 than some of the others on the 'Tell The Truth' album. Sad that he's been accused of not caring enough, Otis vows to love his girl so hard she won't know what's hit her, promising to 'hold her and kiss her...every morning noon and night!' Like some of the other darker songs from this period, though, this is as much a threat as a declaration of love with Otis sounding a little on edge throughout the track, two parts 'Love Man' to one part psychopath. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding (1993 box set)

And so the available Otis originals come to an end - for the next twenty years or so at least - with [  ] 'Swingin' On A String'. In what must surely be his oddest metaphor yet, Otis compares himself to a yo-yo left dangling at the end of a lover's string as she plays him this way and that. Otis is having fun reeling off a list of the many side effects he's been suffering from since meeting the love of his life and fills up enough health effects to fill a 'Medical Dictionary Of Soul', but his biggest complaint is that she's making him 'do things I don't want to do'. An urgent upbeat blues lick from the MGs and a clipped staccato horn part makes for a nice balance with another great Otis vocal that just keeps coming and coming. At times this song is more like rap music, but better: where on earth does Otis even take breath in this song? A fair ending - or at least a pause - in the Redding catalogue. Find it on: 'Tell The Truth' (1970)

There were, however, two final songs from the late 1967 sessions that oddly weren't released on any of the three posthumous collections of Otis' work. [  ] 'Pounds and Hundreds' is as good as pretty much anything on any of those albums, a strong Redding/Cropper collaboration that balances the guitar's laidback cool with another urgent high-tempo vocal delivery. Another self-deprecating song about Otis' weight, twisted into a lyric about having so much more soul to offer than his rivals, this song promises 'loving by the pound'. On the one hand it's one of the simplest and daftest songs Otis ever made: it's not a song so much as a lengthy semi-improvised lyric that repeats the same idea in lots of different and inventive ways over the same rocking r and b groove. However every so often Otis stops, leaving Cropper's guitar to coolly take the song to end of a phrase and kick-start him off again. The effect is that for all of Otis' constant rabbiting and nattering, he's done nothing to impress his ice maiden, a fact that causes him to try harder and sing for longer only to reach the same result. By the last verse it's a real tour de force that only ends on a fade - it wouldn't surprise you to learn the original master-tapes show the song going on for hours longer so intense has Otis become by the end. A nice twist on the usual thing, this is better than all but one of the 'Tell The Truth' tracks and really should have been let out the vaults sooner. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (1993)

Joe Rock, the unlikely named soul writer of Art Garfunkel hit 'Since I Don't Have You' made a rare collaboration with Otis on [  ] 'Gone Again', to date the last released Otis original (presumably that's all of them now after another twenty year-plus wait and far more than we were expecting for an artist who died so young, but who knows - we've thought we'd reached the end of the vaults before now and been proved wrong). Actually Otis might have been better off covering that slow-burning hit because 'Gone Again' is a little clichéd, a brassy eyes soul song without his customary subtlety. My guess is that Otis wrote the words, though, which are amongst his most depressed and soul-searching despite the merry twinkle of the main tune. 'The sun has gone away, it's dark in the day and there are no kids laughing' sighs Otis, painting a life where his girl walked out 'in May' (we don't get to hear what the month is now but it's been long enough for snow to arrive and for all the flowers to have died out). Otis is really pitiful on this song, in both senses of the word, still agonising as to why his wife should have left him when they seemed to have such a happy future together. There's a hint why, though, with the sleepwalking last verse that informs us the narrator 'took a walk in the forest - didn't see no trees' which suggests he's cut himself off from the obvious. No offence to Rock, who is another exceptionally talented and under-rated writer, but Otis might have been better off singing this song straight without the oompah horn licks making his usual pleading vocal sound a little fake. Still, a typically complex way for Redding the writer to bow out of our list. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (1993)




Finally we have a song that's almost definitely tongue-in-cheek, a superfast and wild version of [  ] 'Respect'. Taped as a bit of fun to lighten the mood between taping the intense, slower tracks in the November/December 1967 sessions, it's one last great chance to hear the full MGs band, complete with horns, flying full formation and giving it everything they've got. If you thought the original was breathless and fast than that's nothing on this version, which barely leaves Otis room to get to the end of each line, every mouthful ending in a 'heyheyhey'! rattled off at top speed. Brilliant and breathtaking, it's a great and fitting finale to the book. Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992)

Our encore, if you like, is a rare bit of spoken word/a capella soul poetry from Otis, originally released as part of the Stax social commentary record 'Stay In School - Don't Be A Dropout!' Otis was one of several Stax artists coerced into taking part alongside Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Sam and Dave and Steve Cropper, though oddly the MGs only get one actual song together (were they perhaps 'too cool for school'?) Otis sounds passionate enough about his cause, introducing himself as 'The Big O' and explaining that 'I was sitting here thinking about you so I wrote a song about you', addressing himself to high-school age kids. Telling those who quit school early 'that really wasn't very groovy', he tells his listeners not to complain 'if you think that school don't move yer!' Scaring them now that they might end up 'on an unemployment line' or 'as a tramp' and praises himself to high heaven for 'being very wise'. What Otis doesn't explain is that he did more than alright for himself, leaving school at fifteen without qualifications or that circumstances sometimes dictate the education - which is what happened to him when his dad fell poorly and left the family without a breadwinner. Of course Otis regretted the fact that he left early - he was certainly clever enough to have done well and yearned to have a fuller education, as perhaps hinted at in the mortar-and-gown cover of 'Dictionary Of Soul' (he might well have gone back to study something in middle age when taking a break from music - someone like Otis would never have stopped learning). However he certainly didn't starve in unemployment queues and the closest he came to being a 'tramp' was when Carla Thomas started picking on him in song, so it's all a bit of a dubious message really: the old 'do as I say not as I do' routine that never works with kids. You should pursue higher learning because you want to, not because some old soul singers and their record label think it might be nice. Adults are a drag aren't they? Released to an audience to whom staying in school was the biggest possible no-no, even over songs about death and politics, the original 'Dropout' album sold woefully poorly and is most widely seen around nowadays thanks to a clever Japanese bootleg version, complete with bad tape hiss, Stax accidentally insulting the very audience they were meant to promote. In a way it's still worth buying if you see it, if only to hear Sam and Dave struggling to reign in their cheeky charm and be serious for once, or David Porter and Booker T Jones trying to keep a straight face whole debating the merits of further education in a fake board meeting (for the record Booker T ought to have been made up with this record, what with a school being named after his grandfather and everything and the fact he was studying for a degree part-time in this very period, but he sounds as bemused as everyone else; in fact Otis comes across as the most sincere of the lot).   Find it on: 'Remember Me' (1992) and 'Otis! The Definitive Redding' (1993, box set)