Review #448: Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, Otis Redding

Karla Clifton
2 min readOct 24, 2023

#448: Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, Otis Redding

Always sad to read a swan song. This is Redding’s last solo album before he died in a plane crash at age 26. It is kind of astonishing how many artists we’ve reviewed have died in horrible plane crashes — see Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, Lynyrd Skynyrd & Aaliyah. (Not to mention Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Denver.) If anyone in aviation has any insight into this, please write.

This may have been his last solo album but it wasn’t technically his last. In fact, his posthumous album The Dock of the Bay was the first album to reach the top spot of the UK Albums Chart posthumously. It’s crazy that he never even heard the finished version.

I knew what to expect after Otis Blue: a mixture of transformative covers and heartrending originals. I think the cover song is such an art, and loved hearing him turn the Beatles“Day Tripper” into a completely different song by stretching out the guitar riff. See also his delicate take on country standard “Tennessee Waltz” and his passionate one on Sinatra’s “Try a Little Tenderness” (made famous by Donkey in Shrek).

In the songs he wrote himself (and with some famous co-collaborators, such as Isaac Hayes — see “Sweet Lorene”), Redding has such a playful sense of music. I love when he interacted with his musicians, such as the horns in “Lord Have Mercy” and the guitar in both “Ton of Joy” and “You’re Still My Baby.” Most playful moment is probably “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song),” believe it or not, because it’s a riff on the theme song to the game show The $64,000 Question. (Also fun fact, says that song is interpolated by the Talking Heads“Psycho Killer,” which is just hilarious to me for some reason. That’s not true, is it??)

The other side of the playfulness coin is, of course, drama. Redding does drama well — see “My Lover’s Prayer” for a howl-at-the-moon, painstaking piano ballad, and “She Put the Hurt on Me” for an emotional big band party. Most dramatically of all, he wails and shrieks and groans on songs like “I’m Sick Y’All” and the delightfully named “Hawg for You.”

In any case, there’s no more Otis Redding on the list, so everyone will have to go and listen to The Dock of the Bay for some extra credit. The farther I get down this list, the more I realize that 500 is a completely insufficient number for the Greatest Albums of All Time.

Review #447: X 100pre, Bad Bunny

Review #449: Elephant, The White Stripes