In April, member of Vinyl Me, Please Classics will receive Otis Redding’s The Immortal Otis Redding, a posthumous album from the soul singer, who died right after finishing the songs on the album. This new edition features new liner notes, and was remastered from the original analog tapes AAA, and comes on 180-gram vinyl. Read below for more on the album.
Andrew Winistorfer: In December 1967, Otis Redding lined up a bunch of club dates around the Midwest. They were flying in from Cleveland, and his plane went down in Madison. There’s speculation that there was too much ice on the plane, so when the pilot started doing the descent, it spiraled straight down instead of a gradual descent. They crashed into Lake Monona before hitting Truax airport.
A few months before Otis Redding died, he had vocal cord surgery, and he was really worried that he wasn’t gonna be able to sing again. So, he was laid up in his house, and listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, and Otis’s like “This is my shot. When I can sing again, I’m gonna hit the studio harder than I ever have.” So, he spends the last two or three weeks of his life basically living at Stax Studios: recording multiple songs every day, just going crazy. All the Stax house band members remember going home to sleep for four hours, and then driving right back over because Otis had this huge explosion of creativity.
Otis records [and finishes] like 30 or 40 songs, he dies in this plane crash, and Stax decides — at that moment — to put out a new single because this was the moment that everyone was gonna be paying attention to him. Otis wasn’t quite a celebrity yet; he was famous, but not on the cover of rock magazines or anything. Stax put out “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” as a single, and then made Otis’ first posthumous album mostly from older singles that hadn’t been released on an album. But meanwhile, they have these 30 or 40 songs just piled up in the studio, and the first version of those songs coming out is The Immortal Otis Redding. So it’s really the first complete album Otis made where he wrote most of the songs, recorded everything… this was gonna be his big creative statement, but then he died.
This album is this incredible explosion of Otis Redding as a songwriter, he’s singing better than he ever has, and — for my money — it’s the best Otis Redding album. I love some of his earlier stuff, but this one feels the most complete to me. And when this opportunity came up through Atlantic, I knew we needed to do this because it hasn’t been reissued since 1975, because all the stuff he released when he was alive is the stuff people really revere now. But at the time of release, this was considered his best album; up ’til the ’90s, this was considered the Otis Redding album to own.
This was a passion project for me; I’ve long thought that The Immortal Otis Redding was this incredible record, but everybody pretty much just stops at Dock of the Bay as the posthumous album like everything else was just loosie-grab-bag. But no, these songs were completed and ready… he just died before they could be released properly.
AW: Black vinyl, 180-gram, all analog tapes. And, as you can tell by how extensive I just went on that first part, I wrote the liner notes for this one. I’ve had a lot of passion projects over the years, but I fought really hard for this era of Classics, and we’ve been working on this for a year to make this happen, so... here it is.