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PRESS RELEASE/ REVIEWS

DREAMS TO REMEMBER: THE LEGACY OF OTIS REDDING DVD.
16 VINTAGE TELEVISION PERFORMANCES BY THE LEGENDARY SOUL SINGER NOW AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME ON DVD! INCLUDES 40 MINUTES OF NEW INTERVIEWS DOCUMENTING HIS LIFE AND WORK.

otis cover smallTo commemorate the 40th anniversary of Otis’s death and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stax Records, Reelin’ In The Years Productions and Stax Records (a division of Concord Music Group) are proud to announce the September 18, 2007 release of Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Reddingon DVD. Featured for the first time on this 90-minute DVD are 16 classic full-length performances by one of the greatest singers and performers of all time. Interspersed between the performances are over 40 minutes of exclusive new interviews documenting Otis’s incredible life and career. Issued with the full cooperation of his estate, this is the first official DVD anthology of classic archival Otis Redding television performances.

Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Redding includes a wealth of staggering performances filmed throughout America and Europe beginning with Otis singing one of his earliest hits, “Pain In My Heart” and progressing through the artist’s Stax/Volt career including complete performances of “I Can’t Turn You Loose”, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and a host of others. The final two performances are “Try A Little Tenderness” and “Respect” taped at a local Cleveland television show less than 24 hours before Otis’s death.

Continuing in the tradition of DVDs produced by Reelin’ In The Years such as The Temptations – Get Ready! The Definitive Performances 1965 – 1972 (RIAA certified platinum) and Marvin Gaye – The Real Thing In Performance 1964 – 1981 (RIAA certified gold), Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Redding features classic performances with re-mastered sound and video as well as in-depth interviews with those who helped Otis write and create his incredible music with stirring reminisces from his wife Zelma & daughter Karla. Also interviewed are Steve Cropper, who co-wrote with Otis and played guitar on virtually every record he made at Stax.; Wayne Jackson, the trumpet player for the Mar-Keys/Memphis Horns who also played on most of Otis’s recordings, and Jim Stewart, the founder of Stax Records, who gave his first interview in fifteen years for this DVD. These tender and insightful interviews combine to paint a portrait of Otis as an amazing singer, artist, songwriter, and family man. The story begins with memories of his first amateur talent contests and concludes with the touching recollections of the final days leading up to the tragic plane crash on December 10, 1967. In between are stories about Otis writing songs, recording at Stax and performing on stage (including at the historic Monterey Pop Festival.)

Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Reddingalso features a 24-page booklet with an extensive essay by GRAMMY®-award winning writer, Rob Bowman (author of Soulsville U.S.A. The Story of Stax Records), who also conducted the interviews and co-produced this DVD. In addition, the booklet includes rare photographs and memorabilia. Featured in the bonus section is a photo gallery with never-before-seen images from the Redding family’s personal archives and a recently discovered radio interview recorded in London in 1966. Also, created exclusively for the DVD, is a new video for “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (a song that wasn’t completed until shortly after Otis’s passing.)

For Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Reddingevery effort has been made to locate the best possible sound and video; each of the performances has been re-transferred and re-mastered from the best-quality, original masters (some resting in the television vaults for over 40 years). In the case of lip-sync performances, the original Stax master recordings have been used, replacing the original TV broadcast audio and making for a much more enjoyable viewing and listening experience.

Dreams To Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding also marks the 50th anniversary and reactivation of Stax Records. Concord Music Group purchased Stax Records in 2004 and is in the midst of a year-long celebration that also includes the release of The Stax/Volt Revue Live In Norway 1967 DVD, also produced by Reelin’ In The Years and due out September 18th. The DVD features a 75-minute concert from the famed European tour including an amazing five song set by Otis Redding, as well as performances by Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, Arthur Conley, The Mar-Keys and Booker T. & The MGs. Also part of the 50th anniversary celebration are several reissue CDs, a documentary (“Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story,” that premiered on PBS on August 1) and the re-signing of veteran Isaac Hayes, as well as several new artists, who will usher in a new era of soul music. For the latest Stax 50th anniversary news, please visit http://www.stax50.com.

Reelin' In The Years Productions LLC is the world’s largest music footage library and has produced over 30 DVD releases including the four volume The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1969 DVD series. Released to universal critical acclaim, Volume One was nominated for a GRAMMY® award in the category of "Best Long Form Music Video". 2006 saw the release of the certified-platinum The Temptations - Get Ready, The Definitive Performances 1965 – 1972, the certified-gold Marvin Gaye - The Real Thing In Performance 1964 – 1981 and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Definitive Performances 1963 – 1987, the first official DVD anthologies of classic archival television performances by Motown artists. Also in 2006 were the first nine DVDs in the Jazz Icons™ series with the next seven DVDs in the series to be released in September 2007.For further information, please visit www.reelinintheyears.com. or www.jazzicons.com

Producers David Peck, Phil Galloway & Rob Bowman are available for interviews.(619) 281-6725


Otis DVD cover

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REVIEWS


Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding

“Give me them church chords.” What a moment it must have been ­ sitting there at the piano hearing unknown Otis Redding sing “These Arms of Mine” in a studio for the first time after uttering those words. Guitarist and co-songwriter Steve Cropper, then at the piano, describes Redding’s soul-laden voice as making his hairs stand up six inches off his arms.

Cut down in the very prime of his recording career at 26 in a tragic plane crash that claimed most of his backing band, Redding’s brief but thrilling story is one of the greatest in rock ‘n’ roll or soul ­ wherever you place him. Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding, a poignant documentary on Otis’ life, effectively and often beautifully reveals this story, rightly focusing on interviews with key figures in his life and surviving performance reels.

Because his wife, fellow musicians and friends are allowed to speak so freely, and because Redding emanated such charismatic, positive energy ­ in his songs and in life ­ the documentary is a refreshing change from the typical “drugs, sex and ruin” story to which “Behind the Music” has inured us.

Whether unveiling rare concert footage, such as a Cleveland performance filmed less than 24 hours before his death, or offering impassioned retellings of the singer’s incredibly influential life, Dreams to Remember is a must for any fan of soul, rock n’ roll or R&

B. ­ J.R. Wick


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Sittin' With Otis Redding

Blog by Peter Lindblad
September 17, 2007

The makers of "Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding" do things the old-fashioned way.

In an age where even documentary films are succumbing to the style-over-substance aesthetic, David Peck and Phil Galloway, along with music journalist Rob Bowman, favor cinematography that's simple and direct, which is the way stories like Redding's should be told.

"Our philosophy or motto is: we make DVDs for people who don't have ADD," says Peck, "[where people] will watch something and not ... say, 'Oh, I'm bored. Let's change it,' you know? And when you do watch MTV, or things like that, they'll do things with 27 different cameras. I don't need to see shots of a guy's toes. Let something breathe, you know? Let yourself be enveloped in the story, in the music, in the footage."

That's easy to do in "Dreams to Remember," the Reelin' In The Years/Stax Records production that features 16 vintage television performances by the Soul music legend and 40 minutes of interviews with people like Booker T. & The MGs guitarist Steve Cropper, Otis' wife Zelma, and Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns, among others. The interviews were conducted by Bowman, a longtime Stax enthusiast and Grammy award-winning writers who also penned an extensive essay on Redding's life and career that's included in the 24-page booklet that comes with the DVD. The DVD coincides with the 40th anniversary of Redding's death and the 50th anniversary of Stax Records.

Included in the documentary is a new video for "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay."

"Well, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" is an interesting conundrum if you're doing an Otis Redding project," says Galloway. "Because, clearly, it is his most recognizable song, [but] it wasn't completed before his death, so there are obviously no performances. At Reelin' In The Years, what we do as well as make documentaries, is we're the world's largest music footage archive, and we license footage to all sorts of documentaries, all the MTV and VH1 programs and stuff ... Because this DVD had such a big documentary component, we really felt like we needed to have 'Dock of the Bay' in there. So, especially 'cause there's so much talk of him waking up to it, and it's so close to being around his death, and it really plays into the last part of his life in such a huge way. So, we decided we did want to do a video for it."

The plan originally was to shoot it in Super 8 mm film, "so it looked older," says Galloway.

As fate would have it, during the shoot, the video maker ran into the woman who owned the boathouse where Otis wrote the song in 1967. "She's sold it since, but she owned that boathouse," says Galloway. "It was an amazing thing of fate —bumped into her. She took him over. She showed him where the boat was moored, what the perspective was, and she gave him a photo of the boathouse to use in the video for it."

As Peck says, "There were a lot of wonderful things that happened during this process. And we really hope that people are moved by it like we were. I think they will because there really isn't anything like it."

 


Explore Otis Redding's legacy with new DVD

REVIEW by Peter Lindblad


The death of Otis Redding in that tragic plane crash near Madison, Wis., almost 40 years ago came as a shock to everybody, except, perhaps, Otis himself.

As untimely as his passing was, Redding, it seems, may have known beforehand that his time on this earth was up.

At least that’s the impression you’re left with after watching the new DVD “Dreams To Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding,” from Reelin’ In The Years Productions and Stax Records.

“When you watch the film, it wasn’t a conscious decision on our part, but it almost seems like from day one, he had some kind of premonition,” says one of the documentary’s producers, David Peck.

As evidence, there’s the Redding’s song “Just One More Day,” and then, in the film, Redding responds to an interviewer asking him a fairly innocuous question about his future by saying, “Well, in five years, if I’m living ..."

“What 25-year-old man talks about that?” asks Peck.

Does that constitute precognition? Maybe not, but there is more. As Zelma Redding, Otis’ wife, relates in the documentary, Otis called her from the road the morning of that fateful flight and asked to speak to his children.

“And she’s like, they’re not up yet,” says Peck, but Otis insists on talking to them.

“And then, they told me a story that [Otis’] brother Rogers Redding ... Otis had desperately been trying to call him days before he died and could not reach him, and you know, his brother was really cut up about that,” says Peck. “So, it was almost like he was trying to tie up loose ends.”

Spliced in among 16 vintage TV performances — available here for the first time on DVD — are a new video for “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” featuring footage of the boathouse where Redding wrote the song, and interviews with some of the people who were closest to Redding, including Stax Records founder Jim Stewart, the Memphis Horns’ Wayne Jackson and Booker T. & The MG’s guitarist Steve Cropper. Cropper talked about receiving the news of Otis’ death in one of the film’s most poignant moments.

“The one that moved me was really when Steve Cropper said that he was mixing [(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay], and they hadn’t even found his body yet,” says Peck. “That’s just a dagger. That’s like someone stuck a knife in my chest.”

It’s impossible to tell the story of Otis Redding without dealing with his death, but Peck and fellow producer Phil Galloway, who worked on similar documentaries about the Temptations and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, took great pains not to exploit the tragedy.

“When we chose how to cut this small portion of [the film], obviously we didn’t want to show images of the plane or just a bunch of kind of famous images associated with it that are a little more morbid,” explains Galloway. “We just really wanted to go with people who remembered — obviously, Zelma getting that phone call of Otis’ in the morning, and that’s really powerful; Steve Cropper talking about having to mix ‘Dock of the Bay’ over his body; [Memphis Horns’ trumpet player] Wayne Jackson talking about how he heard it. We really consciously wanted to stay on them more.”

Conducted by longtime music journalist and Stax Records authority Rob Bowman, the 40 minutes of interviews paint a portrait of a beloved artist who touched everyone he met.

“You hear them talk, and it’s almost like he was one of the apostles or something,” says Peck. “It’s just like, I don’t mean to be sacrilegious, but it’s almost like he was a deity. Just the way they talk about him, there’s just a light in their eyes.”

Audiences reacted much the same way to Redding. The very embodiment of Southern “deep soul,” Redding’s rich, smooth voice and emotional, pleading delivery captivated crowds in ways other performers couldn’t.

“There’s just so many great songs the man did,” says Peck. “For me, my favorite performance on the DVD, and one of my favorite performances of all-time, is ‘My Lover’s Prayer.’ Every time I see it, and I’ve seen it a trillion times, I get chills up my spine.”

The archival TV footage for the DVD came from various sources, including Reelin’ In The Years’ own library and companies like Research Video and Dick Clark Media Archives. Among the pieces is Redding’s last televised performance.

“One of the most unique clips is obviously the footage of Otis 16 hours before he died,” says Peck. “You know, I watched that clip for years, and every time I watch it, I want to change history. I keep thinking, ‘Don’t leave the studio.’ It’s like watching President Kennedy’s motorcade, and it’s like, ‘Man, don’t turn down that street.’ And, sadly, you can’t change history, but it’s very poignant and powerful.”

On the show, Redding belted out powerhouse, gut-wrenching versions of “Try A Little Tenderness” and “Respect.”

“You know, it’s funny. We’ve shown the film to a number of people — not theatrically or anything — and I’ve shown it to a lot of men in their 30s and 40s, like myself, and it’s really amazed me that all of them cry at the end of the movie,” says Peck. “It’s kind of like, ‘Wow!’ I think if you can create something that entertains, educates and touches somebody emotionally — not necessarily to get them crying — you’ve done something really powerful.”

‘Powerful” is a word often associated with Redding the performer. Behind the scenes, Redding was just as electrifying. Even in the studio, when he’d be arranging horn parts, Redding, also a songwriter in his own right, brought passion to the job.

“Wayne Jackson even talked about a shift in the energy in the studio when Otis was parking his car and getting ready to come into the studio,” relates Galloway.

Without interruption, Cropper and Jackson talk in the film about Redding preparing for his Monterey Pop Festival show and how Redding took over the stage. And that’s how Galloway and Peck make documentaries, not by employing clips taken from a thousand camera angles like an MTV movie, but just by using simple storytelling techniques and a minimum of camera shots.

“All we had to do was get out of the way and let them talk,” says Galloway. “And also, when they mention, and I still think about this, when [Jackson] says, ‘And when Otis hit that stage, the energy level and heat went up.’ That level of power and that level of excitement that the man generated ...

"Otis was very different from Sam and Dave. He wasn’t a whirlwind all around the stage. He wasn’t a dynamo or anything like that. He was kind of, in a certain way, almost lumbering at times, but he had this incredible power, and this incredible voice, and this incredible excitement and presence. And so, it’s like we didn’t even have to call that out. One of the things Zelma talked about was how he wasn’t a very good lip-syncer, and ... he’s kind of clumsy on stage, but he’s still the amazingly powerful Otis Redding the whole time.”


Music DVD Review: - Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Redding
BlogCritics.org
Written by Donald Gibson
Published October 01, 2007

Music this gut wrenching and gritty should come with a warning label on the package. As long as you've got a pulse and an ounce of compassion in your body, you're bound to have your deepest emotions put through the ringer when listening to the late Otis Redding sing. Released on September 18, a documentary entitled, Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Redding, captures eighteen stage and television performances of the soul legend, along with brand new commentary by some who knew him best.

Between each performance, insight and recollections are offered by Stax Records founder James Stewart, Booker T & The MG's guitarist Steve Cropper, who co-wrote and played many songs with Redding, and the Memphis Horns' trumpeter Wayne Jackson, who played on every Redding recording. As well, Redding's widow, Zelma Redding, offers her own reminiscences, adding a personal dimension to the man she called her husband and the father of their three children.

The performances, especially the ones recorded live, could bring tears to your eyes or strike lightning in your veins, depending on the song. Redding moans like a desperate man in pain on his classic, "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)," during a 1967 show before a rapt London audience, which notably includes a student of rhythm and blues named Mick Jagger. By contrast, Redding turns the Monterey Pop Festival on its head with an explosive version of "Shake." Watching thousands of hippies, many of whom hadn't yet familiarized themselves with Redding's music, sitting utterly entranced by his seminal performance is quite a sight to behold. It was "the highlight of his life," Zelma Redding remembers with pride.

While the performances comprise the meat of this film, it's the commentary between the tracks that add valuable perspective. In one instance, Steve Cropper remembers when a then-unknown Otis Redding first performed at Stax Records in Memphis. Redding had approached Cropper with an idea for a song and so Cropper suggested that Redding play it on the piano. While he could play the guitar, Redding said that he didn't play piano, instead directing an available musician to the keys. "Give me them church chords!" Cropper remembers an inspired Redding shouting before he laid into what would become his first single, "These Arms Of Mine."

Wayne Jackson fondly recalls how Redding would instruct and utilize the Memphis Horns like they were background singers (as there were no background vocals on his songs). Such is evident on performances of "I Can't Turn You Loose" and "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)," among many others not even featured in this film.

"If I had to pick the best record that Stax ever made," James Stewart asserts, "It would be 'Try A Little Tenderness'." The live performance of that song featured in this film, sadly, was taped one day prior to Redding's untimely death in a plane crash.

Indeed, the most touching portion of this film concerns Redding's demise at age 26 on December 10, 1967. Wayne Jackson, visibly distressed nearly forty years later, measures the tragedy within the context of Stax Records, saying, "When Otis died, the driving force was gone. And then when Martin Luther King got killed [four months later], the friendliness went out of Memphis."

Hitting much closer to home, Zelma Redding says in reflection, "Here I am at 24 years old, with 3 kids, and I don't know what to do with my life."

As soon as he learned of the tragedy, Steve Cropper assumed the emotionally difficult task of mixing a track that Redding had only recently written and recorded. With its country styling and laid-back sound, it resembled none of his previous songs. However, "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" would ultimately yield more popular success and recognition than anything Redding had released during his short life. The video for this song that's included in the film was specifically created for this project.

Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Redding represents a fitting tribute to the spirit and enduring appreciation of Otis Redding's life and music. In doing so, this film also makes a solid case that the Big O was and forever will remain the quintessential Soul Man.


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Dreams to Remember
The Legacy of Otis Redding

(Stax) Rated: N/A
US release date: 18 September 2007
by Matthew A. Stern

At some point when I was in middle school, in the incipient days of my obsessive interest in music, I arrived at the conclusion that Otis Redding had, in fact, been the author of pretty much every song I’d ever heard. Sure, my tendency to proselytize this claim was, more than anything, an early example of what would become an enduring love for rhetorical hyperbole, but like about half of the outlandish claims I’ve been known to make, this one had a definite ring of truth to it.

The Aretha Franklin hit “Respect” appeared on a 12” collection that I bought, and I found that none other than Otis had the writing credits. Shortly after making this discovery, I found that “Hard to Handle”, a track that, at the time was on constant radio rotation in an incarnation lacquered lily-white by The Black Crowes, was an Otis original. Not even the fetid sheen of early-’90s suburban hippie-dom could hide that song’s soulful substratum. Such was the songwriting prowess of Otis. I was absolutely floored to find out that Otis wrote The Stones’ “Satisfaction”. I was even more floored to find out that he didn’t. Mick and Keith did write it, but Otis took Jagger’s coy, seethingly restrained pleas for release and delivered them at a full on devotional frenzy. He made it sound like something he should have written.

I wasn’t the only person in history to assume that the song was originally by Otis. A few decades before I stumbled upon it, a writer for Melody Maker in the UK made the same mistake. No doubt railing against another bunch of white British art students making a mint at the expense of a real-deal Memphis blues player. This is, of course, an important and often true critique of rock and roll, but in this particular case misplaced. That story, retold by Steve Cropper of Booker T and the MGs, (who served as the Stax house band), is one of many interesting nuggets expounded upon in Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding.

The layout of Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding makes for a disc that’s as much a heartfelt tribute as it is a documentary. Rather than delving a great deal into analysis of Otis’ place in the pop landscape, Otis’ career, starting with the Stax Records story is told through interviews with those close to him. Otis’ wife Zelma and his daughter are interviewed, as well as Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs, horn player Wayne Jackson, and rarely filmed Stax Records founder Jim Stewart, in between footage of Otis’ classic live performances.

The interviewees discuss their experiences with Otis and the personal idiosyncrasies that drove his career. His preternaturally prolific songwriting skills, his ability to feel out a song and think through a horn line and his striking inability to dance worth a damn, (as seen in a few of the videos of his performances), are all addressed with striking personal attachment, as are the legendarily spooky and disturbing circumstances of his premature passing.

Otis’ story surely ranks among the top most spoken of tragedies in the history of pop music. An incredibly talented singer, he hopped on the microphone at someone else’s band practice and proceeded to blow everybody in the room away with a voice that could make going to the store to buy eggs sound soulful. He toured England, wowing UK audiences thirsty for US soul, before returning to the States and performing at The Monterey Pop Festival. There, exposed to the burgeoning hippie mainstream, he was set on his path to pop stardom. Shortly thereafter, he made a notable stylistic shift in his recording of “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay”, and three days later was snuffed out his prime, alongside all but one of his band mates in a freak plane crash notoriously shrouded in eerie premonition.

That these stories are so well known may be a little problematic; a lot of what’s said about Otis Redding in Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding is already canonical. That said, this documentary adds a personal, heartwarming touch to what is now oft’ told musical lore. It’s almost ironic that Otis, having posthumously become such a ubiquitous figure in the mainstream eye, can sometimes end up getting taken for granted.

He’s the kind of icon who can be acknowledged by obsessive music lovers for his contributions, but at the same time be glossed over in the search for more obscure relics. The live footage on Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding though not all are necessarily “never before seen”, makes you remember why so many of those love songs he wrote have remained classics.

There is certainly more ground that Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding could cover. Otis’ impact on music, culture and race then and now could have been fleshed out with some other interviews. For a documentary not necessarily aimed at cultural historians, though, it’s a deeply personal walkthrough of his career.

When we think of another mainstream musical legend and visionary who died in his prime, Jimi Hendrix, we think about how he would have changed music had he lived. We delight in imagining him emerging from the restrictions of guitar rock; working with Miles Davis or maybe even John Cage, and taking his unprecedented talent with his instrument to the fringes of conceptual artistry and the avant-garde.

On watching Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding, and hearing Steve Cropper’s comments on Otis as a songwriter, we can see him as the other side of the same coin. Rather than pushing technical and conceptual boundaries like Hendrix, the boundaries he pushed were ones of feeling, the way he attacked simple love songs with furious soulful sincerity. It’s interesting to think, had Otis Redding lived, how he would have deepened and widened the intangible elements of popular music, its spirit and its soul.


creative loafing

Music: Mashups
Otis Redding
Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding
BY LEE VALENTINE SMITH
Published 10.03.07

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Otis Redding's death, this wonderfully inclusive new collection preserves archival performances from the turbulent years 1965-1967. Live and lip-synched songs, including an electrifying final television appearance – shot less than a day before his untimely demise – are divided by interviews with bandmates and family members. An especially insightful conversation with legendary Memphis-based guitarist Steve Cropper, a frequent collaborator and co-writer of Redding's biggest hit, "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," is a priceless highlight. A collage-type video of that song is one of the many indelible moments of the new release spotlighting Redding, tragically killed in an airplane accident Dec. 10, 1967. Musician Wayne Jackson, widow Zelma Redding and others pay tribute to the Macon legend, but the real star is his raw, blues-drenched R&B soul vocals, presented here with true charisma and genial Southern charm. 5 stars


real detroit

Otis Redding
Dreams To Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding

Stax

Quite simply, this DVD blew my mind! The rare Otis footage will leave you speechless. The collection is a mix of lip-synched TV appearances and live performances that showcase the King of Soul at his absolute best. ­ WW


GoTriCities.com

DVD collection honors Redding’s legacy

By Jim McGuinness

The plane crash that took Otis Redding’s life on Dec. 10, 1967 had a profound impact on the Southern music landscape.

Besides ending the life of one of America’s most vibrant singing talents, the tragedy also changed the course of Memphis’ Stax Records.

To those who knew him, Redding was the engine that drove Stax, which in the 1960s became the leading exponent of the gospel-influenced black secular music known as soul.

It’s the story that’s told on “Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding,” a new DVD collection that honors Redding as the 40th anniversary of his death approaches.

Built around 16 complete performances filmed during Redding’s heyday, along with a new video for Redding’s posthumously released signature song, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” the DVD provides a compelling portrait of Redding as a singer and a performer.

From a heart-stopping performance of the ballad “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” during 1967’s Stax/Volt Revue in London to a volcanic “Shake” at the Monterrey Pop Festival a few weeks later, the DVD is a reminder of Redding’s adaptability as a vocalist.

While Redding was a compelling performer, he was hardly perfect. His wife recalls him as being unable to dance, instead standing in place while swaying his upper torso from side to side. She also describes him as being below average when it came to lip-syncing, due to the fact that he seldom sang a song the same way twice and was prone to forgetting the words to his songs (corroborated through a clearly out-of-sync performance of “Any Ole Way” on a TV show).

But “Dreams to Remember” is no mere collection of music videos. Sandwiched between the performances are in-depth comments with some of the people who knew Redding best. Interview subjects include Steve Cropper, Redding’s frequent writing partner and guitarist for Stax house band Booker T. & the MG’s; Wayne Jackson, trumpet player on all of Redding’s Stax recordings; and Stax founder Jim Stewart, who gave his first interview in 13 years for the project. Redding’s wife Zelma and daughter Karla also provide stirring remembrances of Redding the family man.

Rather than dissect Redding’s chart successes and musical legacy, directors David Peck and Phillip Galloway instead use the interview segments to focus on Redding the man. Conducted by longtime Stax historian Rob Bowman, the interviews themselves are free of the gratuitous superlatives that usually bog down such projects, giving viewers a chance to better understand what made Redding tick.

What stands out is the energy that Redding apparently brought to any project he tackled. In interviews conducted separately, Cropper, Jackson and Stewart each depict Redding as a creative dynamo whose expressive voice and charismatic, emotional stage presence was matched by his passion in the studio.

Cropper relates Redding’s impromptu first session at Stax in 1962, where he calls for Cropper to play “church chords” on the piano. The session yielded “These Arms of Mine,” the first of many heart-rending ballads that Redding would record for Stax.

Jackson remembers how the outstanding horn arrangements on Redding’s recording were primarily arranged by the singer, who would verbalize horn parts in a way that would ignite the entire studio.

Equally at home on fast songs and slow ballads, Redding quickly came to embody the soulful sound of Stax, making it the label of choice for fans of “real” soul music. But while the unpolished quality of his achingly expressive vocals made him a superstar to the soul musical cognoscenti, Redding was a tougher sell to white mainstream audiences.

Like one of his signature ballads, Redding’s mainstream acceptance built slowly, culminating with his explosive Monterrey appearance on June 16, 1967. He took three months off that fall while recovering from surgery to have polyps removed from his throat, returning to the studio in early December for the session that yielded “The Dock of the Bay.”

Sadly, Redding didn’t live long enough to enjoy the record’s chart-topping success (In the DVD, Cropper glumly describes mixing the single at a time when Redding’s body still hadn’t been found).

It was the end of an era for Stax — and an era that is proudly relived in this DVD.

 


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