- A stunning copy of The Dock of the Bay — Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second
- A well-recorded album, with sound that’s incredibly big, rich and Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and spacious
- About as quiet as we can find them, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout – most copies we see are just wrecked
- “…this is an impossible record not to love … Cropper chose his tracks well, selecting some of the strongest and most unusual among the late singer’s orphaned songs…” — All Music
This vintage Atco pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate solid, palpable, real people singing and playing live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.
Otis Is The Man
We’re always on the lookout for Otis Redding records with good sound. In our experience finding them is not nearly as easy as one might think. For those who do not have the patience to pursue the best early pressings, there are some pretty good sounding Heavy Vinyl reissues still in print for those who are looking for vinyl to play. We used to recommend them. Not sure how we would feel about them now…
What do the best Hot Stamper pressings give you?
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: midrange presence and immediacy. Otis isn’t “back there somewhere,” lost in the mix. He’s front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put him.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay
I Love You More Than Words Can Say
Let Me Come On Home
Open The Door
Don’t Mess With Cupid
The Glory Of Love
I’m Coming Home
Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down And Out)
Ole Man Trouble
Dock of the Bay is, indeed, a mixed bag of singles and B-sides going back to July of 1965, one hit duet with Carla Thomas, and two, previously unissued tracks from 1966 and 1967. There’s little cohesion, stylistic or otherwise, in the songs, especially when the title track is taken into consideration — nothing else here resembles it, for the obvious reason that Redding never had a chance to follow it up.
Despite the mix-and-match nature of the album, however, this is an impossible record not to love. Cropper chose his tracks well, selecting some of the strongest and most unusual among the late singer’s orphaned songs: “I Love You More Than Words Can Say” is one of Redding’s most passionate performances; “Let Me Come on Home” presents an ebullient Redding accompanied by some sharp playing, and “Don’t Mess with Cupid” begins with a gorgeous guitar flourish and blooms into an intense, pounding, soaring showcase for singer and band alike.
No one could complain about the album then, and it still holds more than four decades later.