The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, simply referred to as Soul Ballads or Sings Soul Ballads, is the second album by Americansoulsinger-songwriterOtis Redding, released in 1965. The album was one of the first issued by Volt Records, a sub-label of Stax Records, and Redding's first on the new label. Like Redding's debut Pain in My Heart, Soul Ballads features both soul classics and originals written by Redding and other Stax Records recording artists. The recording sessions took place at the Stax studios in Memphis. The album features a stereo mixer made by engineer Tom Dowd, replacing the early mono mixer.
The album features the Booker T. & the M.G.'s, the horn section Memphis Horns and the pianist Isaac Hayes, who possibly first appeared on this album, although this is disputed, as he was not credited on the liner notes. Unlike Redding's debut album, Sings Soul Ballads was released both on Atlantic's subsidiary Atco Records and Stax's Volt Records. While the album and its singles were moderately successful on the music charts, it includes Redding's first top-ten single, "Mr. Pitiful". The album received mixed critical reception.
The album opens with "That's How Strong My Love Is". Written by Roosevelt Jamison and altered by Cropper, the song was first performed by O. V. Wright on Goldwax Records, where the song was cut by both Jamison and Wright. Redding's version was released days after the original. The Rolling Stones covered the song shortly afterward and included it on their album Out of Our Heads. Isaac Hayes made his debut as a pianist with Otis Redding, possibly on songs "Come to Me" or "Security". It is unclear because prior to 1966, the Memphis Musicians Union kept little or no sessions documentation; Fantasy Records, who bought Stax in 1977, has none at all prior to 1966. That Hayes debuted in 1964 with Redding is known; which song remains in question. "Come to Me", Redding's fourth Volt single, was written by Cropper and Phil Walden and became the second song after the Volt session not to feature a horn section. The song is a typical 6/8 ballad and features piano triplets, including an organ. The single peaked at number 69 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
"Mr. Pitiful" was recorded in December 1964 at the Stax studios. The song was written by both guitarist Steve Cropper and Redding, and was their first collaboration. It was inspired by and written as a response to a statement made by radio disc jockey Moohah Williams, who had nicknamed Redding "Mr. Pitiful" for sounding pitiful when singing ballads. Cropper heard about this and, while taking a shower, got the idea it would make a good song. In the car on the way to the studio, Cropper proposed the idea with a melody already in mind, humming it to Redding. By the time they reached the studio, the song was written and they recorded it in two or three takes. It was released as a single with the B-side "That's How Strong My Love Is". The song became a hit and the album's most successful track, peaking at number 10 on the Billboard R&B and at number 50 on Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Sings Soul Ballads received mixed critical reception. Lindsay Planer from Allmusic gave a mixed review of the album. While she liked "That's How Strong My Love Is", Chuck Willis' "It's Too Late", "For Your Precious Love" (previously a hit by The Impressions), Sam Cooke's "Nothing Can Change This Love", and Cropper's/Redding's "Mr. Pitiful", she was less enthusiastic about "Chained and Bound", "I Want to Thank You" and "A Woman, a Lover, a Friend", which mimic aspects of Cooke's sound. The second was compared with "Another Saturday Night", the latter with "Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha". She gave the album three of five stars.The Rolling Stone Album Guide, on the other hand, gave the album five stars.