Months after his tragic and untimely passing, Otis Redding remained a primary source of inspiration to the career of vocalist Arthur Conley. Soul Directions -- which was issued during the late spring of 1968 -- was the artist's third long-player, and while the bulk of the ten-track effort was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd, it is highlighted by two of the last tunes that Redding worked on with Conley, albeit behind the scenes. All the more profound is the gospel-tinged centerpiece, a touching paean simply titled "Otis Sleep On." Although Conley had formidable success recording at Fame in Muscle Shoals, AL, and Stax Records, it was the latter's rival -- the Memphis-based American Studios -- where the project primarily came together. The team of Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn provide the midtempo opener, "You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy," and the soul-stirring "This Love of Mine." Conley supplies half the disc's material, including the happy, hand-clappin' "Funky Street" -- inspired by the true-to-life urban Soulsville on Atlanta, GA's own Auburn Avenue -- which became a Top Five R&B hit. He is likewise credited alongside Dowd on the recommended ballad waltz "Burning Fire." Perhaps because Redding was testing out his chops as a producer, his indomitable spirit remains alive and kicking on the upbeat "Hear Say" -- which needs little help getting the groove off the ground, especially the piquant as ever Memphis horn arrangement. Redding's trademark pleading delivery style permeates the gritty reading of Otis' co-written "Love Comes and Goes." Conley's "Put Our Love Together" stands out for its alternately organic backing choir and the muted nylon-string acoustic guitar that dominates the supporting instrumentation. The fun and funky closer, "People Sure Act Funny," made it into the Top 20 on the R&B singles survey. Here it bears more than just a trace of Joe Tex's influence, even as it had actually been recorded by the likes of Lee Dorsey and Shorty Long. Despite the uniformly strong selection, the album made no pop crossover impact. While it fared a bit better than its predecessor, Shake, Rattle & Roll (1967), Soul Directions would become Conley's final pop LP entry.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer