Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: 'Otis Redding: The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection'

His tragic plane crash on December 10, 1967, left Otis Redding with an unfairly abbreviated career. It had only been seven years since he released his first record, “Shout Bamalama,” on Confederate Records. Of course, Redding’s best-loved sides came out on Stax/Volt, and Atco’s relentless posthumous release campaign left the King of Soul with a hefty singles discography 36-discs strong. With the exception of a couple of early records on the Confederate and Alshire labels, they’re all on Shout Factory’s new box set Otis Redding: The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection. That’s a total of seventy A and B sides, all presented in the original, bone-vibrating mono mixes that best convey Booker T. & the M.G.s’ transcendent chunkiness.

Because he was the first soul star to make LPs as essential as his singles, The Complete Stax/Volt Singles isn’t all the Otis you’ll ever need. Otis Blue and Dictionary of Soul are particularly indispensible, but so is Shout Factory’s new set, which fills in all the gaps. Obviously, all of the hits are here, but the inclusion of those posthumous releases and B-sides (would you believe the classics “Mr. Pitiful” and “Hard to Handle” were flip sides?) give voice to a lot of his hottest album cuts (“Ole Man Trouble,” “I’m Sick Y’all,” “Sweet Lorene”), live performances (essential renditions of “I’ve Been Loving You Too” and “Try a Little Tenderness” from the Monterey Pop Festival), and oddities (a version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” he finishes off with some crazed, James Brown shrieks), so we get a well-rounded portrait of the man’s career.

The packaging is gorgeous too, with full-size, full-color reproductions of each A and B-side with all vintage dirt rings, pen marks, punctures, wears, and tears intact from Billy Vera’s astonishing personal record collection. What’s missing are any extensive notes or essays. We get basic personnel information and that’s it. We don’t even get release dates or chart positions. That’s a significant informational oversight. As far as musical oversights go, there aren’t any, just seventy tracks of the most brain-boilingly exciting soul ever made.

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