Otis Redding: The Best: See & Hear

RIYL: Sam & Dave, Al Green, Solomon Burke

In an era when pretenders to the R&B throne spring up like swine flu in the local emergency room, it only takes a glance back at Otis Redding’s career to remind us that no one has ever managed to recapture his electrifying, unfettered energy and passion. Like Sam Cooke, James Brown, Aretha, the Four Tops, the Tempts, Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke, Otis was one of a kind: a man who relied not on gimmicks or false sentiment, but a genuine, explosive talent that took every song to the precipice between triumph and tragedy. From the stage at Monterrey to ballrooms across the nation and venues around the world, Otis proved he was the ultimate interpreter of gritty, sweat-stoked, heart-wrenching soul, a man whose fiery appeal transcended race or nationality, rock or R&B.

As with many other incendiary talents, Redding’s career was an abbreviated one, cut short in a tragic plane crash in December 1967 — mere months after he electrified a mostly white Monterey audience that had also witnessed Hendrix, Joplin, the Byrds and the Springfield. Ironically, his biggest breakthrough, the moving “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” wouldn’t even pierce the charts until after his demise. Still, the classics he left behind in a relatively short period earned him a permanent presence in the lexicon of great contemporary singers — one who is yet to be bested, and likely never will.

Shout/Rhino’s new two-disc compilation — boasting a CD of greatest hits and a DVD of live performances captured the year before Redding’s death — provides a brief summary of the man’s brilliance; a mere introduction at best. The numbers forever identified with Redding make the cut: “Dock of the Bay,” of course, “Respect,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “I’ve been Loving You Too Long” — the better-known songs that defined Otis’ magnetism and his ability to adroitly shift from finesse to frenzy. Watching him drive himself with such exhilaration and determination, as seen on the video performances of “Shake” and “Satisfaction” (each included twice on the DVD for good measure), verifies the emotion he exuded each time he took the stage.

A singer for the ages, Otis had a talent that was eternal. In the face of such greatness, “brilliance” is an adjective that doesn’t even begin to suffice. Pick up this package, and you’ll quickly understand why. (Shout! Factory 2009)

Shout Factory website


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