Pain In My Heart (Stax '64) Rating: B+
When Johnny Jenkins arrived at Stax Records for a recording session in 1962, he was driven by one Otis Redding. The legend has it that Otis started lugging in equipment so people thought he was merely the driver; he was actually part of the group. Anyway, when Jenkins' session didn't go well and there was some leftover studio time, Otis was given a shot to show what he could do. He had written a ballad, "These Arms Of Mine," which he impressively performed, and the rest, as they say, is history, as from such modest beginnings sprung one of the great soul careers. Otis' first album, Pain In My Heart, contains "These Arms Of Mine," which became a top 20 r&b hit largely due to DJ John R's relentless championing of it, and several other standout tracks. The title track is another stellar ballad that shows off Otis' earthy, raspy soul voice, which made up for in raw passion and intensity whatever it lacked in subtlety. The song, written by the legendary Allen Toussaint (though Otis originally tried to take songwriting credit, a lawsuit soon rectified things), also showed the essential role horns (usually supplied by Wayne Jackson, Floyd Cramer, and Andrew Love) often played within Otis' songs. Hooky horns are a distinguishing characteristic of the Otis penned (manager Phil Walden gets a co-credit) "Something Is Worrying You," while Otis' performance stands out on "That's What My Heart Needs," as he takes what would've been a standard ballad and elevates it with his heartfelt, angst-ridden vocals. Also notable is "Security," Otis' first great rocker, but the album contains too many merely workmanlike covers to make this album receive better than a "very good" rating. The cover of "Louie Louie" in particular is perfunctory, and Otis had yet to shake an over-reliance on generic Little Richard impersonations (he even covers "Lucille" here). He was still settling into his own style, in other words, and though considerable chemistry between performer and band is already apparent, the performances are rather tame at times, as the legendary Stax house band (Booker T. & The MG's) were still trying to figure Otis out. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy his covers of Rufus Thomas' up-tempo "The Dog," Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" (though King's all-time great rendition is certainly superior), and his idol Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" (this slower version is nice enough but lacks the supple smoothness of the Cooke classic), but these songs and this album are really for hardcore fans who want to hear it all, as Otis would soon improve in every way imaginable.
The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads (Stax '65) Rating: A-
Otis really started to find his groove on this album, even though much of the material tends to blend together for me. This album is aptly titled, as most of these songs tend to be slow burning, brokenhearted ballads, with but a few exceptions: "I Want To Thank You," an upbeat ode to wife Zelma, a cover of Solomon Burke's "Home Is In Your Heart" (his overheated "gotta gotta" vocals would become a much used trademark), and especially "Mr. Pitiful," one of his signature songs that memorably made fun of his usual downtrodden lamentations. The horn riffs on this song are simply awesome, made all the more impressive by the fact that Otis wasn't a trained musician yet could still come up with highly original, sophisticated horn parts and get his talented horn section to play them just right. Still, these upbeat songs are the exceptions rather than the rule, as most of the rest of the album is comprised of pleading, pained mood pieces for you down and outers, as Otis starts to find his own voice and shed his Little Richard imitations. Interestingly, despite his reputation as a soul shouter, most of these vocals are ultra-intense but admirably understated, and the MG's are their typically concise, subtle, economical selves. You see, unlike most other soul stars, Otis' songs were always sparse, rarely including string arrangements (sultry sax was much more likely) or backing vocals, the better to keep the focus where it should be: on his voice. As for the songs, there are a few merely so-so Otis compositions sprinkled in with cover songs written or popularized by Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke (unsurprisingly), Chuck Willis, Jerry Butler, and Delbert McClinton. If I had to pick out additional song highlights I'd probably go with his excellent version of Roosevelt Jamison's "That's How Strong My Love Is," which was recorded around the same time by the underrated O.V. Wright and later by The Rolling Stones, and "Your One and Only Man," which features Otis in full on testifying mode, as well as typically punchy horns and the band's usual lock stepped groove even on what is basically a ballad. But forget about songs; this is an album that should be listened to as a whole, 'cause even though few individual songs stand out from the pack, they all sound damn good while they're playing.
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (Stax '65) Rating: A+
Generally regarded as Otis' masterpiece and one of the greatest soul albums of all-time, you'll get no argument from me. Whereas Sings Soul Ballads features some great performances on decent to good to great songs, Otis Blue features phenomenal performances of consistently excellent songs, with far more variety for good measure. Amazingly, the album was recorded during a single 24-hour period in between touring commitments, as Otis and his band were at a confident peak and simply could not be stopped. Only three of these songs are Redding originals, and maybe covering three Sam Cooke songs was overkill, but just about all these covers are truly inspired transformations. Among the originals, the highlights are "Respect," which of course Aretha Franklin turned into an even greater classic. Still, the Otis original is also excellent in an entirely different way, and who among us can't relate to its universal theme of wanting to be treated right? Even better is "I've Been Loving You Too Long," a co-write with the great Jerry Butler that may very well be his single finest performance, and which is arguably one of the greatest vocal performances ever, period. An achingly slow, vulnerable ballad, it's the spaces between the notes that really heighten the drama, and when the song builds to its emotional climax my hair literally stands up on end. That is a powerful performance, and there are plenty of others on the album as well. As you would expect, the Cooke covers are rougher, sweatier, horn-soaked interpretations of already classic songs. Rarely has Otis sounded churchier than on "A Change Is Gonna Come," which has a sense of desperation that hits me right in the gut. Contrarily, on "Shake" it's party time, led by a spectacular Al Jackson Jr. drum performance and "gotta gotta" vocals aplenty. "Wonderful World" isn't quite as well, wonderful, but it's still quite good and is a rare Otis song that features backing vocals. Among the other covers, three in particular stand out, though his readings of Solomon Burke's "Down In The Valley," William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water," and his own "Ole Man Trouble" are enjoyable as well. I wouldn't say that his version of The Temptations' "My Girl" is better than the original (few songs are), but it is markedly different and great in its own way, as Otis strips the song to its bare essence by replacing strings and harmonies with his trademark horns. His bluesy cover of B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby" gives ace rhythm guitarist Steve Cropper a chance to shine with a rare solo (prefaced by Otis' "play the blues, Steve"), but his cover of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" (then a brand new song) is arguably most revelatory. Unsurprisingly, horns (once again supplied by the usual suspects, some of whom had some recording success on their own as the Mar-Keys, including a big hit with "Last Night" in 1960) are emphasized over the guitar riffs that had powered the original, but as usual it is Otis himself who puts the biggest stamp on this largely improvised (the lyrics are quite different) version of the song. I can just picture Otis stalking the stage during this one (and remember, he was quite the physically imposing specimen), as he sounds damn near possessed on it, and even his awkward pronunciations ("satisfashion") are endearing. Anyway, there's not much more to say about this album except to note that those of you who spend too much damn time trying to perfect your music, to get every detail just right, should remember this album, which was all about feel and chemistry as Otis and his remarkable studio band made magic when they were just trying to piece any ol' album together.
The Soul Album (Stax '66) Rating: A-
Although bereft of signature songs, a.k.a. "greatest hits," The Soul Album was another consistently strong collection from an artist and backing band in their collective prime. "Just One More Day," a slow, sparse, pleading ballad in Otis' best style, is the albums only hit, but in some ways that just makes it more special as most of these songs aren't all that well known - but they are well worth getting to know. "Just One More Day" builds to a dramatic horn-heavy finale (replete with signature "gotta gotta"s), which was becoming an Otis trademark. Other examples that similarly follow the "I've Been Loving You Too Long" formula, at least musically (hey, if it 'aint broke don't fix it, right?), are "Good To Me," written with Julius Green and notable for its funereal organ and positive lyrics, and "Everybody Makes Mistakes," on which a guilty, apologetic Otis asks for forgiveness. Another highlight is a regal, reserved reading of Jerry Butler's "Cigarettes and Coffee," which at almost 4 minutes long is damn near an epic by Otis' ultra-concise standards. On the livelier front are updates of The Temptations' "It's Growing" that isn't quite "My Girl" but is still upbeat and catchy, and rough-hewn, energetic covers of Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" and Wilson Pickett's "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)" that are also enjoyable if not exactly highlights. Otis' own "Scratch My Back" and Roy Head's "Treat Her Right" feature good horn arrangements and admirable dosages of energy as per usual but are basically Otis-by-numbers compositionally, but I'm far more partial to his melodic, poppy take on Eddie Floyd/Al Bell's "Any Ole Way." The last song not yet mentioned is Otis' version of the blues standard "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," whose best-known version is probably the later Derek & The Dominos version but unsurprisingly the version Otis is reprising here is the one from Sam Cooke At The Copa. Perhaps Otis continues to go overboard with his Sam Cooke hero worship, but this is an excellent version on what is another really good Otis Redding album.
Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (Stax '66) Rating: A
After his famous In Person at the Whiskey a Go Go gigs and a spirited, at times contentious tour with Sam and Dave further bolstered his reputation, Redding released this classic album, which actually lives up to its outlandish title and in fact even rivals Otis Blue as the original Otis Redding studio album. Again containing an almost even mix of outstanding originals and inspired cover choices, the album features the best, most inventive playing from the best soul band, period. In fact, in proclaiming this the fifth best rock n' roll album of all-time, critic Jimmy Guterman suggested that "perhaps this record should really be called Booker T. and the MG's' Greatest Hits." That might be an overstatement, but the band (and the Memphis Horns, a.k.a. some of the guys from the Mar-Keys who played on most of the Stax hits along with Booker T. & co.) are on fire and are particularly creative throughout the proceedings. Which isn't to diminish Otis' contributions at all; for one thing, he was a big reason the band was so inspired, as Otis' enormous charisma (who else but Otis could rhyme "toe" and "moe" (a.k.a. "more") and actually make it work?) and enthusiasm energized the musicians, who loved working with him. Also, his raspy, rugged yet vulnerable voice is in exemplary form, and the songs are consistently strong and at-times spectacular, though perhaps there are times, like on the generic blues stomper "Hawg For You," when things start to sound overly formulaic. Yes, Otis is again singing sad songs about how "She Put The Hurt On Me" (actually a catchy, fun up-tempo tune but I couldn't resist using the song title), but he also has a lighter side and can poke fun at himself a la "Mr. Pitiful." This is most memorably done on "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)," a ridiculously catchy if somewhat mindless mid-tempo tune. Then again, Otis was never really about lyrics, as his songs, especially the livelier numbers, were instead all about feel and finding that special groove. Though they'd hardly make good reading material, several other up-tempo groovers, some featuring his new favorite phrase ("sock it to me"), are quite entertaining, including a drastic working of The Beatles' "Day Tripper" that features catchy horns and Al Jackson Jr. at his pulse pounding best. As usual, however, Otis is at his best on emotional ballads such as "Tennessee Waltz," "My Lover's Prayer," and "You're Still My Baby." Another highlight is "Ton Of Joy," which features an excellent melody and relatively restrained performances all around, but the highlight, in fact arguably the highlight of his entire career, is his devastating interpretation of "Try A Little Tenderness" (which of course he discovered via Sam Cooke and many listeners would later discover via Duckie!). The song starts very slowly and is sparsely soulful and atmospheric, but it builds beautifully before eventually taking off courtesy of more Al Jackson Jr. genius; he finds that pocket, utterly nails down the groove as everyone joins in and the song takes off as Otis is unleashed, sounding damn near possessed...this song and its parent album personify '60s Southern soul music.
King & Queen (Stax '67) Rating: B+
Inspired by the success of Marvin Gaye's many duets for rival Motown records, Stax owner Jim Stewart wanted Otis to record a duets album with fellow Stax artist Carla Thomas, daughter of Rufus Thomas and a notable r&b hitmaker herself. Neither Otis nor Carla were too excited about the project, but Stewart got his way and ultimately everybody was satisfied with the results. King & Queen is comprised primarily of cover songs, some old (The Clovers' up-tempo groover "Lovey Dovey" and Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me"), others recent chart entries (Eddie Floyd's "Knock On Wood" and Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston's "It Takes Two," for example). If anything, the song selection is a bit too obvious, and to be honest with you I don't consider any of the more familiar songs to be improvements upon the originals. Still, Otis and Carla had an impressive chemistry, her sassy sophistication easily meshing with his gritty Southern masculinity. They sound real nice on the pair of slow ballads (Aaron Neville's "Tell It Like It Is," Sam and Dave's "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby") that form the heart of the album's mid-section, and I'm also partial to "New Year's Resolution," a dramatic mid-tempo piano ballad newly written by three Stax staffers, as well as Bert Berns' catchy, classy "Are You Lonely For Me, Baby?" Still, the undeniable highlight here is "Tramp," with its hooky horns and humorous ad-libbed vocals on which Carla ranks out Otis for being too poor and "country" as he amusingly defends himself. Whereas "Let Me Be Good To You" closely echoes The Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go", "Tramp" borrows from The Temptations' "I'm Losing You" but only briefly (I'm surprised that a lawsuit didn't ensue given the competition between the Stax and Motown camps), and the tone of the song is so different as to make it a non-issue. Really, the main reason to recommend this album is that it has a lightness of tone not to be found on any of Otis' other albums, few of which are as flat-out fun as this one. That said, most of these songs are overly familiar, and Otis' voice sounds a bit beaten down, though of course he still turns in a fine performance by virtue of his sheer passion. Anyway, this album is an enjoyable curveball, simple as that, and it provided Otis with a strong commercial performance (#36 pop) before he left for the legendary Stax/Volt revue tour of Europe.
Live In Europe (Stax '67) Rating: A-
The Stax/Volt revue tour of Europe was a smashing success, with the performers (and Otis in particular as the headline performer of the package) being greeted by incredibly enthusiastic crowds the likes of which they had never seen before. They certainly gave everybody their money's worth, and this concert album, though dampened by merely adequate sound quality and an overly obvious song selection (as well as Otis' overuse of "gotta gotta"s in lieu of something more substantial to say), is an enjoyable souvenir of that spectacular tour, though part of me suspects that "you had to have been there" to really get the full effect. Backed by Booker T. & The MG's and the Mar-Keys horn section (Love, Jackson, and Joe Arnold; Love and Jackson would later be known as The Memphis Horns), Otis rips through these 10 songs as if his life depended on it, which was par for the course as Otis put his all into every show. Few performers possessed a stage presence quite as formidable as Otis, and few artists were so hell bent on pleasing their audience. Otis had a simple strategy for live performance, which was to play the fast songs twice as fast as usual, and the slow songs twice as slow, and that's pretty much the blueprint that he successfully follows here. Sure, there are some bum notes (both from Otis and his backing band) and sloppy edits here and there, but the energy and passion are what matters most, as Otis tears through rip roaring renditions of "Respect," "Can't Turn You Loose," "Shake," and "Satisfaction." Unsurprisingly, "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" and "Try A Little Tenderness" are the ballad highlights (though of course "Try A Little Tenderness" is only partially a ballad), and "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" provides the perfect forum for the crowd to join in and sing along. Clearly a great time was being had by all, and Live In Europe is still fun to listen to, even if it's all too brief at a mere 33 minutes long (where's "Mr. Pitiful"?). Further proving his greatness as a live performer, Otis then wowed the "love crowd" at the Monterey Pop Festival, where by most accounts he stole the show from even Janis and Jimi, thereby setting the stage for what seemed like inevitable worldwide superstardom. And then just like that it was all over, and Otis was gone.
The Dock Of The Bay (Stax '67) Rating: A-
On December 10, 1967, 26-year-old Otis Redding, along with members of the promising young backing band the Bar-Kays (lone survivor Ben Cauley and James Alexander, who missed the flight, later impressively revived the group), tragically died in a plane crash, almost exactly three years to the day that his hero Sam Cooke was killed (December 11, 1964). Consisting primarily of previously released singles and b-sides in addition to a couple of previously unreleased tracks (all recorded between 1965 and 1967), The Dock Of The Bay was cobbled together by friend and musical collaborator Steve Cropper, and was the first of several strong posthumous releases. When discussing this album you need to start with the title track, which became Otis' signature song despite the fact that it sounds nothing like anything else he ever did. Composed and recorded just days before he died, the song sees a newly mature and relaxed Redding in a melancholic, reflective mood, and the song has a superlative melody that I never get sick of no matter how many times I hear it. Previously Otis had felt that the groove was what mattered, but this song, which likely owes at least a little to Bob Dylan and The Beatles, was obviously a breakthrough in that an increased gravity was given to the lyrics. It's a shame that he never got to build upon this more expansive new direction, and that it wasn't until his death that he had the huge smash hit that had long eluded him; of course, the #1 chart position of this single was likely largely fueled by the publicity caused by his tragic death in the first place. Anyway, regardless of any of that, this serene folk-soul ballad is simply a timeless classic whose laid-back whistling towards the end (probably the most famous whistling in any song I can think of) provides a perfectly fitting fadeout. Needless to say, the rest of the songs here can't hope to compete with that landmark recording, but most of the rest of these songs are impressive as well. "I Love You More Than Words Can Say" is notable for being Otis' first song with strings, but otherwise it's a dramatic, emotive ballad in his customary style. "Open The Door" is another slow, intense ballad on which Otis seems to be in full-on preacher mode (though his motives are far from heavenly), and "The Glory Of Love," probably my second favorite song here, also starts as a slow ballad before taking off a la "Try A Little Tenderness" (although it's not quite that good, naturally). On the lively, catchy front, the similarly themed "Let Me Come On Home" and "I'm Coming Home To See About You" are both estimable efforts with punchy horns (needless to say the band sounds great like always), while "Don't Mess With Cupid" is a fun, lighthearted stomper. Alas, the rest of the album is comprised primarily of songs that you're already familiar with ("Tramp," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Ole Man Trouble"), and "The Hucklebuck," taken from the extremely rare Stax Stay In School record, is a weak novelty number that should've remained as a non-album curiosity. Don't get me wrong, these are very good songs for the most part, but "Tramp" in particular seems out of place given that the rest of the album is more laid-back than what Otis customarily delivers; this is easily his mellowest album since Sings Soul Ballads. Also, given the amount of previously unavailable first-class songs that would soon surface, the redundant material here makes The Dock Of The Bay something of a missed opportunity, albeit a largely enjoyable one at that.
The Immortal Otis Redding (Stax '68) Rating: A
After the Monterey Pop Festival, Otis had to undergo an operation on polyps in his throat, after which he was unable to use his voice for 6 weeks. The rest did him some good, however, because when he returned to the studio his voice was better than ever, and an extremely productive three week period spanning November and (early) December 1967 yielded an abundance of material. These songs provided the basis for four fine posthumous releases, beginning with The Immortal Otis Redding, easily the best of the bunch and one of Otis' best albums, period. The Immortal Otis Redding houses several of Otis' finest songs, and unlike The Dock Of The Bay none of these songs are repeats; had Stax combined the best of both albums it surely would've been a contender for the best soul album ever. Alas, such wishful thinking aside, much of what is here is wonderful, though perhaps a couple of tracks would've been more fully fleshed out and better developed had Otis lived longer. On the whole, this is Otis' most sophisticated and adult album, and he sings with a restraint that many people criticize him for supposedly lacking. This was a valid criticism of Otis at times in the past, but clearly he was addressing this previous weakness, proving that Otis was continuing to grow as an artist right up until the day he died. As for the album highlights, "I've Got Dreams To Remember" (a top 10 r&b hit), a sparse ballad written with wife Zelma, is one of the best things he's ever done and is a rare track with female backing singers. "Hard To Handle" is probably the best-known song here, in large part due to The Black Crowes who had a major hit with it over 20 years later. In all honesty, The Black Crowes' energized, hard rockin' version is considerably better in my opinion, but Otis' original is still quite good, and the ridiculously catchy "The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)," another top 10 r&b hit, was a joyous answer song to "Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)" that arguably even eclipses it. Also impressive is his unassuming, almost a-capella take on the traditional "Amen," which also received considerable airplay in r&b circles, but as per usual with Otis this is no hits-plus-filler affair. Indeed, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn has rarely been more funkily impressive than on "You Made A Man Out Of Me" (which also features a spot-on Otis vocal) and "Nobody's Fault But Mine," while "Think About It" shows off Otis' more sensitive, softer singing style, all while the horns are as hooky as ever. All in all, The Immortal Otis Redding easily ranks among the greatest studio records ever released posthumously. Subsequent posthumously released studio albums include Love Man ('69), Tell the Truth ('70), and Remember Me ('92); perhaps I'll review at least some of these at a later date.
In Person at the Whiskey a Go Go (Stax '68) Rating: A-
As mentioned previously, these legendary April 1966 gigs were pivotal in establishing Otis' reputation, but there's a reason that this live album wasn't released until two years later, after Otis had died and the public thirsted for more of Otis' music. Don't get me wrong, I like the album a lot, but it has some serious (and obvious) problems. The biggest problem, the main reason that the album was originally shelved, is that one of the trumpet players sounds woefully shrill and out of tune. The band sounds kind of thin in places, despite being a 9-piece, and even Otis is struggling at times; his tattered voice has sounded better. Still, there's no denying the tremendous energy put into these performances, and the faster songs (played twice as fast, as per usual) in particular are outstanding. Sure, the comparatively unknown band (including James Young on guitar, Robert Holloway, Robert Pittman, and Donald Henry on tenor saxophone, Sammy Coleman and John Farris the prime culprits on trumpet, Clarence Johnson on trombone, Ralph Stewart on bass, and Elbert Woodson on drums) isn't in the same class as Booker T. & The MG's, but few bands are, and for some reason there's something special about these performances. Perhaps partial credit belongs to the audience, who are really into it, and the strong set list certainly helps, but more than anything this concert shows what a spellbinding, damn near overpowering musical force Otis was onstage, even when his voice was at less than its best. Given that, the ballads suffer somewhat, but "I Can't Turn You Loose," "Mr. Pitiful," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "I'm Depending On You," "Any Ole Way," and "Respect" seriously rock, and his cover of James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" is loads of fun. Again, this album is flawed, but for a pure adrenaline rush In Person at the Whiskey a Go Go actually eclipses Live In Europe. I'm not saying that it's better, merely that it's different and that in some ways it is better; either way I'm glad that I own both albums, and I play them both fairly frequently.
The Very Best of Otis Redding (Rhino ‘92) Rating: A+
If you want nothing but Otis' biggest and best songs, or if you're unfamiliar with Otis and want a good starting place, this concise 45-minute, single disc compilation fits the bill in no uncertain terms in either case. There are several other great compilations available, including the 2-cd set Dreams To Remember: The Otis Redding Anthology and the excellent 4-cd box set Otis! The Definitive Otis Redding, but the former is a little too inclusive (you might as well get the original albums if you really want to dig deeper, right?) and the latter is for big fans already on board. Otis was only a recording artist for five short years, but like Jimi Hendrix he was very productive. In addition to his own consistently stellar material, he co-wrote the classic "Sweet Soul Music" for protégé Arthur Conley, whose career never really recovered after Otis died. Really, although they had many subsequent successes, by many people's accounts things were never the same at Stax after the death of Otis, who many considered to be the heart and soul of the label. People were both in awe of and genuinely liked the down-to-earth star, even someone as talented as Isaac Hayes who took Booker's place on many of Otis' sessions while Booker attended college. Otis wasn't perfect, as he didn't have the greatest range - most of his songs were either energetic horn-heavy workouts with that stinging Stax sound or heartbroken, deeply emotive ballads - and he tended to over sing at times. Also, some plagiarism charges have dogged him over the years, with the authenticity of authorship of several of his biggest songs ("These Arms Of Mine" and "Respect," for example) being called into question. Actually, there's no doubt that Otis took some liberties in that regard, but like Led Zeppelin even when he did borrow more than his fair share he always managed to make the song his own when all was said and done. Anyway, for all his flaws Otis Redding left behind a nearly unparalleled legacy of gritty Southern soul music, and most of the songs that Otis is best remembered for can be heard right here. Otis came and left us all too quickly, and given how atypical his last song ("The Dock Of The Bay") was, it's not too hard to believe that he was just getting started, making his death all the more devastating. However, though we can all wonder about what might have been, we can also be thankful that Otis left behind the 16 classic songs that appear on this compilation. The pre-eminent soul man of the '60s, Otis Redding defined hard-edged Southern soul music.