Audio Remasterer: Charles Benson.
Recording information: 1962-1963; 1964-1965; 1965; 1965-1966; 1965-1967; 1966; 1967.
Although his recording career only lasted five years, from 1962 through 1967 (seven studio albums in all), with his biggest hits coming in the last two years of that time, and his only number one, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," after his death, Otis Redding is still widely considered the greatest performer of the classic soul era, a designation he undoubtedly deserves. A dynamic performer and a more than competent songwriter ("Dock of the Bay," for instance, is a Redding original), he brought the energy and directness of gospel into the secular world with a fervor and passion that made his songs, and particularly his live versions of them, into gritty sermons on the joy, loss, pain, and yearning that attends being in love. It helped, too, that his backing outfit on most of his tracks was the great Stax Records house band the MG's, who knew how to punch in and stomp it and also when to lay back in a quiet storm behind him, and the band and Redding together were an unstoppable force. There have been plenty of Redding compilations over the years, with this one, The King of Soul, being yet another one, but it is distinctive for its breadth, tracking the arc of Redding's career through 92 tracks arranged chronologically over four discs, and because it also, particularly when covering the early years, includes mono mixes, which often carried more tightly focused punch than the stereo ones. Appearing during the 50th anniversary year of the release of Redding's debut album, Pain in My Heart, this set tells the story of the King of Soul as well as any other compilation out there. Everything essential is here, and with Otis Redding, it's pretty much all essential. He was that kind of artist. ~ Steve Leggett