Otis Redding - Lonely & Blue (2013)

Otis Redding
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The purchaser of Lonely and Blue, the new compilation of ballads by soul man Otis Redding, could be excused for thinking that Redding put these 12 songs on disc prior to his tragic death at a very young 26. The packaging had me fooled.

The people at Concord Music Group created a CD cover that looks like an album cover circa 1967. Of course, the black and white profile photograph captures Redding forever young although his demeanor – like his vocals – endow him with a aura of a person much older than 26.  The liner notes on the back of the sport a late 1960s layout and font, and the notes are written in the present tense. To top it off, the CD comes enclosed in one of those inner sleeves just like 33 rpm LP’s did back in they day and the outline where the vinyl record wore a groove into the cover gives Lonely & Blue an archival look.

The purchaser of Lonely and Blue, the new compilation of ballads by soul man Otis Redding, could be excused for thinking that Redding put these 12 songs on disc prior to his tragic death at a very young 26. The packaging had me fooled.

The people at Concord Music Group created a CD cover that looks like an album cover circa 1967. Of course, the black and white profile photograph captures Redding forever young although his demeanor – like his vocals – endow him with a aura of a person much older than 26.  The liner notes on the back of the sport a late 1960s layout and font, and the notes are written in the present tense. To top it off, the CD comes enclosed in one of those inner sleeves just like 33 rpm LP’s did back in they day and the outline where the vinyl record wore a groove into the cover gives Lonely & Blue an archival look.

Otis Redding’s voice was always easily identifiable even though the soulfulness that had its roots in the black church was commonly heard on 1960s black radio back before the marketing types decided that urban music needed to be a little smoother in order to cross over. The shortsightedness of that view is most apparent when you listen to Redding’s soulful and forlorn testimonies on tracks such as “These Arms of Mine.” Fresh off his triumphant appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, Redding was primed to become a major crossover star just the way he was. Then tragedy struck and he was killed in a plane crash.

Lonely & Blue includes 12 songs that tell stories of longing, regret and frustration. This is not a collection of breezy mid-tempo songs such as the posthumous #1 hit, “Dock of the Bay” or the funky “RESPECT.” They are instead a thematic bunch of songs that show Redding at perhaps his most powerful, whether handling now-familiar cuts such as “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) or more obscure songs. Redding had a way of rapping his throaty vocals around a ballad that made him the ideal deliverer for belly rubbing tracks such as “Send Me Some Lovin’” or “My Lover’s Prayer.”  And Redding showed that he could beg with the best of them on “Everybody Makes a Mistake;” his mournful tones make you just want to forgive him on the spot.

Redding’s hard passionate, driving vocal style would be more than unique and distinctive in 2013. It would be completely out of the pop music mainstream. Often today label executives throw buckets of ice on any singer who can generate this type of heat, with riffing the way that Redding does at the end of a tune such as “Open The Door” being limited to poor imitations by American Idol wannabes. However, such cynicism leaves a generation of music listeners totally unprepared when they hear the genuine article. And believe me, Lonely & Blue shows that Otis Redding was the real deal genuine article. This album is a virtual singing school and should be required listening for young, aspiring R&B vocalists. And for soul music lovers it is a wonderful find. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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