BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
How does one review a perfect record? Is flowery language in order to convey the eternal beauty of the music held within? Reviewing an album like this is a delicate balance, a complicated razor’s edge to ride between reviewing and the dastardly deed of sickening sweet fawning. With the appearance of Volt Records’ The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding the task of analyzing the perfect record laid squarely on my doorstep.
I have long maintained that Otis Redding, though at times he could, at times, have a limited vocal range, is the greatest soul singer ever to set foot on this or any other planet. Even though he passed away tragically in a plane crash at 26, in his five years of recording, left an undeniable, nearly scandal-proof body of work of such power that it has sustained through the decades. The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding stands as a representation of his finest works and, it is my belief, that it is among the finest soul compilations ever recorded and compiled.
Opening with soul shaking “I Love You More than Words Can Say,” it is clear how Redding got the nickname “Mr. Pitiful.” This is a man pleading for his love to be accepted, her love never to be taken away. Otis’s longing, emotional wrecked voice is giving even more substance but The Bar-Kays, one of the greatest backing sections in the annals of rock, second only to The Memphis Horns. “Gone Again” has a familiar theme that travels throughout Redding’s work: The woman left him, taking his joy away. Hell, the wind don’t blow, kids don’t play. There is nothing in the world without her love.
“Open the Door” is one of Otis’ heartbreaking best. “Open the door before I kick it in,” he begs through a locked door, wanting nothing more than his woman to welcome him home, to welcome him back into her heart and bed. If you can listen to this, “These Arms of Mine” or the classic “I’ve Been Loving You too Long (To Stop Now)” and not feel something in your very core, not get a tear in your eye or be lost in the music, well then you my friend, are an android living a sad, cold, soulless existence.
Lonely & Blue-The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding is an album of the human condition. There’s joy, loss, heartache, longing; Redding’s performances especially on “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” are guttural, powerful examples of what a person can do when they put fear aside and tap into their very soul. Often what results is something that will be haunting until the world stops spinning, the wind stops blowing and the sun ceases to rise.
DOWNLOAD: “Lover’s Prayer” “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” “Open the Door”