Otis Redding: The Very Best of Otis Redding

Rating: 8.6/10
Rated as
: Anthology
Compilation Status
: Decent Overview
Released: 2000
Recorded: 1962–1967
Specific Genre: Southern Soul
Main Genre: Soul, R&B
Undertones
: Deep Soul, Rhythm&Blues
Label: Atco

1.1 Respect 1.2 Try a Little Tenderness 1.3 Love Man 1.4 Shake 1.5 Mr. Pitiful 1.6 I Can’t Turn You Loose 1.7 Pain in My Heart 1.8 You Left the Water Running 1.9 My Lover’s Prayer 1.10 Tramp 1.11 Chained and Bound 1.12 That’s How Strong My Love Is 1.13 My Girl 1.14 Cigarettes and Coffee 1.15 It’s Growing 1.16 The Match Game 1.17 Nobody Know You (When You’re Down and Out) 1.18 I’m a Changed Man 1.19 Your One and Only Man 1.20 (Sittin‘ On) The Dock of the Bay
2.1 I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) 2.2 These Arms of Mine 2.3 Hard to Handle 2.4 That’s What My Heart Needs 2.5 Security 2.6 Satisfaction 2.7 Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song) 2.8 The Happy Song (Dum Dum) 2.9 Come to Me 2.10 A Change is Gonna Come 2.11 Lovey Dovey 2.12 You Don’t Miss Your Water 2.13 I’ve Got Dreams to Remember 2.14 Down in the Valley 2.15 Just One More Day 2.16 You Made a Man Out of Me 2.17 Tell the Truth 2.18 For Your Precious Love 2.19 Free Me 2.20 I Love You More than Words Can Say

You know what, Otis? You’re country! –That’s all right!

Consumer Guide: This contains all 16 songs from The Very Best of Otis Redding (Rhino), shares 9 (of 16) with Rhino’s Volume 2 and gives you 15 songs that are present on neither release. It also features two songs, „Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out“ and „You Made a Man Out of Me“, that are not present on the four-disc box set Otis! The Definitive Otis Redding – which in my view qualifies as a counter-argument against that „definitive“ in the title. These tracks are criminally overlooked on most other compilations claiming to be „essential“ or „definite“. While the former is a blues standard, the latter is a hypnotically upbeat and essential gem of Redding’s posthumous catalogue (otherwise available on The Immortal Otis Redding, 1968). This puts this double-disc in a weird place, having at least one song that was overlooked even on the box set. Of course it doesn’t compare to the box set or even The Original Album Series. Anyway – it is a better catch than other single or twofer discs, comparable to the slightly better Dreams to Remember: The Otis Redding Anthology, only to be outshone by box sets and album collections. Actually, the main lesson I learned by reviewing this is that the Otis! box set is only worthwhile for the three pre-fame tracks and the live disc – you’ll need to get his (official and posthumous) album output anyway not to miss a highlight. Well then.

Otis Redding is about energy. Maybe you like your Otis full of soul, maybe you like him danceable and fun, maybe you’re looking for a bluesy, rocking or sexually charged Otis. It’s all here, of course, and he’ll always give it the fullest. The curious thing about Redding is that his voice dominates the music while simultaneously mingling with the band’s instrumentation – especially with the impeccable and precise horn section, like an additional articulate and weird trombone. Especially in the end of the songs, when Redding has run out of lyrics and the fade-out starts, he regularly goes into a mode of soulful, passionate mumbling, continuing to spout the song’s taglines, thus keeping up the energy of the song and accompanying it to its end. With Otis, the song isn’t over until it’s been ran over by his own voice.

I also like the fact that Redding’s voice doesn’t fit the mellifluous, full and silky timbre of soul prototypes at all: It is pretty hoarse for the fact he’s a singer totally accepted by the mainstream, his technique relies on a phrasing that gives him just enough breath (as opposed to those soul singers that use the music mainly to prove how long they can hold a note), he drops into a coarse whisper now and then, even sounds restrained, just to come back with a lot of pressure in the next line, and so on – but there’s just so much substance to his performance. Clearly Mick Jagger’s role model as a singer, instead of say, the later Motown scene. Redding did blues-based soul and rhythm&blues, but he steered towards rock&roll (without recording a single song that would classify as such – even the Stones‘ „Satisfaction“ is made into a redding-fied shuffle here).

This twofer disc contains numerous classics. Don’t even bother with all the „My Girl“, all the „Tenderness“, the „Love Man“. Here we have the ultimate swag number „Hard to Handle“, which is the most concentrated dose of hyperbolic self-esteem boost containable in 140 seconds. Walking down the street listening to this, I have trouble not to stop in the middle of traffic shouting „PRETTYLITTLETHINGLEMMELIGHTYO’CANDLECOZMAMMAI’MSHO’HARDTOHANDLENOW(yes-i-am)!“ at pedestrians.

A double disc of Otis might become a little overbearing, but this is single-oriented music anyway. Check out the hilarious „Tramp“, a duet where the woman accuses Otis of being exactly that, where Otis runs out of arguments constantly and simply going to the chorus everytime he runs out of things to say: „Ooooh, I’m a lover! – Papa was!“ („Matter of opinion!“ goes Carla Thomas. Otis, oblivious, responds: „Mama was, too.“). The only reason John Belushi rather used Sam & Dave as a cultural and musical reference as opposed to Otis is because Belushi knew that bringing up the comparison to Redding would make his own performance seem listless. While Sam & Dave are soul’s ultimate expressive gospel stylists, Redding is just too heavy-weight and deep in the blues for anyone to tackle. He is one of the artists whose prime output transcends any kind of genre-preferences.

The track choice involves pickings from all his six studio albums as well as the from the four posthumous albums. It also contains all of the A-side of his US-singles during his lifetimes (and some more posthumous ones).

Pain in My Heart (1964) 1.7, 2.2, 2.4, 2.5
The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads (1965) 1.12, 1.11, 1.19, 2.18, 2.9, 1.5
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965) 1.1, 2.10, 2.14, 2.1, 1.4, 1.13, 2.6, 2.12
„I Can’t Turn You Loose“ (1965 single) 1.6
The Soul Album (1966) 2.15, 1.15, 1.14, 1.17
Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (1966) 2.7, 1.2, 1.9
King & Queen (1967) 1.10, 2.11
The Dock of the Bay (posth. 1968) 1.20, 2.20
The Immortal Otis Redding (posth. 1968) 2.13, 2.16, 2.3, 2.8
Love Man (posth. 1969) 1.3, 1.18, 2.19
Tell the Truth (posth. 1970) 1.16, 2.17
„You Left the Water Running“ (posth. 1976 single, rec. 1966) 1.8

Keith Jarrett: The Impulse! Story

Rating: 3.7/10
Rated as
: Anthology
Compilation Status
: Newbie Baiting
Released: 2006
Recorded: 1973–1976
Specific Genre: ECM Style Jazz
Main Genre: Jazz
Undertones
: Avant-Garde Jazz, Post-Bop, Bebop, Piano Jazz
Label: Impulse!

1 De Drums 2 The Rich (and the Poor) 3 Blue Streak 4 Treasure Island 5 Introduction and Yaqui Indian Folk Song 6 Victoria 7 Everything that Lives Laments 8 Konya 9 Bop-Be 10 Mushi Mushi 11 Silence

Good music, very questionable reason of existence as a compilation

Problems first: This compilation is called „The Impulse Story“, so the title suggests a sort of narrative for Jarrett’s American Quartet recordings for that label (1973–1976) – or it should, anyway. More complete compilations and box sets of Jarrett’s Impulse output had been issued before this (occupying both in name and completeness the „Impulse Years“ tag), and the question arises to what end there has to be a single disc compilation of that period. A plot? Sure. But there is no plot here, so let’s take a look.

Academically (and moronically) reconstructing the track choice, you‘ll be left with the knowledge that seven of the eleven tracks (make that ten actually – „Victoria“ wasn‘t issued on Jarrett‘s original Impulse albums – but it was first released on The Impulse Years: 1973–1974, so there is no point to view it as the selling point here) stem from just two of the eight albums while three albums aren’t represented at all. You‘ll also notice that the chronology hasn’t been touched (leading to the fact that the four tracks of Treasure Island come in a row). And you‘ll notice that the track choice as well as the liner notes were done by jazz expert Ashley Kahn. I was hoping to find an answer to the choices he made in his liner notes, and he only hints at it by mentioning that the last four albums for Impulse stem from roughly the same sessions Jarrett did in 1975/76. As there is no other information directly relating to the track choice, we’re left with a bunch of questions (why is it called story? Why such a stress on Treasure Island? Why a single disc compilation about a guy whose work has been documented excellently and comprehensively, and whose specialty were 20-minute-suites?), we‘re left to construct a) the scheme that this was called story to imply a personal and artistical ‚development‘ of Jarrett‘s Impulse years and b) the suspicion that the last four albums didn’t contribute so well to represent that arc (as they were part of temporarily close sessions as opposed to long evolution processes). Suspicion also arises this is a cash-in to lure in newbies. Who needs this?

Call me picky, but I simply expect better from the normally unerring Impulse!-label.

Economics aside, let’s take a look at the material. Like the albums it’s taken from, it is quite alright to excellent, a particular stand-out is the opener „De Drums“, with its swinging, swirling, breezy and moving pattern, akin to cape jazz, followed by some shorter tunes that all share the same airy and weightless atmosphere – an overall summer feeling permeates this. Things get a bit edgier in the last third, when the group shifted its sound away from the acoustic improvs from the beginning, and went for a less free-flowing, harder bopping approach once again (very sneaky by calling that last album Bop-Be). I prefer to listen to the first half, excellent for mornings and sunny afternoons, very laid-back music. Maybe that was the point, to lounge-ify Jarrett‘s Impulse output, possibly cross-financed by Starbucks. A thin plot: Good music, very questionable reason of existence as a compilation. As I said, I can’t imagine anyone seriously interested in this who wouldn’t want the albums in the first place.

1: Fort Yawuh (1973)
2–5: Treasure Island (1974)
6: from the Backhand (1975) sessions, but first released on The Impulse Years: 1973–1974 (1997)
7: Mysteries (1976)
8: Byablue (1977)
9–11: Bop-Be (1977)

Howlin‘ Wolf: The Power of the Voice

Rating: 1.2/10
Rated as
: Anthology
Compilation Status
: Useless
Released: 1989
Recorded: 1951, 1952, 1970
Specific Genre: Chicago Blues
Main Genre: Blues, Electric Blues
Label: Blues Encore

1 I Ain’t Superstitious 2 Sittin‘ on the Top of the World 3 Built for Comfort 4 The Red Rooster 5 Highway 49 6 Cause of It All 7 Killing Floor 8 Brownskin Woman 9 The Sun Is Rising 10 I’m the Wolf 11 House Rockin‘ Boogie 12 Dog Me Around 13 Keep What You Got 14 My Babe Stole off 15 Crying at Daybreak 16 Passing By Blues 17 Poor Boy 18 Commit a Crime 19 Wang-Dang-Doodle 20 Do the Do 21 Worried About My Baby 22 Rockin‘ Daddy

You better keep what you got

Completely pointless cash-in compilation by the greatest hollerer there ever was. Although you get 22 tracks on a single disc, this isn’t worth your while: The track choice is completely random, all the tracks are either from 1970 or 1951/52; the sequencing is random (the disc starts with a bunch of 1970-recordings, tracks 1–7, the 1950s tracks follow, 8–16, then back to a row of the 1970-tracks, 17–22); the sound of this European issue is just awful (not scratchy, as these are studio recordings, but this is the most compressed, tinniest and flattest audio quality I’ve heard in my lifetime – which is all the worse, as Howlin‘ Wolf is about his roaring sound, totally betrayed here). Tracks 8–11 are from the same 1952-session in Memphis (but were published partly on different records under fishy circumstances), while 12–16 are from two Memphis-1952 sessions (September and October). In neither cases are these all of those sessions‘ tracks, so what’s the point? But worst of all: all the 1970-tracks are directly and redundantly taken from the famous London Howlin‘ Wolf Sessions-album, whose versions weren’t so hot to begin with.

There are so many good compilations by Howlin‘ Wolf, don’t be fooled by the large number of tracks here and be sure to skip this one. To check on how to collect Wolf’s material, compare my RateYourMusic-list Complete Blues Discographies: What to get.

Lightnin‘ Hopkins: Goin‘ Back Home

Rating: 1.5/10
Rated as: Anthology
Compilation Status: Useless
Released: 1997
Recorded: 1964–1969
Main Genre: Blues
Specific Genres: Acoustic Blues, Electric Blues, Acoustic Texas Blues, Electric Texas Blues
Label: Comet 43324

1 Shaggy Dog 2 Santa Fe Blues [New Santa Fe] 3 Shinin‘ Moon [Shining Moon] 4 I’ll Be Gone 5 Shake It Baby 6 Goin‘ Back Home 7 Good Times 8 I’m Wit‘ It [What’d I Say] 9 Don’t Wake Me 10 Talk of the Town 11 California Landslide [California Mudslide] 12 Rosie Mae 13 Easy on Your Heals 14 Leave Jike Mary Alone 15 You Treat Po‘ Lightnin‘ Wrong

Good times here, but it’s better down the road

Another European cheapo collection by one of the greatest. A mix of some infectious, driving electric blues numbers in classic jaunty Hopkins-style and his trademark acoustic texas blues. Excellent, if unspectacular fret work, some surprising horn sections (on a Hopkins record!) and overall a more polished sound compared to his earlier stuff from the 1960s.

Some research: Tracks 1 and 3–10 are from 1967’s Something Blue (recorded 1965), tracks 2 and 11–13 are from 1969’s California Mudslide and the last two acoustic numbers (14–15) are from 1964’s Live at the Bird Lounge. Some track names have been slightly changed, I think intentionally, to cover up that this is probably a borderline illegal compilation just grabbing randomly from different sources (which also explains the indiscriminate mix of electric and acoustic tracks from different sessions).

Anyhow, the album Something Blue is here in its entirety though with scrambled sequencing (and inferior sound quality). So that’s okay if you find this in some one-dollar-trash bin, but any serious collector can skip this and go for the actual albums. There really is no point to any of this.

Billie Holiday: The Silver Collection

Rating: 6.0/10
Rated as:
Anthology
Compilation Status: Obsolete
Released: 1985
Recorded: 1956–1957
Specific Genre: Vocal Jazz
Main Genre: Jazz
Undertones: Swing
Label: Verve

1 I Wished on the Moon 2 Moonlight in Vermont 3 Say It Isn’t So 4 Our Love Is Here to Stay 5 Darn That Dream 6 But Not for Me 7 Body and Soul 8 Comes Love 9 They Can’t Take That Away From Me 10 Embraceable You 11 Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off 12 Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You 13 All or Nothing at All 14 We’ll Be Together Again

Half a love, never appealed to me

This compilation combines songs from the 1957 studio album Body and Soul and 1958’s All or Nothing at All. Many of the late 1950s recordings by Holiday which were issued as albums between 1957 and 1959 come from these same sessions (from 1956/57). No surprise then that nowadays, you can buy a double disc compilation also called All or Nothing at All (as part of the Billie Holiday Story, Part 7) which contains all the songs of the two mentioned albums as well as the whole Songs for Distingué Lovers album from 1957 (same session as for Body and Soul) – that’s all of the 1956/57 session recordings that were seperately issued on said three albums.

Anyhow, as an early single-disc-compilation compiling the alleged highlights of two late 1950s albums, this does a respectable job. Late night vocal jazz with subtly swinging arrangements and, compared to the 1930s takes, a much more foregrounded, if subdued, horn section showing up now and then. Many nice standards, but Holiday had a softer and more professional tone at this stage of her career – personally, I prefer her more emotionally aggressive tone from earlier on.

Of course it’s about the vocals from start to finish, but I don’t see anything specific about the compilation: either you already have the original albums, or you should buy the mentioned reissue of All or Nothing at All which gives you the complete picture. But actually, you should get the box set The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve: 1945-1959 which gives the total overview. Or you haphazardly got a hold of this, like me.

1, 3, 4, 6, 13, 14: All or Nothing at All (1958)
2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12: Body and Soul (1957)

Trivia: Note the compilation cover: „Over 60 Minutes of Music“. Can you remember a time when this was a selling point? Anyway, all the more reason to get the double disc with all the sessions.