Otis Redding: Lonely and Blue: The Deepest Soul (2013)

A meditation on the most wrenching, soul-deep cries for love from the master of such things, Lonely and Blue illuminates Otis Redding’s way with a lyric in a manner that straight-forward greatest hits packages never have.

Sure, there are some familiar tracks here — each of them a gut-shot of longing, including 1962′s “These Arms of Mine,” 1964′s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and 1966′s “I Love You More Than Words Can Say.” But this new set, due March 5, 2013 from Stax-Concord, digs deeper, and discovers new wells of meaning, in plucking lesser-known songs on the same love-lorn theme. Even 1967′s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember,” perhaps the pinnacle in Redding’s charting heartbreakers, is presented in an alternative version with a more direct, and far darker narrative.

This isn’t the foot-stamping Otis, the one whose orgasmic proto-funk could bring down concert halls. This is that same guy after midnight, when the shadows — and the ghosts — start to gather.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Producer Steve Cropper remembers the heartbreaking moment that 'Dock of the Bay' went from being Otis Redding's latest album to a memorial project.]

What you learn, in listening anew, is how much there still is to be gained from Redding, decades after his too-early passing. You hear, in songs like “Gone Again” (with its devastating images of loss), “A Waste of Time” (with its elongated, chill bump-raising phrases) and “Send Me Some Lovin’” (with its roiling, tireless yearning), a still-resonant, rarely matched mixture of blues, country and R&B. (The notable exceptions being found, of course, in Ray Charles and Sam Cooke — though they did it in much different ways.)

But, beyond the craft, there’s this: Nobody inhabited the role of the worried man quite like Redding. These songs reverberate with scalding emotion, nearly five decades later. There is no artifice anywhere on this record, no space between his heart and your ears.

Lonely and Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding is a testament to his craft, and a reminder of his towering gift — for those who may have forgotten, and (here’s hoping) for those who never knew.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.