Tragically dying in a plane crash at the age of 26, Otis Redding was a titan of soul music who was cut down in his prime. It is truly unfortunate that the Stax/Volt singer met his untimely demise just as he was starting to reach a crossover white audience, who would posthumously revere him. A new CD and DVD release, entitled Otis Redding – The Best: See & Hear, celebrates Redding’s brief but nonetheless impressive legacy.
The CD is a standard issue greatest hits compilation, featuring obvious tracks, such as “Dock of the Bay” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now).” The DVD is a cut-and-paste job that combines Redding’s 1967 performances from both Stax/Volt Revue Live in Norway 1967, as well as D.A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop document of the influential Monterey Pop Festival. The former tracks come from one of the greatest concert DVDs ever released, a blistering, high-energy soul revue that goes full-throttle from start to finish, completely electrifying a previously sedate crowd of Norwegian students. However, there is little explanation why the editor chose the tracks he did, pulling in numbers by Booker T & The M.G.’s and Sam & Dave and showing them in a different order than they originally appeared in concert, not to mention egregiously omitting several songs from Redding’s set. Nevertheless, Otis Redding is the obvious star of this show, riling up the crowd with his passionate singing and repeatedly pulling everyone to the edge and back with numerous false-endings on the show’s “Try a Little Tenderness” finale.
The Monterey performance showcases a more polished outfit. Booker T & The M.G.’s had time to hone their backup skills, and they take the already lively tempos and warp them into a hyperkinetic zone. Of course, Otis is the man of the moment, and when he opens by riling the crowd on “Shake!,” he repeated exhorts them to join in and shout along until he a full-throated rally on his hands.
While purists may rightfully view entitled Otis Redding – The Best: See & Hear as a hasty hack job, it still contains fantastic music made by a phenomenally talented performer. The live performances from Stax/Volt Revue Live in Norway 1967, and Monterey Pop each serve as proof that Otis Redding was at the top of his game when he shuffled off this mortal coil.