The new Otis Redding collection Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding is one of the most imaginative sets I have seen. On the surface, it looks like nothing more than a reissue of a classic late ‘60s compilation. Everything from the vintage blue-toned cover art, to the back cover testimonial from a disc jockey fits. The only thing is, Lonely & Blue never previously existed. I must say that in the quest by record labels to stay relevant these days, Lonely & Blue is an excellent example of how to do it right.
While I love the packaging, and the idea behind it, none of it would make much difference if not for the music. These 12 songs present the artist at his peak, and hearing them side-by-side here makes one wonder why nobody assembled this collection before.
As the title indicates, Lonely & Blue is filled with tracks expressing deep sorrow and heartbreak. Redding’s voice somehow captured these emotions better than just about anyone I can think of. Had the compilation actually have been put together in 1967, one can assume that a very similar mix of tracks would have been used.
To get the public’s attention, hits such as “Free Me,” “These Arms of Mine,” “My Lover’s Prayer,” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” are included. These are great songs, and their presences here is most appreciated. One of the goals of a collection such as this is to use it as a way of presenting some of Redding’s lesser-known tunes as well though. On this front, Lonely and Blue works very well indeed.
In a perfect world, brilliant sides such as “Waste of Time,” “Everybody Makes a Mistake,” “Gone Again,” and “Open the Door,” would have been as highly regarded as anything else that he had recorded. But there is room for only so many hits in the world and, inevitably, some songs fall through the cracks. Lonely and Blue even contains alternate takes, such as that of “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember,” which offer a fuller picture of the artist.
This is a very well thought out package, designed to resemble a Stax collection of the late ‘60s. They have even taken the unusual step of adding “ring-wear” to the cover, making it look as if it had been sitting around for 45 years. I have to say that it initially fooled me. I first thought that I had gotten a defective copy. The liner notes on the back cover are pretty great too. They were written by the fictitious Marty Hackman, of Detroit’s WDHG radio station.
After his incandescent performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Otis Redding seemed poised for huge mainstream success. Sadly, an plane crash took his life a few months after Monterey. He did not live to see the enormous popularity of the posthumously released “(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay,” which has taken its place in the pantheon of classic soul songs. Redding has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has received many other accolades as well.
What Lonely & Blue does best is provide an introduction to one of the most talented singers of all time. I consider it a tribute to his ongoing legacy and recommend it, especially for those who only know Redding from “Dock of the Bay.” The depth of feeling in his vocals could be compared to fellow legends such as Nat “King” Cole, Sam Cooke, or even Frank Sinatra. Lonely & Blue is a worthy acknowledgement of his genius.