The Complete Stax/Volt Singles

THE COMPLETE STAX/VOLT SINGLES, 1959-1968 (Footnote 1)
244 songs by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the MGs, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, The Bar-Kays, The Mar-Keys, and many, many others Atlantic 7-82218-2 (9 CDs only). Reissue producer: Steve Greenberg. AAD. TT: 10:52:07

The stainless steel headband was getting tighter across his forehead; five minutes ago he could've changed his mind, but now it was too late and he was glad for it. Soon he'd be free, free of the droning, pelvic soul music, music of a people and a culture so abhorrent to his nature the only way out was...

It wasn't my idea to review the Stax/Volt box set; I'd had enough of the whole humanity trip and quit Stereophile a long time ago, and the last thing I wanted to do was get back into contact with anybody, much less review some music. But Richard Lehnert was one of the few people I could still semi-relate to, so when I saw his E-mail as I logged on one morning, I E-mailed him back and suggested we do virtual-lunch. He was still in Santa Fe with Jane, and when we virtually-met in the Compuservateria I could see he was still very much at peace with himself. The conniving fool.

I chose as my dining scenario the Carnegie Deli of New York City circa '74, and the images of the virtual hot pastrami sandwich and Dr. Brown's cream soda looked so real in my VR helmet I began fidgeting inside my simul-suit. Richard set his virtual-muffalata down and looked me straight in the image.

"It's getting worse, isn't it? I haven't heard from you in months."

"Big deal," I told him. "Hey virtual lady! Can we get some more goddamn virtual pickles already?!"

"You're withdrawing further; even your voice sounds different."

"It damn well better," I said; I'd slapped a new algorithm in the voice-synthesis section to avoid positive voice-stress identification. Another few yards of distance never hurts. I asked Richard what he wanted me for in the first place.

"I want you to do a piece for the magazine on the new Stax/Volt box set. Nine CDs. Every Stax/Volt A-side put out between '59 and '68, and some of the Bs. All the stuff you used to go nuts over before the...before your..."

What Richard was being so annoyingly polite about was my breakdown. I had a breakdown. I found out, on my own, THANK YOU, just what was the problem---ie, PEOPLE---so I cut that particular toxin from my daily diet, so to speak, and thus cured myself quite cheaply, suddenly, and, if I do say so myself, PERMANENTLY. Every day we spend interacting with other people, we get a little more insane from all the random, unpredictable behavior and eccentricities of our fellow humans; it got to the point where the more I tried to control my environment, the less order I achieved. My systems collapsed, my mind began to unravel. I needed to shed my skin, and I wanted the new layer to be metal.

"You're getting away from us, bro; you don't write, you sure as hell don't call...what is it you said to me, that you don't do real-time anymore? That you can't get any closer than a minimum of three successive A-D-A stages in a commlink or else you start hyperventilating? That you don't even wear your glasses in your VR helmet anymore, because you want even the screens to be out of focus?! You need to rediscover yourself, Corey, and I'm sending you the Stax/Volt box to start with. You used to go on and on about Otis Redding and Steve Cropper; listen to it again and maybe something'll click within you before it's too late. You've got a lot of people very scared, I want you to know. Jane cries for you, man...I do, too."

Same old Richard, getting human on me again. I banged my fists hard on the support surface and virtual-knocked over the virtual napkin dispenser. I told him not to waste his tears on me and gave him a post office box to send the set to; I'd hired a boy to fetch my mail and groceries for me, and a few weeks later the security system went off at the sound of his knocks on the front gate. I called up camera five on the screen and saw his spotted face and runny nose staring into the lens.

"Mr. Burroughs! Mr. Burroughs! Are you home?"

His hand was gripping the gate so I switched on the voltage I'd wired to keep animals off the property; he jumped a good five feet and landed on his ass.

"GET AWAY FROM THE GATE!" I screamed into my mouthpiece. "I TOLD YOU NEVER TO TOUCH THE GATE! Now leave my supplies there and GET LOST!"

The motor that controlled the headband pressure shook inside the helmet as the pressure on his skull increased. His eyes were forced open as the skin of his forehead was pulled upward by the ever-shrinking steel band. His hands involuntarily gripped the now-useless controls, the knuckles white and trembling. The earspeakers inside the helmet blared Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine," and his death-mask leer drew his mouth's corners deeper against his cheeks as he heard his neck cracking...

Footnote 1: The manuscript of this review was discovered by a bag lady rummaging through the burnt-out ruins of Mr. Greenberg's Austin, Texas mansion. Once a Stereophile reader (until bankrupted by her hardware habit), she recognized Richard Lehnert's name and forwarded it to us.