Remember Me

Having heard from the good folks at Ralston Purina—sorry, "good folks" seems to be a trigger for 60's TV commercial flashbacks for puppy chow or something. Lemme try again...When I heard from the good folks at the burgeoning mini–mega empire that Concord/Fantasy Telarc has become that a new series called Stax Profiles was about to begin, I anxiously tore open a Concord box that arrived in the office yesterday.

While the entries on Albert King, Booker T, Little Milton, Eddie Floyd and others are mildly interesting, it was the Otis I was most interested in. In my unhumble opinion, and with a certain amount of peers like Sam Cooke, Eddie Hinton and a few others, Otis Redding was and is the greatest soul singer of them all without question. His appearance at Monterey Pop, in that iridescent red suit, still makes me shake my head and smile. The man was irreplaceable. His entry in the Stax Profiles series, all 13 tracks of it, was selected by guitarist Steve Cropper who of course played in the Stax house band and with Redding many times.

At first I have to say I was disappointed and ready to rip into this space with a diatribe about how yet another best–of concept was fatally flawed. Over the years, Otis, of course, has been anthologized practically to death. Boxed sets, single disc compilations, cheapo best$#150ofs all sit together in stores today. And his recordings are split between the early years which are owned by Warner Music's Atlantic Records and the rest which is controlled by Fantasy. This disc is cross licensed between the two labels so you can't say Cropper was forced into the inferior Fantasy owned material, though obviously he was encouraged to stay on the Fantasy side of the fence.

You never know the obstacles that were thrown in Cropper's way in terms of licensing—i.e. you can't license the better know tracks for any price—but the selection here is decidedly strange. And because of that, it may be a compilation worth having. There are six alternate takes included though none are wildly different from the released versions. "Mr. Pitiful," for example, is the same swingin' jumpin' soul hit that it is in the official version. But again, Cropper who says these are his faves—and let's assume that the licensing tumbleweed didn't dictate every choice, or more accurately every second choice—has picked a weird group. An alternate take of "Champagne and Wine?" While Otis sickees will have to have it for that reason alone, this is certainly no balanced portrait of the man's work.