Videos by American Songwriter
The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection
Music: 5 out of 5 stars
Package: 2 out of 5 stars
This three disc box includes every A and B side (70 in all) in its original booming mono mix waxed by inarguably one of the best soul singers ever recorded, so what’s not to like? Well, musically at least, nothing.
Otis Redding’s lofty standing in the history of R&B has long ago been substantiated by not only these timeless gospel infused, Southern soul nuggets, but by countless performances, many caught on video, that confirmed his scorching live shows. The Big O’s searing, gritty, powerful voice could be yearning, explosive, hopeful and challenging, often in the same tune. For anyone who does not already own these songs—or collectors searching for the rare mono mixes—this is a must-have set.
But this deluxe priced hardcover box is also a frustrating missed opportunity. The release dates of these songs are nowhere to be found and the recording/musician credits are condensed onto one cramped page hidden amongst the dozens of full page, life size photos of the singles. But far worse is the complete lack of liner notes. A historically geared package like this practically demands at least a cursory and hopefully a more detailed discussion of the music included and its cultural importance in the genre. Although the package that recreates a stack of 45s is unique and distinctive, why the compilers could not have included at least one photo of its star is unclear and nearly unforgiveable.
Additionally, although the bulk of Redding’s most essential tracks are represented, a fair amount of terrific album cuts such as “Cigarettes and Coffee” and his riveting version of Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” are MIA since they were not official singles and don’t conform to the compilation’s guidelines. These gems are included on many other Redding career recaps, and their omission is understandable, but worth noting.