Otis Redding, Lonely
& Blue – If you like your soul ballads slow and steady, there are few who
could deliver like Otis Redding. Recognizing the need for a collection of some
of his greats, the good folks at Concord Music Group created a new album that
never existed before, yet looks and feels like it might have been a vintage
release from the hey day when Otis was reigning king of soul, before his life
was cut tragically short. This album comes on nicely pressed colored vinyl —
the packaging says blue but in reality the pressing is a nice purple. The CD
sounds good too (it is also up on HDTracks.com as a CD-quality download).
As an audiophile trying
to enjoy music from this period, it is important to acknowledge that recordings
like this weren’t made for uber hi fi systems.
That doesn’t make them any less good — the music is what is the key
thing here and this stuff oozes with passion, something missing from many an audiophile
release. So do keep in mind that these kinds of recordings were made back in
the day when most every pop, rock and soul record was compressed to maximize
the music’s impact coming out of a then-common three-inch transistor radio
portable or car radio speaker, or one of the all-in-one consoles with speakers,
amps and record changer built into the box. They’ll sound good but will bear
the imprint of that specific sound the producers wanted you to hear. Its not a
A bit on that before
moving forward: a friend who is heavily
into “mid century” furnishing (i.e. stuff from the 1950s and 1960s)
recently purchased a vintage Magnavox console system on eBay from the original
owner; the system came with all the original paperwork and had been cared for
over the years , with only the speakers replaced due to age. It is fascinating
to hear “old” records on this system because they sound great! Early
stereo mixes, with hard left-right panning of instruments and voices, work
remarkably well on the console.
I’m giving you all this
information to make an informed decision about what you buy. If you are
expecting an incredible “audiophile” experience, this (and many of
these vintage rock and soul recordings from the mid-60s) aren’t necessarily
going to be your bag. But if you want to
hear a sweet, mellow listen of one of the great voices of our times, Lonely & Blue may be just for you.
Groove on the tunes here and the vintage packaging Concord has created. Nice
Solomon Burke, The King
of Rock’n Soul – One of Otis Redding’s contemporaries was the great Solomon
Burke who even at his most saccharine can (in my book) do no wrong.
It was exciting to find a
sweet reissue of early Solomon Burke music quietly appearing in the bins at
Amoeba Records for about $11 — a vintage 1966 release that is pretty hard to
find even in collectors circles. Pressed by Rhino — Warners owns the Atlantic
catalog these days — this reissue of The
King of Rock ‘n Soul FEELS like an original pressing, so much so I have
begun to question whether I really NEED an original pressing at this stage.
This one is great, right
down to its thick, heavy, perfectly centered pressing, quiet vinyl,
period-accurate label and most importantly good sound. This sounds like it was
taken off a master tape or at least something very low generationally — there
is almost no hiss on this disc — with decent mids and low end for the period
and a nice crisp high end, particularly on some of the country-gospel flavored
tunes (remember, Ray Charles had broken down that boundary a few years prior)
with sweet acoustic guitar picking up front in the mix. Fun stuff here!
I’ll be exploring,
comparing and contrasting more classic reissues as I find them in the weeks and
months ahead. Stay tuned…
Mark Smotroff is a
freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in
marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video
games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T
and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine,
Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who’s songs
have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films
and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he’s written.