OTIS REDDING Dreams to Remember: The Otis Redding Anthology (Rhino R2-75471). For all of James Brown's hard work in show business and Marvin Gaye's suave and charismatic bombast, Otis Redding was the greatest male soul singer of them all (a category, by the way, that Ray Charles transcended, even though he invented it). He died at 36 in 1967, leaving a remarkable body of work that gets better and better with each passing year. And this is the definitive way to own him. The Complete Otis takes up four discs and can be mired in repetition. Spread out over two decades of his best, he never fails to move. Nobody suffered like Otis Redding. Maybe that's why times has been so singularly kind to his work. While other soul singers donned the mantle of prophet or continued the tradition of libidinous blues swagger (at its most antisocial, just a few short steps away from wife-beating), Otis Redding offered the world a heart that had been stomped, battered, bruised and bludgeoned and still bled true-blue. "R-E-S-P-E-C-T", for instance, was his song first. It was Aretha's genius to make it hers but it takes Redding's brilliance to sing a song a woman could glide into so easily). Get this: his hit "I've Been Loving You Too Long (to stop now)" was co-written with Jerry Butler on a plane from Atlanta to Buffalo to make a gig here. He was as electrifying a live performer as R&B ever had, reducing song after song into orgiastic syllables of pure energy ("Try a Little Tenderness" is a moment of specimen ecstasy wherein heartbreak turns into specimen choogle). With the Stax/Volt horns never letting him down, he turned out performances that not only stand the test of time but have become touchstones for R&B since. Rating: *****.
-- Jeff Simon
ELVIS PRESLEY A Touch of Platinum, A Life In Music Vol. 2 (RCA 67593-2). The King of Kings is back with a another batch of rare, live and unreleased tracks. There are some nuggets here but, as usual, a lot of filler for a double-CD set. "Tiger Man," is an intense rockabilly number taken from Elvis' '68 comeback special. Another energetic, though ragged and raw numbers from that show are "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again/Trying to Get to You." Elvis is at his best on those numbers, including a rousing "Baby What You Want Me To Do." The King falls short when he tries to take on more current numbers of that era such as "Words," "Release Me" and really strains on "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Elvis turns holy on Disc 2 with "Miracle of the Rosary," and "Born Of Abraham" and he brings a spiritual energy that lifts both songs. Elvis then cuts loose with one of his best latter day records, "Burning Love." Disc 2 ends with Elvis' Jaycees speech about living out his dreams. Rating: *** 1/2 .
-- Anthony Violanti
RUSSELL MALONE Sweet Georgia Peach (Impulse IMPD-275). With fine jazz guitar players under 40 seemingly arriving on both coasts with every bus from the heartland, Malone has proved throughout the '90s to be as versatile as they come. He's so interested in precision and clarity and sounding like Wes Montgomery and George Benson that, for all the power of each note on this quartet session, he seldom burns the house down the way the greatest jazz guitarists do (listen to Barney Kessel on all four volumes of the "Poll Winners" discs. He tears through phrases and challenges himself so often that slurs and elisions are the only ways he can get where he's going.) Still, Malone is a brilliant guitar player and with Kenny Barron, Ron Carter and Lewis Nash for company, he stomps and rocks hard. Listen, especially, to his and Barron's duet version of Monk's "Bright Mississippi." Not only will you know why the composer of "Sweet Georgia Brown" once sued Monk for appropriating his harmonic changes, you'll know why such consummate musicians as Barron and Malone can't resist the incomparable interplay of playing in a duet. Rating: *** 1/2 .
(1) The Boy Is Mine, Brandy & Monica (Atlantic). (2) My Way, Usher (LaFace). (3) The First Night, Monica (Arista). (4) Crush, Jennifer Paige (Edel-America Hollywood). (5) Never Ever, All Saints (London-Island).
(1) Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, Snoop Doggy Dogg (No Limit-Priority). (2) "Armageddon" -- The Album (Columbia). (3) Hello Nasty, Beastie Boys (Capitol). (4) Funkmaster Flex The Mix Tape Volume III: 60 Minutes of Funk the Final Chapter, various artists (Loud-RCA). (5) Stunt, Barenaked Ladies (Reprise-Warner.)
(1)I'm Alright, Jo Dee Messina (Curb). (2) True, George Strait (MCA). (3) Just To Hear You Say That You Love Me, Faith Hill with Tim McGraw (Warner Bros.). (4) Texas Size Heartache, Joe Diffie (Epic). (5) How Long Gone, Brooks & Dunn (Arista Nashville).