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"I was born by the river in a little tent
And just like that river I've been running ever since
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will."
Otis Redding was both an influential interpretive vocalist and an impassioned singer/songwriter, but whether Otis Redding was actually the king of Soul music is, naturally, open to discussion among fans of the genre. After all, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were all worthy of the throne in their own right. But one fact simply cannot be disputed: Otis Redding was most certainly Soul music royalty and remains so to this day. To younger generations of music listeners he’s undoubtedly best known as the guy who sang Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, a posthumously-released song that he co-wrote and recorded only a few days before his death (in a plane crash): this old Soul classic reached No. 1 on the U.S. Charts (and No. 3 on the U.K. Chart) and has long since become the Soul singer’s signature hit. However, older generations of fans will remember that there is so much more to Otis Redding’s musical legacy –- a considerable back catalogue of stellar Soul songs -– many of which are included in the 4-disc/92-track box set The King Of Soul, a deeply satisfying anthology released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the late legend's debut album, 1964's Pain In My Heart.
The King Of Soul contains both studio and live recordings -- singles as well as essential LP tracks -- from various sources, including landmark albums like 1965's Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul and 1968's The Dock Of The Bay. The social commentary Soul ballad A Change Is Gonna Come was written by Sam Cooke and his most ardent fans would surely argue that the prematurely deceased Soul singer (he was shot to death) recorded the definitive version –- and it is indeed a very special recording -– but Otis Redding’s less polished, supremely soulful cover is really beyond comparison. Otis Redding was a balladeer extraordinaire; while he did record numerous energetic and memorable Soul stompers (Shake, Chain Gang, Respect, etc.), he particularly excelled at raunchy, stirring Southern Soul ballads such as That’s How Strong My Love Is, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, Pain In My heart, These Arms Of Mine, You Don’t Miss Your Water, and Try A Little Tenderness. The King Of Soul is a superb, attractively-packaged career overview released by Rhino Records, a label which specializes in archival reissues (also see Rhino Records' The Queen Of Soul 4-disc box set by Aretha Franklin).