Otis Redding, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Whiskeytown
Otis Blue / Otis Redding Sings Soul (Collector's Edition), Street Survivors (Deluxe Edition 30th Anniversary), and Strangers Almanac (Deluxe Edition) (Atco / Rhino)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., May 2, 2008
Otis ReddingOtis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (Collector's Edition) (ATCO/Rhino)
Lynyrd SkynyrdStreet Survivors (Deluxe Edition 30th Anniversary) (Geffen)
WhiskeytownStrangers Almanac (Deluxe Edition) (Geffen)
Southern by birth, studio, and soul, these three musical institutions won't roll over upon having crucial chapters of their recorded legacies exhumed on respective 2-CD deluxe editions, but Dixie already sat up. Georgia's immortal esophagus peeler Otis Redding cut his third LP, 1965's Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, in Memphis backed by Booker T. & the MGs and Isaac Hayes during one 24-hour tear. Versions both in mono and stereo – the latter in Technicolor vs. the former's stoic black and white – come padded out with excerpts from ancient live albums, yet this R&B sacrament still beats the heart of its genre. Whether Redding's demanding "Respect," pleading "I've Been Loving You Too Long," or covering Sam Cooke thrice, soul-baring skillet knockouts abound. Jacksonville, Fla.'s Magnificent Seven recorded Southern rock poet laureate Ronnie Van Zant's 1977 swan song at Miami's Criteria Studios with Otis Blue overseer Tom Dowd before returning to Atlanta for take two. The second disc's original album recovers a spark ultimately sanded down into Nashville corners minus drummer Artimus Pyle's stiff plod, particularly "You Got That Right" and "I Never Dreamed," both on the 2001 expanded edition. Street Survivors' "Freebird," Teflon-coated chiller "That Smell," comes with a bonus pair of greater and lesser versions, though the real blue plate special is Van Zant's autobiographical rewrite of Merle Haggard's "Honky Tonk Night Time Man." Whiskeytown's sophomore slam and major label debut, 1997's Strangers Almanac, manages an emotional, lyrical, and musical certainty as sophisticated and true as Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, though it fades at the last. Thirteen original tracks balloon into 39, including a flat KCRW session, red-hot outtakes (the Barn's on Fire sessions), alternates takes ("Turn Around"), demos ("Houses on the Hill"), and covers of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" and the True Believers' "The Rain Won't Help You When It's Over." Neil Young's unreleased archives equal one-tenth of those by former Whiskeytown North Carolinan Ryan Adams.