If you asked a seasoned soul veteran to compile a list of the Top 20 soul albums of all time, there’s a strong chance that it would include this classic opus, first issued in the States on Stax’s Volt subsidiary in October 1965. Soon after its release, ‘Otis Blue’ topped Billboard’s R&B album charts, cementing raspy-voiced Redding’s position as one of the pre-eminent soul singers of the mid-’60s. It’s been reissued on CD before, of course, but this new collectors’ edition is a deluxe 2-CD set crammed with a heap of bonus material. The original 11-track LP has certainly stood the test of time. Otis’s earthy, passionate, deeply sensual voice with its rich gospel inflections has a raw cathartic power that epitomises soul music at its very best. Like all great singers, he’s able to transmute other peoples’ songs and fashion them in his own image – just listen to the way he takes on the Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ and transforms a classic rock song into a stomping, sock-it-to-’em soul workout complete with horn fanfares. He also reworks a trio of old Sam Cooke tunes (‘A Change Is Gonna Come,’ ‘Shake’ and ‘Wonderful World’) and injects them with a more intensely emotional sense of depth. The album, of course, contains the original version of ‘Respect,’ a self-penned tune which Aretha Franklin later transmogrified into a feminist anthem. It also features the plaintive, voice-shredding, angst-ballad, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,’ which was a key song in Redding’s live shows. In this latest CD configuration, the mono version of the LP is presented first, followed by several alternate mixes (three of which are previously unissued) and six tracks recorded live at the Whisky A Go Go in April 1966. The second CD includes the original stereo mix of the LP and also features a later re-recording of ‘Respect.’ In addition, you’ll find five live versions of tracks from ‘Otis Blue’ recorded in Europe during March 1967. To be honest, the bonus studio material doesn’t really enhance our appreciation or understanding of ‘Otis Blue,’ though the live cuts undoubtedly offer a vivid snapshot of the singer’s combustible in-concert performances. A landmark album from one of soul’s greatest practitioners.