If Ray Charles is the genius of Soul, James Brown it’s godfather, and Aretha Franklin it’s queen, then undoubtedly, Otis Redding is it’s king and Booker T. & the MGs, Soul’s crown princes. He’s the only singer I’ve ever heard who sounds like he’s in the room with you. If the world was to face disaster and maybe only some would survive, we would have to place Otis’s recording of Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come”, his definitive version of “Try a Little Tenderness” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, a song he wrote with the legendary Jerry Butler, in a time capsule. This was soul music. It’s rare when a box set can be enjoyed by someone who is not familiar with the artist. (Another one being Otis’s Stax cohorts, Booker T. & the MGs’ Time Is Tight) But Otis’s voice, along with the MGs’ majesty made some of the greatest music of all time. What set Otis apart from people, and what eludes many artists, was his ability to turn someone’s song inside out and make it his own. He frequently covered songs by one of his biggest influences, Sam Cooke. Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come” is a perfectly beautiful record. Why would anyone touch it?!? Otis and the MGs with The Memphis Horns make what could be the most gut wrenching and beautiful and “soulful” track ever recorded. Also fun is Otis’s cover of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid”. Cooke’s version is again, quite perfect and way ahead of its time. Redding’s version is stripped down and playful as can be. And when he sings, “Cupid, please hear my cry”, man he’s crying. Not to be overlooked is Redding’s songwriting talents. Not many black guys are considered when the subject of singer/songwriters are brought up. But he, like Al Green later, wrote many of his best records. Otis wrote many of his songs with Steve Cropper. On the Eddie Floyd/Booker T. Jones written “I Love You More Than Words Can Say”, Cropper’s and Redding’s musical relationship reaches its full potential. Otis sings, “Living without you is so painful”, and Cropper’s guitar sings one of it’s most soulful responses. Another treat is the Redding, Booker T. Jones, and Al Jackson written rocker, “Let Me Come On Home”. But the gem of this set is disc four. Twenty three live songs, edited seamlessly, so it is as if you were at an Otis show. The “king” outdoes the “godfather” on “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, and there’s a heartbreaking version of “Just One More Day”. It all ends perfectly when Otis Redding and the MGs take you away from everything on a trip to soul heaven with “Try a Little Tenderness” from Monterey Pop. Music didn’t die with Buddy Holly. It began a slow demise on December 10th, 1967, when Otis Redding passed away. Today, R&B is laughable, Country seems to come off of a conveyor belt, and there’s no such thing as Soul anymore, or Rock & Roll for that matter. Maybe it’s because the hippies grew up and began to run things, or technology, but today, there’s almost no soul left in music. Now we have people who whoop and holler, Trying to be soulful and show range. All they show me is terrible insecurity or ego. It’s like watching an awful actor. It’s pretentious. Hopefully, one day we can wade through all the garbage. The material here will stand the test of time.