Otis Clay

45's

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Otis Clay was a great Southern soul singer, singing in an era when the productions were sweeter than his earthy voice. He was also on a label that had a superstar in Al Green and another hitmaker in Ann Peebles; so he never got as far on the charts as he may have on another label -- or as far as he could have gotten a few years earlier -- when full-throated singers like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and, to a lesser extent, James Carr, were having big pop hits. Clay never hit the pop charts and never broke the Top 20 on the R&B charts, but as this rock-solid collection of 14 singles proves, he consistently delivered great music on his sides for Hi. Foremost among those is undeniably "Trying to Live My Life Without You," and perhaps the other songs aren't as transcendent as that, but they're all strong Southern soul, pushed over the edge by Clay's passionate performances and the grittiest production to come out of Hi -- and the closest they came to Stax. 45's is certainly not as complete an overview of Clay's work for the label as 2000's The Complete Otis Clay on Hi Records nor is it as comprehensive as the 1996 collection The Best of Otis Clay. But at 14 tracks, it's concise, punchy, and plays as good as any classic vinyl hits collection, and is an excellent sampler in its own right.

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