Normally a collection of a Hi Records artist's singles would be a must-have, but the brilliant and frequently underrated O.V. Wright is an exception. Arguably the greatest deep soul singer nobody knows about (and many who do know his work insist he was better than Otis Redding), Wright took his Southern gospel background into secular territory with a string of incendiary singles in the early '70s for Don Robey's Back Beat Records. The best of these ("Ace of Spades," "A Nickel and a Nail," "I Can't Take It," "I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy") were produced by Willie Mitchell, who drafted in the stellar Hi Rhythm Section to help out, but wisely left Wright's rough and ready gospel vocal approach as is, resulting in soul that is deep (and as dangerous) as the deep blue sea. These are not, unfortunately, the recordings collected here. When Back Beat Records imploded in 1976, Wright quite naturally signed with Mitchell's Hi Records, but the equation had changed, with the Hi sound by now leaning toward the smoother side of the soul groove that went hand in hand with Al Green, the label's biggest star. The smoother approach, complete with strings, robbed Wright of a good deal of his fiery gospel power, and his official singles for Hi Records (which are collected here on The 45's) sound muted and tired next to the Back Beat material. Still, Wright was too great a singer not to work wonders with a couple of these songs, including the ominous "Into Something (Can't Shake Lose)" and the odd, endearing "I Don't Do Windows." MCA's Soul of O.V. Wright gets you the Back Beat stuff, and that's the place to start.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett