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Soul - Released April 12, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
As Shuggie Otis never capitalized on his newfound success in the '90s, somehow incapable of cobbling together a new record in the wake of the 2001 Luaka Bop reissue of Inspiration Information, it may be easy for partisans to overrate the 2013 Legacy pairing of that 1974 album with Wings of Love, a new collection of material Otis recorded between 1975 and 2000. That quarter-century span should be a tip-off that this is not a lean, coherent, purposeful album, but rather a collection of every listenable thing Otis completed over the course of 25 years, and in that sense, it's pretty good. Part of its appeal is that it is so thoroughly out of phase with the present that some songs seem to date either much earlier or much later than their original recording (for instance, the title track "Wings of Love" feels heavily inspired by Todd Rundgren's 1975 classic "Real Man," but apparently wasn't tracked until 1990). All of Wings of Love has a slightly woozy, trippy feel, something characteristic of its one-man-band origin, where keyboards and compressed microphones create a hazy tapestry, and part of the appeal of this music is how it feels like the late '70s and early '80s without belonging to its time; it certainly doesn't feel modern, but it can't be pinned to any specific year, which is appropriate as Otis essentially dropped out of sight and made this music in a vacuum. That isolation is certainly part of the appeal of Wings of Love, particularly because Otis isn't entirely unaware of what constituted a hit in 1987, so he overloads "Give Me a Chance" with drum machines and synthesizers that belong to the spring of that year, and part of the fun is hearing the disconnect between Otis' aspirations and what made for a hit in 1987, or how "Give Me Chance" isn't that far removed from 1977's tinny, pulsating "Don't You Run Away." Both of these are good songs and there are other good moments here, some sounding quite different than expected (the overloaded Hendrixian guitar of "Fireball of Love"), but the fact that the 1977 and 1987 tracks do not have a great distance in either their production or sensibility doesn't speak to a unique vision, it illustrates how far into his own world Otis was. And while that's an interesting place to visit, Wings of Love doesn't speak to a misunderstood genius; it's the sound an eccentric who was able to run wild for years on end, never caring about whether his music would be heard. In theory, that's fascinating. In practice, it's generally a curiosity. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B - Released April 3, 2007 | Epic - Legacy

1971's Freedom Flight is perhaps, in its own way, every bit as adventurous and regal as Shuggie Otis' masterpiece, Inspiration Information. Produced by Shuggie's father, R&B legend Johnny Otis, the album features seven stellar, genre bending cuts, most of which were written or co-written by Shuggie. Oh yes, he was 15 was the time. Shuggie not only arranged the date, he played everything from guitars and bass organ to various percussion instruments. Additional musicians include Wilton Felder, Stix Hooper, Aynsley Dunbar, Preston Love, George Duke, and a trio of backing vocalists -- Clydie King, Venetta Field, and Shirley Matthews -- all of whom would grace Bob Dylan's Street Legal a few years later. In addition, Johnny employed a full string section for these sessions. Upon listening to Freedom Flight, the influence of Jimi Hendrix is everywhere. Not so much in Shuggie's playing, but in its texture and production. He and Johnny had obviously spent a lot of time listening to Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. In addition, the recordings of Taj Mahal, Fred McDowell, and Frank Zappa figure in here, too. Freedom Flight boasts Shuggie's single greatest composition: "Strawberry Letter 23," a monster platinum single for the Brothers Johnson. But it's Shuggie's version that stands the test of time best. It's slower, much more baroque and paisley than the cover. The tenderness in Shuggie's voice as he intones the lyrics is a real draw. "Me And My Woman," is one of the funkiest blues tunes ever recorded, with its dirty keyboard bassline that George Clinton stole wholesale three years later. In addition, two long instrumental works that end the album, "Purple" (just try to convince someone that Prince didn't listen to this tune in particular, and this album in general, over and over again before forming his aesthetic), and the title tracks are visionary and expansive with jaw-droppingly virtuoso guitar playing that is so tastefully, soulfully, and elegantly executed it' still hard to believe after all these decades that a 15 year old ever played them: Stevie Ray Vaughan had nothing on Shuggie. Freedom Flight is just as important as Inspiration Information. It's a bit rawer, not quite as lush, but it is every bit as visionary and groundbreaking. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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R&B - Released April 3, 2007 | Epic - Legacy

1971's Here Comes Shuggie Otis was the debut album by the guitarist and songwriter, issued by Columbia, when Shuggie was only 18. Produced and arranged by his father, R&B legend Johnny Otis, the set features nine original cuts co-written by the pair, and in some cases others, and one written by Johnny with Dan Aldrich. The album is evenly divided between vocal tunes and instrumentals. The cast for these sessions included Johnny, Wilton Felder, Stix Hooper, bassist Al McKibbon, Preston Love, Jackie Kelso, Plas Johnson, and a string section. "Oxford Gray," the album's opener, is an instrumental written by Johnny, Shuggie, Felder, and Hooper. Unlike anything that ever came before it, it's a baroque blues tune that features Shuggie playing both electric and acoustic bottleneck slide, a harpsichord, strings, and a groovy little backbeat that walks the edge of blues and funk. It feels like a suite because of its many composed sections, but Shuggie's guitar is pure improvisational poetry. This is followed by the beautiful, psychedelic pop of "Jennie Lee." Shuggie's vocals weren't quite there, and were still somewhat tentative, but his gorgeous, Albert King-inflected guitar solo is right in the pocket, and stands in wonderful contrast to his acoustic string in the verses. The horns are restrained and regal, and the textural palette of the cut is lush and spacious. There is plenty of rootsy playing here too, such as on "Bootie Cooler," a Stax-styled blues groove, and the name-dropping shimmy and shake of "Shuggie's Boogie," the wig-tightening funk of "Hurricane," and the reverentially gritty "Gospel Groove." It closes with a modern soul rocker called "Baby I Needed You," with a killer hook in the refrain even if Shuggie's vocal doesn't quite pull it all off. Here Comes Shuggie Otis stands the test of time over 30 years later, and stands as a hallmark of songwriting, improvisation, and production acumen. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Blues - Released May 10, 1994 | Epic - Legacy

Culled from four albums, except for one previously unreleased track, Shuggie's Boogie: Shuggie Otis Plays the Blues is a tour de force made all the more remarkable because the prodigy who produced it was so young. In fact, Shuggie Otis recalls during a boyish spoken intro in "Shuggie's Boogie" how he used to wear dark glasses and paint on a mustache to look older than his 14 or 15 years when he played in bars in the band of his legendary father Johnny Otis. During the same intro he effortlessly throws off guitar impersonations of T-Bone Walker, B.B. King and Elmore James. This compilation has a few rousing, up-tempo numbers, but the highlights are the slow, soulful tunes. One unfortunate omission is the seven-minute "Oxford Gray" from his 1970 album Here Comes Shuggie Otis. © Mark Allan /TiVo
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Soul - Released April 20, 2018 | Cleopatra Records

Though he released Live in Williamsburg back in 2014, it has been 44 years since guitar wizard Shuggie Otis released a studio album. Coming of age first with his father Johnny's wonderfully raucous R&B band and playing on sessions by T-Bone Walker and Big Joe Turner, Otis gained first notice from rock fans for his starring role on Kooper Session: Super Session, Vol. 2). He released three fine studio albums under his own name between 1970 and 1974 including the classic Inspiration Information. (Live in Williamsburg was cut during a global tour celebrating its 40th anniversary reissue that included a bonus disc of odds-and-sods material recorded between 1975 and 2000 titled Wings of Love.) Here Otis leads a quintet that includes veteran rockers Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Beck, Bogert & Appice) and bassist Tony Franklin (the Firm, Roy Harper), keyboardist/producer Kyle Hamood (Them Guns), and guitarist Aaron Kaplan. According to Otis, this is a "fusion rock" project (a loose mix of funk, blues, soul, and rock & roll). Mostly instrumental, it sounds like a loose jam session by highly sympathetic players who frame Otis' still dazzling, soulful playing. Opener "Aphelion" is as minor-key blues waltz introduced by an eerie electric piano. Otis touches on parts of two different melodies and bridges them with his solo. Three quarters of the way through, Appice pushes the band into a tempo change and ratchets up the tension. "Get a Grip" is heavier. Its funky backbeat, spiky wah-wah chording, and swirling organ pave the way for Otis and Franklin to trade riffs before the former adds weighty, tasty fills and a break before the tune winds its way out to hard rock. "Ice Cold Daydream" features the twin propulsive forces of a whomping bassline and Appice's breakbeats. Otis' thin, wispy voice sounds almost the same as it did in 1974. This is funky rock at its best, complete with a Hendrix-ian guitar freakout. The grooves are even fatter in the nasty funk that is "Woman." Its guitar interplay is seamless despite raw-toned distortion with syncopated snare and kick drum breaks and rumbling bass in massive vamps. The ELP-esque keyboard solo in the middle eight gives the entire tune a schizophrenic quality. It paves the way for "Sweet Surrender," an outright prog rock jam that will resonate most with guitar freaks. The eight-minute "Clear Powder" is the set's longest offering, an aural montage of biting funk that gives way to the wide-open, Deep Purple-inspired highway rock that is "V8." (Otis' unique phrasing, however, adds both heft and soul that would never occur to Richie Blackmore.) Inter-Fusion is a hip little record. While it doesn't reach the heights of Otis' earlier work, it does provide a healthy dose of the unique talent he brought to the game in the first place. ~ Thom Jurek
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Soul - Released April 1, 2008 | Johnny Otis World LLC

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Soul - Released October 14, 2014 | Cleopatra Records

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Soul - Released January 12, 2009 | Johnny Otis World LLC

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Soul - Released February 24, 2009 | Goldenlane Records

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Soul - Released December 10, 2015 | Cleopatra Blues

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Soul - Released April 1, 2008 | Johnny Otis World LLC

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Soul - Released May 22, 2008 | Johnny Otis World LLC

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Soul - Released April 1, 2008 | Johnny Otis World LLC

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Soul - Released April 1, 2008 | Johnny Otis World LLC

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Soul - Released April 1, 2008 | Johnny Otis World LLC

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Soul - Released October 14, 2014 | Cleopatra Records

After releasing 1974's Inspiration/Information, his third and final album, California singer/guitarist Shuggie Otis spent the next three decades slowly drifting into cult status on the strength of his brief solo career and of that album in particular. Largely ignored upon its release, the elegant psych/soul/funk sounds he created (playing almost all of the instruments himself) lived on through record collectors, eventually earning a reputation as a lost classic before receiving its first reissue on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label in 2001. A sort of companion album called Wings of Love appeared as part of a 2013 reissue bundle, but it was mainly a collection of unreleased material and not necessarily a new album. While a follow-up to his acclaimed masterpiece might never arrive, the renewed interest in his work inspired Otis to put together a new band and enjoy a late career resurgence as a live act. Recorded at Brooklyn's Music Hall in April 2013, Live in Williamsburg marks Otis' first ever live album and the renditions he offers up here are loose, spirited, and charming. With a band that features his son Eric on guitar and his brother Nick on drums, it's an engaging live representation of his songs and his abilities as a player and frontman. Peppered with horns and keys, the group plows through career highlights like "Aht Uh Mi Hed," "Island Letter," and the 1977 hit he penned for the Brothers Johnson "Strawberry Letter 23." More than just a long-awaited victory lap, Otis and his band sound like they're having fun and it comes across on this release. ~ Timothy Monger