Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information (2001)

Most of this music (tracks 1-9) was originally released in 1974 with the remaining tracks (10-13) taken from the 1971 album, Freedom Flight.  Here are the original album covers:

Today's compilation CD was issued in 2001 by David Byrne's independent Luaka Bop Records which unfortunately replaced the original cover with a self-consciously retro cover.  That isn't a problem, however, because the music is so good.

This joint is some smooth, delicious '70s California soul/funk.  Some tracks have vocals, others are strictly instrumental.  Shuggie wrote all the music and plays all the instruments (save for the occasional string or wind instrument). The only other person doing that at the time was Stevie Wonder. He can do amazing things with the guitar, being featured as a teenager with Al Kooper's group (legend has it that he turned down a spot in the Rolling Stones not long after this album's 1974 release).  He preferred working alone and took three years to produce this masterwork.  Even though it took three years to produce, Otis was only twenty years old when the album was released.  It's a great example of what can happen when the record company money people get out of an artist's way and let him pursue his creative vision.  Does that happen anymore? 

According to his mother, Shuggie is short for "Sugar."  He is the son of R&B pioneer Johnny Otis.  Shuggie is somewhat of a recluse and hasn't done much musically since this album.  That's a shame.  Our loss.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: The 1974 album peaked at #181

Tracks:  As I always listen to the whole thing in sequence, it's difficult to pick favorites, but I'll try: the title track, Sparkle City, Aht Uh Mi Hed, and Happy House.  The four bonus tracks from Freedom Flight include the original version of Strawberry Letter 23 (a later cover by Brothers Johnson went to #5 in 1977). Also good is the funky Ice Cold Daydream.  The 13 minute title track of Freedom Flight is more free-form jazz in the vein of In A Silent Way.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD:  Like most people, I hadn't heard of Shuggie Otis until this release.  I bought this one on a whim (probably because of this article in The New Yorker), and that impulse really paid off.  I remember turning my friend Jim on to this gem on his back porch as soon as I could get it to him. This still gets a lot of playing time in my life, whether in the truck, office, or my own back porch.

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