After listening to this double CD it becomes clear that Mr Otis is a bona fide genius.
Californian classically-trained multi-instrumentalist and all-round legend of funk, soul and blues, Shuggie Otis had a sparkling career in the late 60s and early 70s that saw him performing and recording with a diverse range of artists such as Frank Zappa, Etta James, Richard Berry and Al Kooper, as well as releasing his own ground-breaking and highly influential albums.
Despite this early success, Otis struggled to gain a foothold in the industry after 1974, which seems particularly odd when you consider that he was so acclaimed that the Rolling Stones had been keen for him to join the band, an offer that he turned down. If you have never encountered Otis’s music before you’ll be blown away by this generous double-CD set that includes Otis’s third album Inspiration Information, which was originally released in October 1974, a quartet of bonus tracks plus Wings of Love, which compiles the artist’s unreleased work spanning the period 1975-2000.
Otis’s guitar playing is a fluid delight throughout these discs and his dreamy vocals perfectly complement the warm grooves and thoughtful arrangements. Otis, who plays guitar, bass, organ, piano, vibes and percussion, creates such a richly textured sound that the listening experience is totally absorbing. It’s tempting to replay the tracks multiple times simply to catch all the interesting and subtle sounds and melodic twists that may have been missed by the ear on previous listens. This is headphone music at its attention-grabbing best. If you like your funk smooth and silky check out the sublime ‘Special’ recorded in 1980, which glides upon an irresistible groove. Other highlights include the stellar guitar solos and impassioned vocals that soar throughout the epic ‘Wings of Love’ and the effortless groove that pumps through ‘Destination You!’.
BY GRAHAM BLACKLEY
Inspiration Information & Wings Of Love is out now through Epic Records.