|Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 03 April 2001|
Luka Bop, 2001
| Performance 8 | Sound 8 |
Sometimes construction of music history looks like one big lost and found bin, with but a few treasures amidst a pile that is mostly junk. One such misplaced jewel, though, is Inspiration Information, a newly rereleased mid-seventies funk exploration by guitar prodigy Shuggie Otis, son of soul legend Johnny Otis.
Shuggie Otis was called a contemporary of Sly Stone at the time, and sounds eerily like that funkster on the tick-tocking gentle groove of "Aht Uh Mi Hed," but he lacks Stone's later period cynicism.
Funk archeologists may already be somewhat familiar with Otis' work, as his "Strawberry Letter 23" became a hit for the Brothers
Johnson. Sugarcoated with sweets-centered lyrics, it has an almost magical chiming quality to it. The tune is highlighted by jangling percussion and treated electric guitar arpeggios, which bring to mind the Isley Brothers during their watermark "Who's That Lady" period.
But Otis was getting signals from almost every musical planet, beyond just the funk solar system, as "Freedom Flight" channels hints of Miles Davis' early jazz fusion experiments, and "Sweet Thang" reaches all the way back to the blues for its stylistic inspiration.
Although Inspiration Information has a dated-by-its-musical-period sound (a sound still well worth revisiting, by the way), LuakaBop has done a marvelous job transferring this old platter onto CD. Since it began as an outgrowth of Otis' own neurotic perfectionism, its foundation is already built on good stock.
Obviously, there are plenty of solid bass grooves here, but Otis (who apparently played the most of these instruments) also adds an abundance of jazzy guitar, soulful sax and even unobtrusive drum machine parts. It's sure to keep more than just your woofers busy while it plays.
Funk has always been party music, but Otis' album reveals a keen musical intelligence, one that reaches well behind that genre's bass values - even after all these years.