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One of the greatest albums you probably never heard is Inspiration Information by Shuggie Otis. If you’re a fan of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and the great Stevie Wonder albums of the 70s (Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life, whew!) you must listen to Inspiration Information. You will love it.
Shuggie is the son of R&B pioneer Johnny Otis who was sometimes called the Godfather of R&B because of his Zelig like appearances in the careers and recordings of most of the giants of the genre.
Shuggie is a multi-instrumentalist but is best known for his prowess on guitar. That led him to work with Al Kooper on Kooper Session (another album worth searching out) that was the follow up to the original Super Session with Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield, and Frank Zappa on Hot Rats as a 16 year old.
His second solo album – Freedom Flight (1971) – contained the great “Strawberry Flight 23” that was covered by the Brothers Johnson in 1977 and ran up the Billboard Hot 100 all the way to #5, #1 on the Soul charts.
Inspiration Information was released in 1974. Like Stevie Wonder of that era, Otis adopted a DIY ethic and played almost every instrument on the record himself. Musically, the album was a bit ahead of its time with the use of a Rhythm King analog drum machine. The overall effect is to station him as the missing link between Hendrix (or maybe Sly Stone) and Prince.
The title song was released as a single but only touched #56 on the R&B charts and never scared the pop charts. The album sales were poor too, so Epic dropped Otis who went dark for most of the next 40 years.
Enjoy… until next week.