Like Stevie Wonder and Allen Toussaint before him–and Prince and D'Angelo afterward–Shuggie Otis was a musical visionary whose early 1970s recordings showed he could do it all, writing, arranging, performing, and producing some of the decade's most satisfying, innovative, and, unfortunately, overlooked music. This reissue of his 1974 Inspiration Information album–a soulful song cycle that took three years to create and was worth every minute–ranges from early drum machine-driven experiments like "Xl-30" and "Aht Uh Mi Hed" (note the Sly Stone spelling influence) to Otis's most stunning pop confection ever, "Strawberry Letter 23." (The latter song, which ended up being a big hit for the Brothers Johnson, is one of four bonus tracks taken from Otis's 1971 Freedom Flight album). Otis, who once turned down an offer to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones, continues to perform around the Bay Area on his own and with his father, bandleader Johnny Otis. Hopefully, the long-awaited resurrection of this material will help bring him the attention he deserves.
Pianist Otis Spann played in Muddy Waters' band from 1953 to 1970, and was instrumental in creating the electric Chicago blues sound. These 11 tracks were recorded in the mid-'60s by Down Beat magazine editor Pete Welding, and were previously released as Otis Spann's Chicago Blues on Testament Records. This reissue omits the solo Spann material from the original disc and highlights the group recordings featuring S.P. Leary, Johnny Young, James Cotton, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters. While not as revolutionary as the records Spann played on with Muddy in the late '50s, you can't deny this lineup of seminal Chicago bluesmen doing what they did best.
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.
Although Albert King is pictured on the front cover and has the lion's share of tracks on this excellent compilation, six of the fourteen tracks come from Rush's shortlived tenure with the label and are some of his very best. Chronologically, these are his next recordings after the Cobra sides and they carry a lot of the emotional wallop of those tracks, albeit with much loftier production values with much of it recorded in early stereo. Oddly enough, some of the material ("All Your Love," "I'm Satisfied [Keep on Loving Me Baby]") were remakes – albeit great ones – of tunes that Cobra had already released as singles! But Rush's performance of "So Many Roads" (featuring one of the greatest slow blues guitar solos of all time) should not be missed at any cost.
A BRAND NEW ME: ARETHA FRANKLIN WITH THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA pairs classic vocals from some of the most iconic songs that the Queen of Soul recorded for Atlantic Records with new arrangements performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A BRAND NEW ME features Franklin’s instantly recognizable voice woven together with new orchestral arrangements. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded the music at Abbey Road Studios in London, with brand new backing vocals led by Grammy®-winning singer Patti Austin. The result is another timeless record that retains the soul, groove, and gospel power of Franklin’s revered talent. Among the standout tracks are newly re-imagined versions of classics like the Billboard #1 R&B hits “Respect,” “Think,” “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” and “Angel.”
Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, or simply Otis Blue, released September 15, 1965 on Stax Records, is the third studio album by soul singer Otis Redding. The album mainly consists of cover songs by popular R&B and soul artists, and, bar one track, was recorded in a 24-hour period over July 9/10 1965 at the Stax Recording Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Otis Blue was critically acclaimed upon release and became one of Redding's most successful albums; it reached #6 on the UK Albums Chart, and was his first to reach the top spot of the Billboard R&B chart. Furthermore, it produced three popular singles, all charting at least in the top 50 on both the Billboard R&B and the Billboard Hot 100 chart.