Inspiration Information

Inspiration Information

5.0 7
by Shuggie Otis
     
 

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Hailed as the most important reissue of 2001, the lost album by Shuggie Otis -- teenage guitar virtuoso and son of West Coast chitlin' circuit czar Johnny Otis -- lives up to the hype. Inspiration Information is nothing short of a '70s psychedelic pop Rosetta Stone, imprinted with all of the ingredients that, three decades later,See more details below

Overview

Hailed as the most important reissue of 2001, the lost album by Shuggie Otis -- teenage guitar virtuoso and son of West Coast chitlin' circuit czar Johnny Otis -- lives up to the hype. Inspiration Information is nothing short of a '70s psychedelic pop Rosetta Stone, imprinted with all of the ingredients that, three decades later, would become totems of the alternative soul and down-tempo electronica movements. Recorded in the same heady era as Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Bob Marley's Burnin', and Sly Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On (all of which could make up the secret-history soundtrack to your average music hipster's first birthday party), Inspiration Information makes the best transition from dusty vinyl to au courant club music. It's as lush as Gaye (minus the dated Vietnam trappings), as funky as Sly (subtract the anachronistic militant vibe), and as stanky as Marley, hanging like a haze of indo smoke without the Rasta obscurantism. No wonder neo-soul and hip-hop lights from the Roots to D'Angelo to OutKast have pledged allegiance to Otis's gem. The icing on the cake is the delectable rarity of the disc; it circulated as a favorite of English soul DJs before being picked up by David Byrne's eclectic Luaka Bop bunch. Otis, who was tapped as a possible replacement for Stones guitarist Mick Taylor (he declined), saw his star ascendant in the early '70s, performing with Frank Zappa, Al Kooper, and his father's bands at the tender age of 15. But studio perfectionism and a smorgasbord of drugs delayed the completion of Inspiration Information, and the album, along with Otis's career, slipped into oblivion. Emerging more than 25 years later are some of the earliest experiments with electronic rhythm (on "XL-30" and "Pling"), a genre-bounding sensibility that straddles rock, soul, and funk with a facility nearly impossible today, and one bona fide hit, "Strawberry Letter 23," a platinum single for the Brothers Johnson in 1977 (and sampled on OutKast's masterful Stankonia). A perfect rainy-day suite of intimate soul (notably the classic "Aht Uh Mi Head") punctuated by bursts of soaring psychedelia (on the fiery "Ice Cold Daydream"), Inspiration could easily be an Afro counterpart to Air, or even Beck's next incarnation. Obviously, the world has been waiting for Shuggie Otis -- even if we never knew it.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide
Ignored upon its release in 1975 and celebrated upon its reissue in 2001, Shuggie Otis' fourth and last album Inspiration Information exists out of time -- a record that was of its time, but didn't belong of it; a record that was idiosyncratic and in but not necessarily visionary. It was \psychedelic \soul that was released far too late to be part of any zeitgeist and it was buried at the time. Yet no matter what Luaka Bop's grand poobah David Byrne claims on the sticker. He says Shuggie's "trippy \R&B jams are equal to Marvin's and Curtis', but somehow more contemporary sounding...closer to D'Angelo meets DJ Shadow." That's occasionally true, such as on the rolling head trip "XL-30," but it really sounds like Shadow because it's the kind of groove he'd sample and build on, as do the slow, liquid instrumental head trips. Perhaps that's why it can seem more contemporary -- contemporary ears are more attuned to these relaxed, warmly trippy soundscapes. Otis crafted all of this essentially alone, playing each instrument himself, and it's quite clearly a reflection of his inner psyche, and no matter how much it floats and skates upon its own sound, it's a welcoming, inviting sound. But, no matter how much the partisans claim -- and their effusive praise is plastered all over the liner notes, with Sean O'Hagan claiming that it shocks you out of a rut, Stereolab's Tim Gane says it is "almost like a new style of music that could've developed but never did" -- this isn't revolutionary, even if it's delightfully idiosyncratic. So, don't fall for the hyperbole. This isn't an album that knocks your head off -- it's subtle, intricate music that's equal parts head music and elegant \funk, a record that slowly works its way under your skin. Part of the reason it sounds so intriguing in 2001 is that there just aren't that many musicians that doggedly pursue their individual vision while retaining a sense of focus. But it isn't a record without precedent, nor is it startling. It's a record for people that have heard a lot of music, maybe too much, and are looking for a new musical romance. [Luaka Bop's reissue contains four fine bonus tracks, including the original version of "Strawberry Letter 23," which the Brothers Johnson later had a hit with. The reissue also replaces the original cover -- which is nowhere to be seen in the liner notes -- with a "hip," self-consciously retro cover. Also, it has put in the "World Psychedelic Classics" with Os Mutantes, which is slightly misleading and a little unsettling -- with that subheading, there's just a little too much self-conscious, scholarly distance at play.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
Billboard
Unbelievably wonderful

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Product Details

Release Date:
11/10/2009
Label:
Hi Horse Records
UPC:
0725543288912
catalogNumber:
7472850
Rank:
42691

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Shuggie Otis   Primary Artist,Organ,Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Drums,Vocals,Background Vocals,Vibes,sleigh bells,Bottleneck Guitar,Orchestra Bells,Tack Piano
Johnny Otis   Percussion,Background Vocals
George Duke   Organ,Celeste,Electric Piano
Rockie Robbins   Trumpet
Aynsley Dunbar   Drums
Richard Aplanalp   Oboe,Tenor Saxophone
James Bradshaw   Background Vocals
Wilton Felder   Bass
Jackie Kelso   Flute,Saxophone
Mike Kowalski   Drums
Jeff Martney   Horn
Barbara Porter   Strings
Jim Pringle   Trombone
Carol Robbins   Harp
Curt Sletten   Trumpet
Doug Wintz   Trombone
L. Rosen   Strings
Ronny Robbins   Trumpet
Marcia Zeavin   Strings
Jeffrey Martinez   French Horn
Brian Asher   Strings
D. Jones   Strings
S. Boone   Strings
J. Parker   Strings
N. Roth   Strings
T. Ziegler   Strings
S. Boones   Strings
Jim "Supe" Bradshaw   Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Johnny Otis   Producer,Engineer,Executive Producer
David Byrne   Executive Producer
Shuggie Otis   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Executive Producer
Bobby Bloom   Engineer
Bob Breault   Engineer
Yale Evelev   Executive Producer
Willie Greer   Engineer
Sean O'Hagan   Author
Nicky Otis   Engineer
George Beauregard   Engineer
Patrick Forge   Liner Notes
L. Rosen   String Arrangements
Rob Di Stefano   Engineer
Marcia Zeavin   String Arrangements
James Sullivan   Liner Notes,Story
Gilles Peterson   Author
Winston Cenac   Original Liner Notes
T.E. St. John   Art Direction

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