In the heart of Times Square, tourists and fans alike came out to see Shuggie Otis perform a very funky set at BB King’s on Thursday night (pictured). Check out more photos at PopMatters and read their perfect score review of Inspiration Information/Wings Of Love! The album is available now at Amazon and iTunes.
Shuggie Otis recently spoke with MTV Hive about how it feels to be a comeback kid twice now, at age 59, and how he works on his music:
“I still love music. I was doing [Inspiration Information] because it was the first time I’d ever written for myself. I had mostly been on my father’s albums more and what not, but I’d never done an album for myself. And I was falling in love with jazz and classical, with composers as much as the blues and all the other people in my life. I started to come up with an idea, not purposefully; I wasn’t like, I’m going to write this and it’s going to sound like this. No — I would just come down, and it would all come down to my head, something like that, and then I put it down.”
“So that’s the way I write. I don’t play anything for anyone. If I don’t like it, I won’t let anyone hear it until it’s done. Not everything I like is great; I just don’t let anyone hear what I don’t want them to hear. They might think it’s great, horrible — doesn’t matter. If I like it, then I’ll let somebody hear it and it’ll come out. So finally I get this album out, so that’s great. It was really a labor of love. … You know I’ve done a lot for others over the years, but when you do something with your name on it, you know it’s a whole different thing too. You know, you want to look good. You want to sound good.”
Read the complete interview at MTV Hive.
From Popdose: Wings of Love proves that while Otis may have disappeared from releasing albums, he didn’t stop recording music. More importantly, he didn’t stop recording good music. Some songs are a direct progression from the sound of Inspiration Information. “Special,” the album’s opening track, plugs right into the uptempo pop/funk of Prince’s first two albums … while “Tryin’ to Get Close to You” is a close relative of “Strawberry Letter 23,” the Otis-penned song that became a hit for The Brothers Johnson in 1978. Shuggie flexes his ballad skills on “Walkin’ Down the Country,” which suggests the influence of vocal groups like The Stylistics or The Delfonics, mixed with the symphonic pop of Burt Bacharach.
As evidenced by his recent performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (with house band The Roots) and interviews with magazines like Wax Poetics, Shuggie’s never lost the fire in his belly or his music-making acuity. One hopes that the release of Inspiration Information/Wings Of Love signals not only a broader appreciation, but a new beginning, for an artist way ahead of his time.
Read the complete Inspiration Information/Wings Of Love review at Popdose.
Shuggie Otis was in excellent form Wednesday in front of a full house. Long gone is the extravagant Afro he sported in the ‘70s, but there was still a touch of flamboyance as frilly shirt sleeves spilled from beneath his black jacket. He was supported by a seven-piece band that included his brother Nick on drums and his son Eric on guitar. But the dominant feature of the lineup was a three-piece horn section, which gave much of the set a brassy R&B swagger that Johnny Otis surely would have loved.
The set was about evenly divided between blues songs and Inspiration Information-era tracks. The more traditional material, including a cover of Gene Barge’s “Me and My Woman,” the simmering “Sweet Thang” and “Picture of Love,” allowed Otis to repay his debt to Chicago blues. The formidable skills he flashed as a teenage guitar prodigy remained intact: his patience, his acutely bittersweet tone, the way he structured his solos to suggest a story rather than just a blur of notes.
Photo credit: Shuggie Otis performs on stage at the Jazz Cafe last year in London. (Caitlin Mogridge, Redferns via Getty Images)