Monday, 31 January 2011

"Shuggie’s Boogie: Shuggie Otis Plays The Blues" [aka "Roots N' Blues" from 1994] by SHUGGIE OTIS (March 2009 SPV/Blue Label 'Expanded Edition' CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...We Had A Cooking Little Band...We Had A Lot Of Fun..."

Like most people I came across this superlative guitar player in a roundabout kind of a way – via The Brothers Johnson and their huge Funk/Soul hit of 1977 "Strawberry Letter No. 23" (which Otis wrote). I remember looking at the A&M Records label credit at the time on the BJ album and wondering - who the hell is the funky-sounding Shuggie Otis?

And while this mid-priced UK reissue doesn’t feature Shuggie’s 1971 original of "Strawberry Letter No. 23" (it’s on his 1971 "Freedom Flight" LP – see my review for the "Original Album Classics" 3CD Mini Box Set) – don't let that put you off for a nanosecond. "Shuggie's Boogie: Shuggie Otis Plays The Blues" is a truly stunning CD compilation of his rare and desirable funky blues output in the early Seventies - a proper big daddy bargain at twice the price. There’s a lot to wade through - so let’s get to the jammy details…

UK released March 2009 - "Shuggie's Boogie: Shuggie Otis Plays The Blues" by SHUGGIE OTIS on SPV Records/Blue Label SPV 306422 CD (Barcode 693723064222) is a reissue CD of a 1994 USA Columbia "Roots N' Blues" compilation. It uses the same front-cover artwork and name (though this time it’s in a card digipak rather than a jewel case) - but has had its original quota of 12-tracks bumped up by 2 - meaning that Tracks 13 and 14 here are Bonuses on this 'Extended Edition' reissue. It breaks down as follows (65:16 minutes)

1. 12:15 Slow Goonbash Blues
2. Shuggie's Boogie
3. Gospel Groove
4. The Hawks
5. Me And My Woman
6. I Can Stand To See You Die
7. I Got The Walkin' Blues
8. Purple
9. Cold Shot
10. Sweet Thang
11. Bootie Cooler
12. Shuggie's Old Time Slide Boogie

BONUS TRACKS:
13. Shuggie's Shuffle
14. Oxford Gray

Tracks 1, 12 and 13 are from the AL KOOPER LP "Kooper Session – Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis" released January 1970 in the USA on Columbia Records CS 9951 and in the UK on CBS Records S 63797

Tracks 2, 3, 4, 11 and 14 are from Shuggie Otis' debut solo album "Here Comes Shuggie Otis" released February 1970 on Columbia BN 26511 in the USA and in the UK on CBS Records S 63996

Tracks 6 and 7 are from the JOHNNY OTIS LP (credited as The Johnny Otis Show) "Cuttin' Up" released 1970 in the USA on Epic Records BN 26524. "I Can Stand To See You Die" features Shuggie Otis on Guitar, Bass, Harmonica, Organ and Piano with SUGARCANE HARRIS on solo Lead Vocals. "I Got Walkin' Blues" has the same instrumentation but features duet vocals between Johnny Otis and Sugarcane Harris.

Tracks 5, 8 and 10 are from Shuggie’s 2nd solo LP "Freedom Flight" released September 1971 in the USA on Epic Records KE 30572 [produced by Johnny Otis]

Track 9 is an October 1970 recording featuring Johnny & Shuggie Otis and had remained unreleased until the 1994 "Roots N' Blues" CD compilation

Originally mastered for Columbia by Roger Lomax at Ro-Lo Studios in the USA, the sound quality is uniformly excellent and at times 'so' sweet. But it’s the material that blows you away. His debut "Here Comes Shuggie Otis" is the very definition of lost classic and 'cool album' you must hear before you die.

Musically it’s a little instrumental B.B. King ("Purple") meets trippy Albert King on Stax ("Sweet Thang") meets the straight-up blues workout ("12:15 Slow Goonbash Blues") – it’s hugely impressive stuff and strangely diverse too. The fantastic soulful organ shuffle of "Bootie Cooler" – an instrumental I regularly put on a 70’s Fest CD - always brings customers to the counter asking after the 'cool' tune that’s playing. The false 78" crackle put on "Shuggie’s Old Time Slide Boogie" by Al Kooper in 1970 now sounds a tad gimmicky (even if the old-time National Steel blues guitar feel of the track is great), but it’s quickly sorted out by the organ-guitar driven "Shuggie’s Shuffle" – great stuff.

His 'talking about his influences and past' song "Shuggie's Boogie" (lyrics above) features him name-checking every great Blues player and then imitating their licks for about two minutes before the band kicks in. The track sung by Sugarcane Harris “I Can Stand To See You Die” and the unreleased instrumental cover of “Cold Shot” are more indicative of the Fifties/Sixties Rhythm'n'Blues stuff he would play with his Dad in the mid to late Seventies. Those tracks were issued by Johnny Otis on his own US label and featured huge R'n'B and Blues stars of old (that period is covered extensively on another superb CD called "In Session" from 2002 on the Goldenlane label). "Gospel Groove" sounds like Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac on a churchy tip – a slow-paced Blues groove with organ – 'so' good. And we should make special mention of Otis' incredibly accomplished guitar playing throughout which completely belied his 20 to 21 year’s old age when it was all recorded.

"Shuggie’s Boogie: Shuggie Otis Plays The Blues" is the kind of superlative little reissue that might pass you by – don’t let it. It’s a genuine voyage of discovery for lovers of Seventies Blues – especially those who like their particular poison with a slightly soulful tint. 

Recommended like a preacher feeling the groove on a Sunday morning...

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