Sunday, 3 July 2016

"Freedom Flight" by SHUGGIE OTIS (Inside The 2012 Sony/Epic 'Original Album Classics' 3CD Mini Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Pretty Music I Hear…"

Like most people I came across this superlative American guitarist in a roundabout way - via The Brothers Johnson and their huge Funk/Soul hit of 1977 "Strawberry Letter No. 23" (which Shuggie Otis wrote). That Otis original came off his lesser-seen "Freedom Flight" album from 1971.

This 2012 Mini Box Set from Sony is the first time that three of his fabulous (and rare) Seventies LPs have been brought together in one place - and at a more than reasonable price too. It breaks down as follows...

UK and Europe released Monday 9 January 2012 (17 January 2012 in the USA) - "Original Album Classics" by SHUGGIE OTIS is a 3CD mini box set on Sony/Epic 88691901782 (Barcode 886919017823) and contains three solo LPs from the Seventies in single 5" card repro sleeves. “Freedom Flight” is the second (38:30 minutes):

1. Ice Cold Daydream
2. Strawberry Letter 23
3. Sweet Thang
4. Me And My Woman
5. Someone Always Singing [Side 2]
6. Purple
7. Freedom Flight
Tracks 1 to 7 are his 2nd solo LP "Freedom Flight" - released September 1971 in the USA on Epic Records E 30752. Produced by JOHNNY OTIS - it had no UK release

It doesn't say who remastered these albums or where, but the sound quality is wonderful (probably the 2001 versions). The debut is a little hissy in places as are the beat boxes used as percussion on the 3rd LP "Inspiration Information" (sounds like the back beat used on the Timmy Thomas classic "Why Can't We Live Together"), but other than that it all sounds so much better than other releases I have of the same material. The bass in particular is so sweet and by the time you get to the improved production qualities of the second and third LPs - the audio quality is great. And as with all of these "Original Classic Albums" 3/5 CD mini box sets, the lyrics and recording details are downloadable from Sony's website [...]

His 2nd solo LP "Freedom Flight" is the one that will interest Soul Boys who like their Blues and Rock with a slightly trippy even spacey feel. It has only 7 tracks because its title song is a 13-minute instrumental that sounds like Jazz meets Blues meets Mellow meets Santana - it's 'so' good. "Purple" is a very B.B. King number, while it gets a little Stax funky with the superb "Sweet Thang" which opens the album. "Me And My Woman" is a Gene Barge song once covered by Albert King - and of course there's the brilliant "Strawberry Letter 23" (lyrics above) that still sounds effortlessly cool to this day. In fact "Freedom Flight" was a huge leap forward from the first album and featured high-profile guests included Jazz fusionist George Duke, the drummer Aynsley Dunbar, his dad Johnny Otis and Wilton Felder of The Crusaders.

Niggles - as I mentioned above - his first LP was "Kooper Session..." on Epic and combining that with the rare "Cuttin' Up" album by The Johnny Otis Show (which featured Shuggie) - this could have been a gobsmacking 5CD mini box set, but that would probably have been cost prohibitive. Other than that - like the dinky 3CD Fleetwood Mac box in this series - this is a peach of a release and finally makes music available to the masses that should be heard by the same.

To sum up - part Blues, part Soul, Rock, Acid House and Soulful - Shuggie Otis' music has always been hard to pigeonhole and all the better for it.

So - if you haven't heard his catalogue before, I urge you to take on a chance on this. It's a genuine voyage of discovery - especially if you like your Blues, R'n'B and Soul poison with a slightly spacey tint.

Fabarooney people – and easily a 2012 'Reissue of the Year' for me... 

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