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Check It Out

Check It Out!: July 19, 2013

Shuggie Otis —

Inspiration Information +

Wings of Love


The third album released by former guitar-playing savant Shuggie Otis, Inspiration Information was originally released in 1974. Even though Otis was only 21 when this outing hit the racks, he “retired” after his befuddled label couldn’t quite figure out what to do with this project that emerged after the prodigy spent three years in the studio playing every instrument. A gorgeously atmospheric collection of R&B songs, allegedly Sly Stone’s jaw dropped when he heard the results. With better marketing, it wouldn’t be hard to have seen it being mentioned in the same breath as what Stone, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were doing at the time. As such, the Brothers Johnson had a 1977 Top 5 hit with Otis’s “Strawberry Letter 23” (recorded for his 1971 sophomore outing Freedom Flight). Moreover, the son of trailblazing R&B bandleader Johnny Otis blazed the trail for Prince and later on, the neo-soul movement of the mid to late ’90s.

The rapturous reception it received when David Byrne’s Luaka Bop imprint reissued it back in 2001 gave it second life and wound up getting sampled by Beyonce and late hip-hop artist J Dilla. This recent version not only swaps out some of the bonus tracks (four previously unreleased cuts for the quartet of Flight songs on the 2001 version), but also includes Wings of Love, a combination of material meant for Inspiration’s follow-up and others recorded in the decades following.

Aided by a Rhythm King drum machine first used on Freedom Flight, (and which can also be heard on Sly Stone’s 1971 gem “Family Affair”), Otis incorporated plenty of languid funk grooves and wah-wah guitar into ear worms like the slow strut “Sparkle City,” seductive Quiet Storm title cut and “Aht Uh Mi Head,” where the drum machine is right upfront as Otis drops in strings and deftly-executed horn arrangements. Elsewhere, Otis’s experimentation found him dabbling with salsa rhythms and off-kilter organ runs (“XL-30”), coming up with quasi-blaxploitation instrumentals (“Rainy Day”) and funky ballads with jerky rhythms (“Sparkle City”).

While Wings of Love (WOL) is more stylistically far-flung, it’s no less intriguing. “Fireball of Love” (1977) finds Otis feeding monstrous guitar riffs into a disco-like shuffle while “Special” (1980) marinates in Bootsy Collins-sized funk rhythms and the atmospherically synthy “If You’d Be Mine” (1987) is practically a nod to spiritual godson Prince. The combination of Inspiration Information and WOL is a treasure trove of genius and not only a glimpse into the mind of a musical genius, but what might have been.

July 19


Great South Bay Music Festival @ Shorefront Park Smith Street. Friday, 4:30 -11 p.m.; Saturday, Noon-11 p.m.; Sunday, Noon-9 p.m. $83 (3-day pass), $35 GA. $31 Seniors/Students/Patchogue Village Residents (1-day pass). 631-331-0808

In past years, the Great South Bay Music Festival has featured performances by a mix of national and local acts. Expect more of the same from this slate of performers that includes Electric Hot Tuna, The Doobie Brothers, Billy Squier, Soulive, Jerry Douglas Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Steve Forbert, James Maddock, Amy Helm Band, Kerry Kearney Band, Antigone Rising and more. (Through July 21)

July 20


Heckscher Park Folk Festival

Main Street and Prime Avenue, Noon-8:30 p.m. Free.

The Eighth Annual Folk Festival with Yonkers-based Americana outfit Spuyten Devil serving as the day’s headliners. Earlier in the day, attendees will be entertained by a wide array of local talent including The YaYas, Bob Westcott, Marci Geller, Josh Joffen to name a few.

Perpetual motion, thy name is Blake Shelton. The man Miranda Lambert gets to call hubby has had a way busy year so far between his role as a judge/mentor on The Voice, spearheading the Healing in the Heartland: Relief Benefit Concert back in May and the release of Based On a True Story …, his eighth studio album two months prior.

With Easton Corbin and Jana Kramer.