Shuggie Otis: 40 Years Later, Still An 'Inspiration' A generation ago, the reclusive soul singer and guitarist released what would become his most acclaimed album, Inspiration Information. A new reissue brings the classic LP together with 25 years' worth of unreleased material.
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Shuggie Otis: 40 Years Later, Still An 'Inspiration'

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Shuggie Otis: 40 Years Later, Still An 'Inspiration'

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Music Reviews

Shuggie Otis: 40 Years Later, Still An 'Inspiration'

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Guitarist Shuggie Otis is back. The height of his recording career hit 40 years ago with an album called "Inspiration Information" that won critical praise and some rabid fans. He was just a teenager. And while he has continued to work and play with other musicians since then, a follow-up album of his own never materialized.

Now, Sony Records has re-released "Inspiration Information," along with 25 years' worth of unreleased material. Reviewer Oliver Wang has been soaking it in.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

OLIVER WANG, BYLINE: This isn't the first time Shuggie Otis' masterpiece, "Inspiration Information," has been reissued, but that's OK. It's an album that absolutely deserves to be rediscovered every decade or so.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INSPIRATION INFORMATION")

WANG: The album stands out because of how seamlessly it blends different musical styles. Otis lays his light tenor vocals over sunshiney pop production, but also growling funk grooves and most notably, many songs carry the soft punch of early analog drum machines.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AHT UH MI HED")

WANG: "Inspiration Information" was a coming-of-age album for Shuggie, the first LP he produced without the oversight of his father, legendary R&B impresario Johnny Otis. The new reissue gives us a sneak peek into four unreleased songs from a few years earlier, where you can hear an 18-year-old Shuggie tinker with what would become the album's musical blueprint. At the very least, young Otis was a big fan of Sly & the Family Stone's pop-funk innovations.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WANG: We also get a glimpse into Shuggie Otis' unheard future. Between the mid-'70s through 2000, Otis barely released anything, but the reissue comes with the companion compilation of 14 songs rescued from the vaults. Many of them sound unfinished and all over the place but if nothing else, we discover that Otis could have had a successful early '80s career recording yacht-rock tunes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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