Handy two-for-one deal on leftfield psych-funk obscurities
The reissue of 1974’s audacious Inspiration Information a couple of years ago suddenly brought Shuggie Otis to a new audience. How had this teenage modernist, an obvious precursor to Prince and Andre 3000, and one who had rejected the opportunity to join the Stones when Mick Taylor left, fallen out of view?
By choice, it seems. Otis retired in his early 20s, leaving only four albums, of which Inspiration Information was the last. 1969’s Here Comes Shuggie Otis was the second, recorded when he was 16 with the assistance of his father, bluesman Johnny Otis. Split between sometimes baroque blues instrumentals and frail psychedelic pop, it portrays a teenager grappling with eclectic influences, but not quite gelling them together. 1970’s Freedom Flight is more organic, with Otis often coming on like a sweeter, more vulnerable Hendrix. Glimpses, too, of Inspiration Information’s magical oddness, in the paisley-patterned reverie of “Strawberry Letter 23”.