Like Stevie Wonder and Allen Toussaint before him–and Prince and D'Angelo afterward–Shuggie Otis was a musical visionary whose early 1970s recordings showed he could do it all, writing, arranging, performing, and producing some of the decade's most satisfying, innovative, and, unfortunately, overlooked music. This reissue of his 1974 Inspiration Information album–a soulful song cycle that took three years to create and was worth every minute–ranges from early drum machine-driven experiments like "Xl-30" and "Aht Uh Mi Hed" (note the Sly Stone spelling influence) to Otis's most stunning pop confection ever, "Strawberry Letter 23." (The latter song, which ended up being a big hit for the Brothers Johnson, is one of four bonus tracks taken from Otis's 1971 Freedom Flight album). Otis, who once turned down an offer to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones, continues to perform around the Bay Area on his own and with his father, bandleader Johnny Otis. Hopefully, the long-awaited resurrection of this material will help bring him the attention he deserves.
Jimmy Smith brought the Hammond organ into hard bop and jazz in the 1950s, and his piano-fast solo runs on the instrument have never been equaled. This warm set from Blue Note Records, the label where Smith built most of his impressive legacy, selects eight of his performances for the label, including a 20-minute (and ten second) version of "The Sermon," the bouncing "Back at the Chicken Shack," and a fun romp through "See See Rider," among other delights, making this a quick introduction to the peak creative era of this one-of-a-kind jazz artist's long career.