Shuggie Otis – Live in Williamsburg | Album Review

shuggieotiscdShuggie Otis – Live in Williamsburg

Cleopatra Records – 2014

12 tracks; 67 minutes

Shuggie Otis, son of legendary bandleader Johnny, was a ‘child prodigy’ in the late sixties, recording with Al Kooper and making two solo albums before disappearing from sight for almost forty years until a 2013 re-release of his seminal album “Inspiration Information” alongside new material that Shuggie had written over the intervening years.  With renewed interest in his music Shuggie toured again and this album was recorded at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY.  The band here is Shuggie on guitar and lead vocals, his son Eric on second guitar, his brother Nick on drums, James Manning on bass, Russ ‘Swang’ Stewart on keys and vocals, Larry Douglas on trumpet, flugelhorn and vocals, Albert Wing on tenor sax and Michael Turre on baritone sax, flute, piccolo and vocals.  The material is all original apart from one cover and covers material from Shuggie’s earlier career as well as his new CD.

The style of music here harks back to the larger urban soul bands of the seventies such as Earth, Wind And Fire or The Brothers Johnson.  Shuggie’s guitar has a fuzzed tone and the keys are very synthesiser-like throughout, rather typical of that era.  The horns supply some good support.  The following tracks were the standouts for this reviewer:

Track 2 “Tryin’ To Get Close To You” is a love ballad with the horns and the bass in close support to Shuggie’s vocal lines.

Track 5 Gene Barge’s “Me And My Woman” is a blues, recorded by John Mayall on the “Crusade” album with Mick Taylor on guitar.  Shuggie sings this one well and the horns do a good job, the bass lines doubled up on bari sax very effectively as Shuggie plays some blissed out guitar.

Track 8 “Picture Of Love” is a shuffle with some solid guitar from Shuggie, again in that fuzztone style he favors.  The horns honk away during Shuggie’s solo and the bari sax again works very effectively at the bottom end.

Track 12 “Strawberry Letter 23” is apparently one of the most sampled songs of all times!  Not sure why that is the case but here it is a pleasant tune with flute alongside the sax and trumpet and plenty of good harmonies to provide a nice finale to the show.

Those who took an interest in Shuggie’s earlier career will undoubtedly enjoy hearing how he has developed over the years. A DVD version is also due out to accompany the audio CD.

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