Inspiration Information (Luaka Bop / Virgin)
Reviewed by Kate X Messer, Fri., July 13, 2001
Shuggie Otis Inspiration Information (Luaka Bop/Virgin)
Had 1974 only known what its Billboard legacy was to be, it might have killed itself, perhaps sparing the world "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" and "Seasons in the Sun." In 1974, Duke Ellington died, and the Stones lost Mick Taylor and invited young soul virtuoso Shuggie Otis to fill in. He declined. Son of blues legend Johnny Otis, Shuggie was only 15 when fellow West Coast musicians began to compare the prodigy to Hendrix and Sly Stone, and merely 16 when he played on Zappa's Hot Rats. In his early 20s, Shuggie produced two solo projects, playing all instruments, writing all songs. Released in 1974, Inspiration Information remains another reason why that year should hang its head in shame: Nobody heard it. One listen to this reissued treasure offers a glimpse at what could have been, had Curtis Mayfield, William DeVaughn, and Miles Davis ruled the pop charts in 1974. They didn't, and neither would Shuggie's experimental soul psychedelia. The world would have to wait a few years for the Brothers Johnson to make a platinum hit out of his genre-bending, pre-trip-hop jazz blaster "Strawberry Letter 23" until the Eighties for Prince to take the funk throne and another decade or two for the rest of pop to catch up to electronica. Shuggie's work stands as the missing link between that magical period of early Seventies soul and today's sensual electronic wonder groove, something 1974 can hold its head up and be proud of.