If a musical genius makes a masterpiece that goes relatively unheard for decades, how will the disc sound when put up against a different tapestry of new artists, pop forms, and trends? In the case of Shuggie Otis, his lost 1974 sophomore album Inspiration Information sounds fresher than anyone could have imagined. A true prodigy, Otis wrote and played just about everything on the record while still only in his late teens. Though his song "Strawberry Letter 23" became a hit for The Brothers Johnson, Otis' own music made him a hit among his talented peers. Inspiration Information actually stands on par with the '70s statements and staples made by Stevie Wonder or Sly Stone (think There's A Riot Goin' On). Using then-nascent drum-machine technology and taking a dreamy approach to songs and arrangements, Otis managed to make an album that was not only ahead of its time, but ahead of this time, too. "Sparkle City" and the title track spin irresistibly idiosyncratic grooves, while "Aht Un Mi Hed" and "XL-30" drift by like psychedelic roller-rink music at half speed—Sly Stone meets Sun Ra. As a bonus, this reissue contains four songs from Otis' first record, Freedom Flight, including a rendition of "Strawberry Letter 23" recorded when he was just 16. Any similarities between that song and OutKast's "Ms. Jackson" are, of course, purely coincidental, but if there's any justice in the world, Shuggie Otis should share even a fraction of the success enjoyed by Atlanta's finest.
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