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.
A recording of an historic concert, released for the first time! This 1940 concert was part of a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States. Performing are the legendary Golden Gate Quartet with Josh White, singing Spirituals, Blues and Work Songs. The concert features commentary by Alan Lomax, the poet Sterling Brown, and Alain Locke, the godfather of the Harlem Renaissance. Immediately after this concert, Eleanor Roosevelt engaged White and the Golden Gate to perform at FDR’s inauguration.
A few years after the release of her fourth album with Verve, a gospel-themed set of reinterpretations titled Fellowship, Lizz Wright signed to the Concord label with an eye toward concentrating on original material. The vocalist made a connection with veteran multi-instrumentalist and producer Larry Klein and recorded Freedom & Surrender with a stable backing band that included drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, percussionist Pete Korpela, bassist Dan Lutz, guitarist Dean Parks, and keyboardists Pete Kuzma and Billy Childs. For most listeners, the change of label and mostly new set of supporting musicians will seem transparent. Like Wright's previous albums, Freedom & Surrender is graceful and exacting, yet those qualities come across in a fashion that does not seem deliberate – remarkable for material that draws from folk, blues, jazz, soul, and gospel and often fuses two or more of those genres. Longtime collaborator Toshi Reagon contributes only two songs, "Freedom" and "Surrender," but they neatly begin and end the album in spirited and assured form. David Batteau and Jesse Harris separately collaborated with Wright and sometimes Klein on the writing of seven selections.