Shuggie Otis: Freedom Flight (1971)

Despite the not-unfair characterization of most of my musical taste by a friend that resulted in the title of this blog, I've noted before that I'm a sucker for early 70s funk.  And Shuggie Otis is one of my favorite performers of the genre, though he manages to squeeze a surprising variety of styles into this album (as well as its equally epic follow-up, 1974's wonderful Inspiration Information).

Opening track "Ice Cold Daydream" is a punchy, pithy slice of funky pop, sporting some terrific guitar.  That's quickly topped by Otis' finest and best-known track, "Strawberry Letter 23" (later popularized by the Brothers Johnson in their 1977 hit version, sampled to great effect by Girl Talk, and these days an occasional part of Phish's live sets), an infectious and memorable tune that sounds like a late 60s psychedelic-soul throwback.

After that you get a number of bluesier numbers, slow-burning grooves with, per usual, absolutely stellar guitar jams with tinges of psychedelia. "Sweet Thing" is slow and trippy and hypnotic, "Me and My Woman" more traditional funky blues.  Keeping things diverse, the album closes with a lengthy jazz exploration, the spaced-out title track; followed by some straight-up bluesy rock & roll in "One Room Country Shack," accentuated by some freaky crybaby guitar acrobatics.

It's a great album, one which deserves a lot more credit for its willingness to push genre boundaries and arrive at an always-fascinating hodge-podge of jazz/blues/funk/rock. 

Here's Shuggie performing "Strawberry" live a few years back:
And here's another recent performance, a dynamic run through "Ice Cold Daydream" with some extended (and breathtaking) jams.  Jeez...