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SHUGGIE OTIS at the Phoenix, Sunday, April 14. Rating: NNNN
Shuggie Otis was only 21 when he disappeared from the public eye in the mid-seventies after the release of his influential third album Inspiration Information. Since then, that record has gone on to be seen as a cult masterpiece in psychedelic soul music, and the reclusive singer/guitarist has re-emerged to tour behind a reissue of the legendary disc and a compilation of unreleased material he's been quietly recording in the decades since.
Otis grew up playing R&B onstage with his father as part of the Johnny Otis Show, but his obvious shyness and awkward stage patter between songs at the Phoenix suggests that he never got used to the spotlight (which also gives clues to his lengthy absence from show business). Once he picked up his guitar and started singing though, he seemed right at home. Balancing cosmic funk, elegantly arranged soul, and bouncy blues jams, Otis kept the hip-hop nerds head-nodding and the grey-haired hippies playing air guitar until the house lights went up.