Blues 'n Soul Masters Revisited: Ann Peebles, Shuggie Otis

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I Can't Stand The Rain, Ann Peebles - I only recently got turned on to Ann Peeble's music, another great soul singer (like Bettye LaVette, who I have reported on elsewhere) whose career has been overshadowed by others for one reason or another. Thus I was pleased to recently find a nice reissue on the great Fat Possum Records label of her 1974 breakthrough (it reached #25 on the US R&B album charts according to the Wiki) called I Can't Stand the Rain. It is a fine album of swampy Memphis soul recorded by the late, great Willie Mitchell for Hi Records back in the day. 

What does the music on this album sound like?  Quite honestly, it plays a whole lot like an Al Green record of the period - whom Mitchell also produced and was also on the Hi label - except with Peeble's soulful, heart breaking voice in place instead of Green's lilt. Mitchell's imprint is pretty significant to acknowledge -- some 35 years hence he recorded a late period Solomon Burke album (Nothing's Impossible, 2010) to similar great effect. This is great stuff if you like the Memphis sound.

I happen to love that sound!

This album is home to the original version of "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," a classic tune which some of you may remember from singer Paul Young's hit cover in the mid '80s. Deep tracks like "You've Got to Feed the Fire" ring true, pure and sultry.

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Like the Fat Possum pressing of Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up On Me (2002), the vinyl on this Ann Peebles album sounds really nice and dead quiet, letting the music jump out at you. It will push your speakers with warm, thumpy, vintage swamp grooves, vintage bass and guitar amp tones and heart-wrenching string arrangements.

If you have heard any of Bettye LaVette's great comeback albums on Anti Records (particularly I've Got My Own Hell To Raise), you'll probably like this album. It comes with a decent sounding 256 kbps MP3 download too which will be fine for car listening or on your earbuds. Grab it over at Fat Possum's website

http://www.fatpossum.com/artists/ann-peebles

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Here Comes Shuggie Otis - For years I'd heard about the guitar genius Shuggie Otis, but only knew of  his playing from two sources: his bass work on Frank Zappa's Hot Rats album ("Peaches en Regalia) and on a wacky fun bargain bin album I picked up in NY years ago called Preston Love's Omaha Barbeque. Maybe I needed to look harder but I never seemed to find any of Shuggie's own albums anywhere, of if I did I blew them off due to steep collector's shop pricing gouging.

Thus I was pleased to find one of the recent 180-gram reissue's of Shuggie's catalog in a bargain clearance bin at Salzer's Records in Ventura, California on the day after Record Store Day. For $8.50, I was happy to take a chance on it (the regular price was a reasonable $12.99).

The music on Here Comes Shuggie Otis -- his first album, made in 1969 -- is an interesting mixed-bag of soul-rock songwriting and blues jams, with some surprises of bravado production replete with strings, horns and even a harpsichord. At this young age (he was around 16 or so when this album was made!) its hard to judge his undeveloped vocal style fairly. However, his playing is solid and informed, no doubt, playing with the authority of a much more seasoned player sounding at times like Eric Clapton and BB King. I'll be giving Shuggie more air time soon but this is an interesting record.

The pressing is not bad and for the price I'm cool with it but it does have a surprising amount of surface noise on it. It does however feature a period accurate yellow Epic Records label and original album art. To that, while I've never seen an original pressing of this album, it does seem to have that look of being a copy from a printed source such as a pristine original album. This is pure conjecture on my part. But, the text looks a little blurry and the color printing less distinct.

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Anyhow, if you are curious, for this sort of reasonable price its cool to check out Shuggie's early works, especially now that he is out of retirement and apparently touring again.

For more information on Shuggie, visit his website at:

http://www.shuggieotismusic.com

 

Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com.  He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written. www.smotroff.com

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