Written by 6:18 am Audiophile Music

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

Mark Smotroff Looks at two releases that should be in your collection…



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I Can’t Stand The Rain, Ann PeeblesI 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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