When an album is described to me as a “cult classic”, just as INSPIRATION INFORMATION was, alarm bells start ringing. A now overused term for pretentious art people don’t actually like, however listen to in order to be perceived as cool, hipster and have a certain edge, cult classics often lead to a disappointing listen. Therefore, when I first played Shuggie Otis’ third album, I approached it with a certain amount of caution. However, as soon as the first and title track Inspiration Information hit, I knew this would be different.
The album is quintessential 70s psychedelic funk, with popping basslines and beats that you can’t sit still to. The album still retains clear Motown roots however, with Otis’ vocals reminiscent of Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder, despite the instrumentation being similar to that of Funkadelic or The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Whilst I usually like albums to take me on a journey with the artist, I had no qualm with the ‘peak and trough’ nature of the INSPIRATION INFORMATION track list and, with exception to the strange and rather unfitting filler track XL-30, whose synthesisers interrupted the natural, earthy feel of the album, I enjoyed both the upbeat and more emotionally driven tracks on the album. With several tracks taking different genres, there is something for every listener, from hardcore soul, interspersed jazz masterpieces and earthy blues tunes with classic Hendrix psychedelic edge; Shuggie Otis manages to deliver a rounded experience of 70s music, without the pretention I originally expected. A classic example of what psychedelic funk is meant to be; fun but cool, simplistic but musically complex and an easy listen, INSPIRATION INFORMATION bridges the gap between psychedelic funk and soul and the psychedelic rock of Hendrix, creating a spiritual experience for a listener transporting them to 1970s California better than most albums from the genre I have heard previously. The work of Shuggie Otis is criminally underrated in music history, and it is certainly undeserving of the way that Epic Records, the label he was working with, dropped Otis shortly after its release.
I challenge any reader not to start moving their body to the album, in particular Sparkle City, Not Available and Ice Cold Daydream (a personal favourite). Strap on your platforms, pull up your flares and put your tie-die shirt, and get ready to be transported back to the 70s. Is the album a 70s funk classic? No. Does Shuggie Otis deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder or Jimi Hendrix? For me, not quite. However, the album flows to near perfection and includes some hidden gems if you are willing to give it a listen.
Overall, the album exceeded my expectations avoiding the trap of the cult classic. Whilst no tracks particularly set the world alight, there is a consistent flow every good album needs, leading to an easy listen.