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Freedom Flight

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Album Review

1971's Freedom Flight is perhaps, in its own way, every bit as adventurous and regal as Shuggie Otis' masterpiece, Inspiration Information. Produced by Shuggie's father, R&B legend Johnny Otis, the album features seven stellar, genre bending cuts, most of which were written or co-written by Shuggie. Oh yes, he was 15 was the time. Shuggie not only arranged the date, he played everything from guitars and bass organ to various percussion instruments. Additional musicians include Wilton Felder, Stix Hooper, Aynsley Dunbar, Preston Love, George Duke, and a trio of backing vocalists — Clydie King, Venetta Field, and Shirley Matthews — all of whom would grace Bob Dylan's Street Legal a few years later. In addition, Johnny employed a full string section for these sessions. Upon listening to Freedom Flight, the influence of Jimi Hendrix is everywhere. Not so much in Shuggie's playing, but in its texture and production. He and Johnny had obviously spent a lot of time listening to Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. In addition, the recordings of Taj Mahal, Fred McDowell, and Frank Zappa figure in here, too. Freedom Flight boasts Shuggie's single greatest composition: "Strawberry Letter 23," a monster platinum single for the Brothers Johnson. But it's Shuggie's version that stands the test of time best. It's slower, much more baroque and paisley than the cover. The tenderness in Shuggie's voice as he intones the lyrics is a real draw. "Me And My Woman," is one of the funkiest blues tunes ever recorded, with its dirty keyboard bassline that George Clinton stole wholesale three years later. In addition, two long instrumental works that end the album, "Purple" (just try to convince someone that Prince didn't listen to this tune in particular, and this album in general, over and over again before forming his aesthetic), and the title tracks are visionary and expansive with jaw-droppingly virtuoso guitar playing that is so tastefully, soulfully, and elegantly executed it' still hard to believe after all these decades that a 15 year old ever played them: Stevie Ray Vaughan had nothing on Shuggie. Freedom Flight is just as important as Inspiration Information. It's a bit rawer, not quite as lush, but it is every bit as visionary and groundbreaking.

Customer Reviews

Where are you shuggie?

Man, this cat is awesome. Imagine what he could do with modern equipment? I wish he would release something new. The first four tracks of this CD are my favorites but they are all great. The "Here Comes Shuggie Otis / Freedom Flight" combo CD is a better deal since both CDs are incredible.


Lovely in its breadth, this is one of the best funk albums you'll ever hear. Elegant, eclectic and engaging, it's one of the best albums I've purchased in years. The title track is worth the price of admission alone. Just beautiful. I just wish I could have experienced this when it was released.

I had the LP back in the 70's...

And I loved it! I know I read Shugfie's name on the back of another LP and just had to buy this one when I discovered it in a mark-down bin at a record shop. (Anyone remember those?) It might have been on his father's band, Johnny Otis. I'm just blown away with his talent. And he was only 15(?) years old!

Unfortunately, I lent this LP, and a couple of other favorites, a friend and never saw them again. Of course, he's no longer a friend. It was 35 years ago and I don't even remember his name. Pfft!

If you live down home, funky blues, you'll love Shuggie!

And for the reviewer who dissed his Strawberry Letter 23, well SHUGGIE WROTE IT!


Born: November 30, 1953 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Guitarist/singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis may not be a household name, but his "Strawberry Letter 23" is in the record collections of millions of households. The Brothers Johnson's cover of "Strawberry Letter 23" has sold over a million copies, peaking at number one R&B and number five pop on Billboard's charts in summer 1977. It was on their LP Right on Time, which went platinum, selling over a million copies, holding the number one R&B spot for three weeks and making...
Full Bio
Freedom Flight, Shuggie Otis
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  • $7.99
  • Genres: R&B/Soul, Music, Rock, Soul, Funk
  • Released: Sep 1971

Customer Ratings


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