Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Believe I'll Go Back Home

Celebrities die all the time, but we lost three in January that leave pretty large holes in the American musical landscape. We already waxed nostalgic on Jimmy Castor but were offline when, almost appropriately, Johnny Otis and Etta James died just days apart.

If you are alive and paying attention, you already read countless obits and rememberies of their respective contributions to rhythm & blues, soul, jazz and blues.

Instead of repeating praise into the void, we encourage you to pay your respects by getting your paws on a copy of Cold Shot! by The Johnny Otis Show.

Released in 1968, this LP boasts the leanest Otis Show line-up of them all: Johnny plays piano, vibes and drums; his son Shuggie (a grinning teen here and only a couple years from launching his brief, brilliant solo career) plays bass, guitar and harmonica while Mighty Mouth Evans handles the lead vocals.

This record will validate your puny effort to feel funky on a daily basis. Cold Shot! opens smart with the shock-and-awe enabled "The Signifyin' Monkey" replete with blue language. "Country Girl" is far filthier through pure implication. That's blues science right there bub -- stun 'em out of the gate and you can say anything you want after that.

"High Heeled Sneakers" chicken struts across the room and Otis fills the set with a fair share of classic blues sounds, all played with a smile and a wink.

Just about anything Otis recorded is worth your attention, and Cold Shot! isn't even the best entry point to his catalog. (Otis' killer r&b output from the '50s and '60s is top-shelf stuff.) But this disc cuts through the fog of whatever troubles you, a bracing gulp of potent groove juice.