Sunday, October 12, 2008

Otis Clay - All Because Of Your Love (Kayvette 5130)

All Because Of Your Love

Like I was saying over on the other side, Otis Clay has appeared on a variety of labels, sometimes, it would seem, all at the same time.

While Atlantic was recording him down south, Otis apparently kept the home fires burning, and a single cut on him by Carl Davis (featuring Willie Henderson and the rest of his 'Sound Of Chicago' crew), appeared on his Dakar label in 1969. This was right around the same time that his good friend Tyrone Davis began his remarkable run of breakthrough hits for the label (like Can I Change My Mind, which would spend three weeks at #1 R&B earlier that year), and I suppose if Clay hadn't been signed to Atlantic at the time, things might have worked out differently.

In 1975, after Hi apparently lost interest in him, Otis hooked up with super-arranger Benjamin Wright. After one single on Wright's Elka imprint, Otis started up his own label, Echo, where he would continue to work with Washington as well as with Chicago legends like Johnny Moore and Marvin Griffin.

In 1976, Otis travelled back down South, and signed with Henry Stone in Miami. After an initial release on Glades (where he would join label mates Latimore and Little Milton), Stone moved him over to his Kayvette subsidiary (go figure), and came up with this awesome record we have here today. Working with producer Brad Shapiro back in Muscle Shoals, he took this great George Jackson - Raymond Moore composition to #44 R&B in the summer of 1977. No mean feat, considering this was the height of the disco era, it would be his last chart appearance.

Just to keep matters interesting, 1977 also saw the release of his last album for Hi (by then a a subsidiary of Cream Records), I Can't Take It. At the turn of the decade, Otis was back on Echo backing another cool George Jackson number, Messing With My Mind, with a cover of O.V. Wright's A Nickel and A Nail. Like so many others around the same time, though, I think Clay realized that it was the 'blues' market that offered him the best chance of selling some records, and he signed with Bullseye.

Much to their credit, they paired him back up with Hi Rhythm and captured Soul Man: Live In Japan for posterity. He was apparently reunited with Willie Mitchell on Waylo for one single in the late eighties, then continued to record for Bullseye through the nineties, with records like I'll Treat You Right and This Time Around keeping him out there in the public eye. Although he may have 'crossed-over', Otis never really left Gospel behind.

His 1993 Blind Pig LP The Gospel Truth showed the depth of his commitment, and still holds up as one of his best records. The fact that a version of If I Could Reach Out is included on the album shows, I think, just how closely all of this stuff is related, and how silly this whole concept of 'genres' really is. As it says on his excellent website: "Is he Soul? Is he Blues? Is he Gospel? Yes..." Which is further exemplified by his 2005 live release Respect Yourself, as well as his latest project:

Walk A Mile In My Shoes, released last year on Clay's newly reactivated Echo label, pulls it all together, with an excellent take on the title track (again blurring the line between Soul and Gospel), as well as guest appearances by The Soul Stirrers, Carla Thomas (helping out on yet another rendition of George Jackson's classic), and our friends Hi Rhythm. No matter what you call it, this is a great record, yet another in a long line from one of the premier voices in Black American Music. We are honored to have him with us for O.V. Wright Night.

God is good.


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