Freedom Flight is the 2nd studio album from Shuggie Otis originally released in 1971. The album contains the original “Strawberry Letter 23” which would later be covered by The Brothers Johnson and sampled in hip-hop and R&B songs for years to come.
Well before Shuggie Otis cut his debut album, musicianship and performance had long been a part of his life. The son of rhythm and blues legend Johnny Otis, Shuggie learned to play guitar as early as the age of two and performed professionally with his father’s band at eleven. Throughout his long and illustrious career, he’d performed on records for the likes of Frank Zappa, Al Kooper, Etta James, and George Duke, to name a few. In spite of all this, widespread mainstream success eluded Shuggie for much of his career.
His most famous release to date is his 1974 album Inspiration Information, which would experience new resurgent life in the 2000s. Those willing to dig a little deeper, however, would discover hidden gold in his earlier releases, especially in the album directly before Inspiration Information, his sophomore 1971 release Freedom Flight. As with his debut, Freedom Flight was produced by Shuggie’s father Johnny Otis and built upon the distinct sounds of his debut album: lush, baroque, string section arrangements, paired with hard funk rhythms, and funky blues melodies, with the majority of the instruments once again performed by Shuggie himself. The album also features backing from premium session greats like George Duke and Aynsley Dunbar, and the track “Strawberry Letter 23” which became a monster hit for The Brothers Johnson several years later. Freedom Flight is a treasure of deft, technical skill, and virtuosic composition.