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Otis Clay

"You Are My Life"

Otis Clay

Watlo/MMS

By Steven Sharp

Otis Clay possesses perhaps the most beautiful and powerful male voice on today's Chicago blues scene. At it's best, his funky, gospel-inflected brand of deep soul can easily move a person to a state of teary-eyed giddiness. Mediocre material and poor production, however, can hobble even a master like Clay, and unfortunately, that's what has happened with "You Are My Life."

Willie Mitchell, the man behind the classic soul of Memphis' Hi Records in the 1970s, produces this outing, which was released originally on Waylo in 1989 under the title "Watch Me Now." For as brilliant as Mitchell's production instinct was with Clay in the 1970s, its fallibility is in evidence here. On this collection, Mitchell presents Clay in an urban contemporary format. As a result, Clay's gifts as a vocalist — sensitivity and soulfulness — are blunted by drum machines and synthesizers.

"You Are My Life" has its occasional enjoyable moments, however, such as "I Know I'm Over You" and the title track, but it's tough to take when Clay rips a page from Bobby Rush's playbook for a take on the cheesy "Feeling Single, Seeing Double."

"Two Wrongs (Don't Make A Right), which appears first as a studio track and later as a bonus track recorded live in Europe, is this disc's saving grace. Clay's soul shines through on his two interpretations of the number, and the extended vamp mustered by Clay and his band on the concert excerpt is itself worth the price of the album. However, the listening public has a right to expect more than what's contained on this disc from the vocal wonder who gave the world such classics albums as "Soul Man — Live In Japan" (Bullseye Blues CD 9513) and "The 45's" (HI Records HILOCD1).


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