Whether as an artist, mentor, and/or small-time record label entrepreneur, Johnny Otis was continuing to make some interesting R&B-based music in the late '60s and 1970s, though little of it is familiar to anyone but devoted collectors. Watts Funky collects 20 tracks from the late '60s through the middle '70s that he was involved with, though only about half are billed to either Johnny Otis or the Johnny Otis Show. It's erratic, eccentric, but generally refreshing soul-funk, reflecting the trends of the era, but more idiosyncratic than much of the stuff being put out via more high-profile outlets. Certainly the best track by a country mile is Shuggie Otis' "Strawberry Letter 23," a spaced-out soul ballad that owes a lot to contemporary hippie singer/songwriters as well, and was covered by the Brothers Johnson for a hit in 1977. Shuggie Otis fans will be excited by the inclusion of a couple of previously unreleased cuts from the same era, but actually those are much more ordinary, with "Miss Pretty" sounding a little like Sly Stone as sung by Van Morrison. It's very unlikely you'll have heard of anyone else but the Otises on the disc's artist list, except maybe Preston Love. But there's credible funk by Vera Hamilton on "But I Ain't No More (G.S.T.S.K.D.T.S)," and the Vibrettes sound like they should be singing backup for James Brown funk sides on "The Humpty Dump." There's some pretty humorous, sly late-'60s soul by the Johnny Otis Show on "Country Girl," and Otis himself comes through with some top-drawer jazzy James Brown-ish instrumental funk on "Jaws."
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