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Clay a throwback to golden age of soul

This Time Around
This Time Around
By Otis Clay

Bullseye / Rounder Records: 1998

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This review first appeared in the April 18, 1998 edition of the American Reporter.

Otis Clay is of the old school; he came out of the same Hi Records soul stable that produced Al Green and Ann Peebles among others, rivaling Motown and Stax on the black charts. Clay himself never had much success during his first go-round in the '70s, though – he's actually doing better in his revival on Rounder Records.

For his second Rounder studio album (the label also reissued a live album from Japan recorded during the 1980s, and Blind Pig has a recent gospel outing of his as well), Clay is reunited with former Hi producer Willie Mitchell. Mitchell pairs Clay with some dynamite songs, including three tunes by Motown veteran Willie Hutch and a wonderful love song written by guest guitarist Cash McCall, "You Never Miss the Water."

Producer Mitchell makes good use of backing vocals and a tight little horn section, using both to punctuate Clay's knowing asides on life and love.

While Clay doesn't have the strong voice of a James Brown or the smoothness of a Lou Rawls, he brings an intensity to his singing that plays well off the world-weary lyrics of the songs he chooses.

Best of all, Clay sings intelligent songs about life and love. Given the domination of the airwaves by the narcissism of Madonna, the vacuousness of Celine Dion and the misogyny of much of rap, it's refreshing to hear an artist of Clay's skill handling romance and eros with taste and imagination.