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Otis Clay – 1977 – I Can’t Take It

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A great mix of modes – and a set that represents a real turning point in the career of Otis Clay! The rougher edges of Clay’s Chicago soul are warmed up here substantially by producer Willie Mitchell – bubbling up some Memphis soul for Otis, in a style that’s similar to some of his backings for other singers on the Hi Records label – in a style that makes for a great step forward from Clay’s singles of the 60s!

The shift is a big one – the sort that helped make Otis one of the standout singers of his generation – really knocking it out of the park on tracks that include “House Ain’t A Home”, “Slow & Easy”, “Born To Be With You”.

A1 Pussyfooting Around 2:57
A2 Too Much Mystery 2:21
A3 I Can’t Take It 4:03
A4 Home Is Where The Heart Is 2:50
A5 I’ve Got To Find A Way (To Get You Back) 2:50
B1 Slow And Easy 3:18
B2 House Ain’t A Home (Without A Woman) 4:17
B3 Keep On Loving Me 3:22
B4 Born To Be With You 3:18

 Review by Quint Kik

The shadows of both Al Green and Ann Peebles looming large over Hi, the record label’s second league will always remain criminally overlooked. Being second to a soul superstar and a critics’ favorite isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as quality control at the label was always on a high level. A case in point is the sampler of sorts Al Bennett released on his own Cream imprint after buying the Hi catalog from Willy Mitchell in 1977. Titled A History of Soul, the double album contained strong single releases and non-album tracks by Hi second-leaguers O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson, and Otis Clay.

The latter’s appearance proved most promising, as both 1973’s “I Didn’t Know the Meaning of Pain” and “The Woman Don’t Live Here No More” from 1974 indicated the promise of a rewarding follow-up to his 1972 debut album, Trying to Live My Life Without You. However, these songs weren’t included on Clay’s follow-up, I Can’t Take It. Instead, his final Hi album reprises “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” his first ever recording for the label. It quite possibly served as a means of reacquainting the public with Otis Clay, since a five-year hiatus separated his lone two albums for Hi.

During this period he kept himself busy with his own label. Apart from “Slow and Easy,” the album was comprised of leftover sessions from 1972. Still, I Can’t Take It fares strongly in opener “Pussyfootin’ Around,” the scorching ballad “House Ain’t a Home (Without a Woman)” and the gut-wrenching title track. As always, the Hi house band does an ace job, but cannot help that the album’s choice of material isn’t always up to Clay’s Southern soul-bearing standard. This might have been a question of priorities.

His collaboration with Al Green having ended, Willy Mitchell concentrated on the comeback of O.V. Wright and steering Ann Peebles away from the disco era. Considering the former’s Into Something (Can’t Shake Loose) and the latter’s The Handwriting Is on the Wall, one is left to regret that Otis Clay either didn’t receive that kind of attention or couldn’t find the time himself to contribute a deserving swan song.