Otis Clay
This Time Around
Bullseye Blues & Jazz 9590
Otis Clay has been a standout performer for many years. From his earliest gospel-soul singles in Chicago to his long-time association with Memphis' Hi Records, Clay has poured emotion and integrity into his work. His 1991 Soul Man -- Live in Japan shows him at the top of his form.

Unfortunately, This Time Around is not up to Clay's standards. Working with Hi's resident producer, Willie Mitchell, Clay presents an album of urban contemporary music but stripped of passion and personality. Most of the songs are too smooth by half, with no rough edges or gospel-like urgency. And the lyrics don't help: Lines like "I'm gonna do what I can to get you back/Stand on my head for you if it'll get you back" don't inspire confidence.

There are a few places where Clay hints at his strengths. On "City in the Sky" and "I Can Handle It" (curiously, the last two tunes), Clay sings with his heart. The latter even has decent social-commentary lyrics. But most of This Time Around goes nowhere and shows barely a hint of Clay's power as a vocalist. Let's hope things get better his next time around.

-- David Feld

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Boulder, CO, USA.