Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peace and: WAR

I think I can spot a trend as well as anyone. And the one that even Blind Eddie can see is the Washerman’s Dog’s love of Pakistani and Indian music. Over the past many months I’ve made new friends, had some interesting conversations and been led through new doors of discovery by many readers and ghat wale who share that passion. And I can’t wait to make more and share more.

But when I began this bloggy adventure I was driven by a love of many types of music not just the South Asian variety.  So for the next few posts I’m going to be leaving the Ganga, Indus and Himalaya behind and shifting gears back to the good old US of A and posting some tasty slices of musical pie.  For those who have no interest in this sort of thing, never fear: the Washerman’s Dog has plenty more of exciting music to share from the archives of Radio Pakistan and the dark woods of Bollyland. Take a rest on the side of road and we’ll catch up again soon.

In the meantime, the Dog is barking frantically and nipping at the heels of a band called War.  Remember them?  One of the most popular funk groups of the '70s, War were also one of the most eclectic, freely melding soul, Latin, jazz, blues, reggae, and rock influences into an effortlessly funky whole. Although War's lyrics were sometimes political in nature (in keeping with their racially integrated lineup), their music almost always had a sunny, laid-back vibe emblematic of their Southern California roots. War kept the groove loose, and they were given over to extended jamming -- in fact, many of their studio songs were edited together out of longer improvisations. Even if the jams sometimes got indulgent, they demonstrated War's truly group-minded approach: no one soloist or vocalist really stood above the others (even though all were clearly talented), and their grooving interplay placed War in the top echelon of funk ensembles.

War's third album, The World is a Ghetto, as an act separate from Eric Burdon was also far and away their most popular, the group's only long-player to top the pop charts. The culmination of everything they'd been shooting for creatively on their two prior albums, it featured work in both succinct pop-accessible idioms ("The Cisco Kid”) as well as challenging extended pieces such as the 13-minute "City, Country, City" -- which offered featured spots to all seven members without ever seeming disjointed -- and the title track, and encompass not only soul and funk but elements of blues and psychedelia on works such as the exquisite "Four Cornered Room." "The Cisco Kid" and "The World Is a Ghetto" understandably dominated the album's exposure, but there's much more to enjoy here, even decades on. Beyond the quality of the musicianship, the classy, forward-looking production has held up remarkably well, and not just on the most famous cuts here; indeed, The World Is a Ghetto is of a piece with Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Curtis Mayfield's Curtis, utilizing the most sophisticated studio techniques of the era. Not only does it sound great, but there are important touches such as the phasing in "Four Cornered Room," not only on the percussion but also on the vocals, guitars, and other instruments, and the overall effect is a seemingly contradictory (yet eminently workable) shimmering blues, even working in a mournful and unadorned harmonica amid the more complex sounds.

One of my favorite albums that never seems to fray at the edges or bulge in an unsightly way, like most other things more than a few years old.

Ladies and gentleman, puppies and full grown hounds, may I (re) commend to you, The World is a Ghetto, the best selling record in the USA of 1973.

         Track Listing:
         01 The Cisco Kid
02 Where Was You At
03 City, Country, City
04 Four Cornered Room
05 The World Is A Ghetto
06 Beetles In The Bog

Listen here


ledenn said...

Your comments are spot on. The best music.

ajnabi said...

Glad you're a kindred spirit!

Giri Mandi said...

Wow! Healing grooves!
The quantity & quality of unbelievable music produced in those years is really astonishing!

ajnabi said...

yes indeed!