Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dig a Little Deeper -- "War"

Your author has had two careers in music. From 1957 to 1972 I played rock, soul, r&b and modal jazz. Then from 1996 to 2011; blues, a "horn band" and some jazz gigs. When immersed in music as a career one often discovers wonderful recordings that offer a fresh perspective on a given artist's body of work. Not as well known as their hits, these second and third tier offerings are nevertheless wonderful, sometimes more engaging and suitable for repeat listening than their better known tunes. As a musician one enjoys playing new material, else the evening becomes a series of treks down familiar paths. Confidently playing your own taste mixed with titles familiar to the audience enlivens your presentation.

When I'm in the audience I hope to hear things I've never heard before. When vinyl 33s were the media of choice, we'd go to the record store and wait for a sound booth. With 2 or 3 LPs ready for audition, we looked for the thrill of discovering great unknown tracks. And at $2.98 for mono and $3.98 for stereo (circa 1960), one wanted to make sure there were all good cuts on an album. Sometimes you'd buy one, your friend buys the other one, and you go to each other's house to hear the sides. A few years later, when an album was $6.98 I had a bandleader who would fine us $7 for being late to rehearsal -- he had a pretty good record collection! That was 1969, a good year for funk, soul and R&B.

The last band I played in before my 1972 retirement was a funky 4-piece called Tyme. Lead singer Jean Glade had a great high voice, so Just My Imagination and Oh Girl by the Chilites were good for him. The rest of us sang, too. Strangely enough I did Sly's Family Affair, and a slow blues called Stranded, but I really dug singing background, especially on tunes by War. We did Get Down -- everybody got a verse -- and Gene shined on Slipping Into Darkness. Of course we did The World Is A Ghetto and I think we even did Four Cornered Room, but it was too slow and fell out of the repertoire. Later I was fortunate to sing lead on All Day Music with Edell and the Thunderbirds on a brief road trip in the Summer of 1974 -- another band with 4 singers, "Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah..." Later War became famous for Low Rider, Me And Baby Brother, the Cisco Kid -- but here's some of their back shelf -- and definitely funky stuff:

Life Is So Strange
City Country City edited to 3:30
Don't Let No One Get You Down
Why Can't We Be Friends
Ballero (flute)
Nappy Head
Fidel's Fantasy (flute in the middle)
live ==>  Southern Part of Texas

Now there's a whole other perspective on War when one digs into their history, and the early association with Eric Burdon. I've never had the opportunity to dig into that back story, but I've been searching for some music I heard over the FM around 1970, the DJ introduced it as Eric Burdon and War, and there was a fantastic instrumental passage in the middle where they really went outside, somewhere between Fillmore psychedelic and John Cage abstraction. It was a long break, and it offered a shift in perspective just as mind-blowing as my first stoned listen to the orchestral freak-out at the end of the Beatles Day In The Life. Been looking for the lost Eric Burdon & War cut for over 40 years -- maybe I can find it on YouTube! And again, no apology for seeming to do little more than offer a list of YouTube links -- just being your guide -- does take some time to cull out the bad takes, the low level recordings. Please enjoy the play list...