Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – 1970 - Express Yourself
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A masterpiece of messed-up LA funk and one of the crowning moments in the career of Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band! Charles and crew do an excellent job with all the tracks, most of which are more open ended than some of their earlier ones, and run on for longer than usual with some good trippy instrumental moments that really stretch out the groove from their funky 45 days. The album includes the stoner funk classic “High As Apple Pie“, done here in two “slices”, plus the classic “Express Yourself“, a monster number that still sounds great every time we hear it – even though it’s been used on commercials and sampled plenty of times over the years!
A1 Road Without An End 3:10
A2 I Got Love 4:08
A3 High As Apple Pie-Slice I 7:46
A4 Express Yourself 3:50
B1 I’m Aware 3:45
B2 Tell Me What You Want To Do 5:47
B3 High As Apple Pie-Slice II 17:43
Review by Abid
Perhaps I would have preferred their original name “Soul Runners” to remain intact (its not as much of a mouthful), but when Charles Wright recruited this band they would go on to make some of the funkiest, vibrant, and expressive music you will hear from this era. The record simply has many enticing elements, whether you’re a fan of gritty, organically derived instrumentation and grooves, or a fan of colorful harmonies coupled with distinct bass lines. Stirring consistency is apparent throughout this bands catalog, but this particular selection is their most acclaimed and coincidentally my favorite. It doesn’t have my favorite song by Wright, that honor goes to “What Can You Bring Me”, but it is their most ambitious body of work that amazes me with every listen.
The first song “Road Without An End” leaves me especially astounded, its got a real elegant sound to it that is particularly distinctive than the rest of the songs. Its probably the ever so gentle guitar riffs that really resonates with me, for it is a somewhat somber song about acknowledging the difficult lessons one has had to learn while simultaneously savoring what little time you may have left. The net result is uplifting however, because the melody stays in the high notes and maintains that frequency overlong under the soulful vocal delivery. I especially like the ending, as the last verse is about what one can anticipate in a glorious afterlife, and then gracefully the song goes into a prolonged low rise pattern for the last 30 seconds, as if to personify a stoppage in time. “I Got Love” sounds like a reworking of the title track “Express Yourself” which most should be familiar with as its a sampling staple in Hip-Hop. But the similarity ends with the content as this track is more about being satisfied with a lover regardless of material circumstances. The thing that binds together both these tracks is the bouncy bass lines, and its hard to make a bad song over groovy bass lines like this. You really only have to add in carefully placed horns and guitars and you’ve got a Funk anthem on your hands. Seems like The Watts recognized this formula, and the title track is an energetic proclamation of embracing your facility of expression.
The band is also creative in the ways they used shouts and claps in their songs. A song like “Express Yourself” certainly calls for it, but the extended album closer “High As Apple Pie – Slice 2″ offers plenty of this. It feels like they had way too much fun during recording sessions, and the overjoyed feeling spilled over on into the track, where you can hear finger snapping and crooning in the background, though I’m sure this was by design. This track is the most instrumentally heavy, with fender Rhodes taking over for a good chunk of the middle, as a wide array of scats are heard at different times. “High As Apple Pie – Slice 1″ is certainly the more packed version, though its still 7 and a half minutes. Both songs feel like an ambitious celebration of rushing musical momentum, which ranges from gentle and low to unabashed and spry. “I’m Aware” draws upon more of the 60′s Soul influences that are rooted in the group, mainly because of the synchronized nature of the vocal performance. The rolling saxophone for the last minute is most welcome as it really gives the song that signature summery flavor of the Watts sound.
“Tell Me What You Want Me To Do” is an almost ballad-like song, with the focus on the singing more so than the arrangements. Though the latter refuses to take a back seat and bursts through in many different ways, via horns, drums, and strings to enhance the vocal performance. This is a real gritty, confessional type song, so the atmosphere is heavy and folksy, and these elements come together is glorious fashion, making for yet another uplifting song. Seems The Watts don’t know the meaning of somber tones, or at least refuse to acknowledge it through their music. This a collection of 7 jam-packed tracks that will keep you entertained, enriched, and engaged throughout, and I highly recommend it.
Visit Charles Wright’s site here ,watch and listen to his new single “Looking For An Ugly Woman” and most of all support his 50 years in music business by buying his songs and albums.