Johnny Guitar Watson – 1977 – A Real Mother For Ya
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Johnny Guitar Watson at the top of his game – working here in a sublime mix of funk, blues, and soul – all crafted into a groove that was uniquely Watson‘s own! Johnny may have started the 70s in relative obscurity – down from some hit work in the 50s and 60s – but by the time of this set, he was back on top, and working in a confident groove that few others from his older era could ever hope to achieve! There’s a youthful sense of sex and soul that run through the entire set – an effortlessly slinky groove that never goes too over the top in the funk department, and which makes just the right use of electric instrumentation and tripped-out production, but never gets too wrapped up in either – and often comes off with some great jazzy touches as well.
A1 A Real Mother for Ya 5:00
A2 Nothing Left to Be Desired 5:42
A3 Your Love Is My Love 4:38
A4 The Real Deal 4:53
B1 Tarzan 4:58
B2 I Wanna Thank You 6:05
B3 Lover Jones 5:23
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Johnny Guitar Watson was his ability and readiness to expand on the narrative drama of both his music and lyrical themes as he grew creatively. Its not a big leap for an artist to find a sound that works and simply present it the same way from song to song,album to album. With the 1976 album Ain’t That a Bitch,Watson made a full on transition into funk era during a time when many a funk masterpiece was coming in the form of albums such as that from Earth Wind & Fire,The Isley Brothers and of course P-Funk-who were than at their height. Of course having appeared on the title song of George Duke’s I Love the Blues She Heard Me Cry was perfect around this time because it gave him the chance to see for himself that an artist could bridge any instrumental gaps between jazz,blues and funk if they had the talent and the understanding of the music’s core roots to do so. And this 1977 album continued to deliver on that new found prospect of the possibilities from within Watson’s new groove.
Based around a throbbing Moog bass line and some ferociously funky drumming,the title song sets the stage with Watson’s signature guitar licks keeping the blues attitude as he sings about one of his favorite running topics: the financial entropy of the mid 70’s fuel crisis. “Nothing Left To Be Desired” is a powerfully cinematic love ballad-opening with Watson talking in his “big boy” voice about how love has simplified his needs and made him more compassionate. “Your Love Is My Love” is a high hat-oriented groove dominated by powerful horn charts and Watson singing and scatting through his talk box.
“The Real Deal” is a dynamically arranged cinematic type slower funk groove with a lot of double tracked scatting and a melodic refrain somewhat reminiscent of “This Masquerade”. “Tarzan” follows the lead of the title song somewhat-again with one of his narrative lyric themes and this time with a witty,playful sexuality. “I Wanna Thank You” is another appreciative love ballad-this time with high pitched,sparkly synthesizer flourishes leading the way. “Lover’s Jones” ends the album with some flat out, straight up hard funk filled with Watson’s clever sexual observations.
The bonus songs are the more straight ahead electric blues of “Kathaline”,sounding as if it dated from the late 80’s/early 90’s possibly and my favorite of the two “De John’s Delight”-a very jazzy funk type uptempo instrumental filled with fan-faring horns playing a melody that reminds me a bit of a Christmas carol I cannot place the name of for the chorus. One of the things that really made Johnny Guitar Watson’s progression into funk from the blues so captivating was the fact that he leaned so heavily into the jazzier side of the genre at that time. One can hear that in the chord changes that the horns are playing on a lot of these songs-not to mention the fact he also has a tendency to scat many of the songs much in the same way George Benson was doing right around the same time. Of course Watson always maintained that Texas blues vocal attitude and instrumental vitality throughout it all. Basically this is just a classic Johnny Guitar Watson funk album from…his classic funk period of the late 1970’s.
And I highly recommend this to anyone at all familiar with his music of this era, or are even curious about it at all.