Rhino Entertainment releases a long-awaited double vinyl expanded collection of War’s greatest hits…and it was worth with the wait!
War – Greatest Hits 2.0 – Avenue Records 603497843671 (1976)/Far Out Records/Rhino Records R1 655988 (2021) 180-gram stereo double vinyl ****1/2:
(Lonnie Jordan – organ, piano, synthesizer, percussion, drums, bass, vocals; Papa Dee Allen – percussion, vocals; Harold Brown – drums, percussion, vocals; B.B. Dickerson – bass, vocals; Charles Miller – saxophone, flute, clarinet, vocals; Lee Oskar – harmonica, percussion, vocals; Howard Scott – guitar, percussion, vocals; Ron Hammon – drums, percussion, background vocals; Pat Rizzo – saxophone, flute; Luther Rabb – bass, lead vocal, background vocals; Eric Burdon – vocals)
In the late 1960’s, the introspective singer-songwriter movement was sweeping through Southern California. But in Long Beach, a group of musicians had an alternative concept. War combined many genres including r & b, Latin, rock, jazz, funk, blues and reggae into an evolved textured sound that epitomized cool grooves and good vibes. The band first came into prominence backing up Eric Burdon (The Animals). This association resulted in the highly successful hit, “Spill The Wine”. They eventually went out on their own, and delivered a string of hit albums and singles including All Day Music (“Slippin’ Into Darkness”), The World Is A Ghetto (“The Cisco Kid”), Deliver The Word (“Me And Baby Brother”) and Why Can’t We Be Friends (“Low Rider”). The band (which included several lineup changes) continued to record and tour for decades.
Rhino Entertainment has released a 180-gram re-mastered double vinyl (War – Greatest Hits 2.0). The album consisted of 20 tracks (in chronological order), including many of the big hits. Side A opens with the single that started it all, “Spill The Wine”. Burdon’s stream-of-consciousness, gritty vocals are supported by a buoyant, rhythmic arrangement, framed by organ (Lonnie Jordan) and flute (Charles Miller). It is infectious. The blues standard by John Loudermilk (“Tobacco Road”) is also fronted by Burdon with Lee Oskar providing crisp harmonica accents. “All Day Music” is the first War tune. It has a swaying laid-back party atmosphere. The blended vocals are excellent and the chant, “Let’s have a picnic and go to the park…” is jubilant. The festive urban socio-political attitudes are driven by a repeat funk groove on “Get Down”. With a gospel-like intensity, the jam on “Slippin’ Into Darkness” is divided into two separate parts. The opening (just under two minutes) distills a slow-burning fervor. When the song transitions to r & b, it bristles with staccato instrumental licks and a call and response. The instrumentals are layered with some nasty guitar hooks.
Side B is another quintet of memorable songs with the inimitable band sound. “The World Is A Ghetto” is the epitome of early 1970’s fusion soul with airy melodic nuance surrounding the verses and tough downbeat chorus. Bringing the Wild West to funky coolness defines “The Cisco Kid”. There are many different arrangements like the disco-tinged “Gypsy Man” and the unadulterated soul funk of “Me And Baby Brother”. There is always a spirit of aspiration in the music and the humorous “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” makes that point. “Low Rider” (Side C) with its hip, staccato inflection continues to be part of the culture through it use in movie soundtracks like “Dazed And Confused”. In a mellow change-of-pace, “So” has a breezy Memphis resonance and is reminiscent of classic soul balladry. Back on the groove train, “Don’t Let No One Get You Down” has tight percussion, soulful saxophone and emotional vocals. With breezy expression, the instrumental “Smile Happy” is the most jazz influenced number in the collection. “Summer” is an amiable translation of seasonal optimism with a trademark glowing arrangement.
The musical hooks are relentless and remain a part of the War legacy. “L.A. Sunshine” (Side D) invokes a muscular sax line that envelops the funk-driven homage to the City Of Angels, and the pleasant lifestyle that comes from the perfect weather. Airy background synthesizer, a thumping bass, rhythmic piano chords and familiar cohesive percussion enliven a sci-fi number, “Galaxy”. The underlying musical feeling is always visceral. The celebration finishes with a Latin-rock song, “Cinco De Mayo”, head-bopping strut (“You Got The Power”), and hard-driving motorcycle culture imagery (“Outlaw”).
War – Greatest Hits 2.0 will be an exciting addition for vinyl enthusiasts and War fans alike. The overall re-mastered 180-gram sound is excellent, balanced with good separation. The hi-gloss gatefold and sleeve artwork are eye-catching.
Side A: Spill The Wine; Tobacco Road; All Day Music; Get Down; Slippin’ Into Darkness
Side B: The World Is A Ghetto; The Cisco Kid; Gypsy Man; Me And Baby Brother; Why Can’t We Be Friends?
Side C: Low Rider; So; Don’t Let No One Get You Down; Smile Happy; Summer
Side D: L.A. Sunshine: Galaxy; Cinco De Mayo; You Got The Power; Outlaw.