THE BARGAIN BUY: Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band; Original Album Series

 |   |  1 min read

Charles Wright/Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band: I Got Love
THE BARGAIN BUY: Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band; Original Album Series

In the liner notes to the Wright/Watts Band album Hot Heat and Sweet Groove in 1967, the comedian Bill Crosby -- then still a decade away from being the mainstream American television character he became -- said of this amalgam of funk, soul, pop and r'n'b that they sometimes played "mustache music, sometimes goatee, sometimes sideburns" sounds.

In that allusion to soul, jazz and rock he might have also added Afro hair stylings, because guitarist Charles Wright (who had started out in Southern doo-wop groups) and producer Fred Smith took this band into many diverse directions.

On the Hot Heat all-instrumental album they opened with a party-styled piece Caesar's Palace, followed it with a version of Yellow Submarine, got into a Soul Concerto and some steamy organ-driven Southern sounds on Fried Okra, didn't mind jazzing up The Girl From Ipanema or taking the mood down for Bring It on Home to Me with a vocal line so far in the distance it sounds like Wright (I guess that's who it is) was literally in another room.

Their diversity levelled out on subsequent albums where easy-livin' summertime funk and soul came to dominate, and their odd origins as a studio ensemble (of sometimes absent members) also stablised.

And when Wright stepped up as a soulful singer for the subsequent Together album and took control over their direction, they found their purpose. As the times changed -- the political heat turned up in black America -- so to did their intentions: In the Jungle Babe of '69 included a slow and thoughtful treatment of the Doors' Light My Fire, a strident stab into Sly Stone's Everyday People and, most significantly, Comment in which Wright looks at his communities fracturing, losing sons to Vietnam and friends peeling off into violent activism.

A real gospel/doo-wop heart-acher in the manner of Otis/Marvin but with dramatic punches, Comment still demands to be heard as it mixes politics, sentimentality and a sense of hope/hopelessness. And The Joker is a furious, horn-driven dancefloor stomper with twanging guitar.

Yet on the same album they also included the soulful Love Land which became a minor hit.

In this five CD collection, the final two albums Express Yourself (the title track sampled by NWA) and You're So Beautiful are perhaps even more interesting as all those elements are brought together in great, melancholy soul ballads and funky grooves.

JB_HZ_CHEAP_longFor a long time the original vinyl of these albums was the domain of cool DJs who would probably have prefered they remain rare grooves.

Well, this collection is now just $20 at JB Hi-Fi stores here which puts them in the reach of the ordinary wallet. And that -- as well as the great sounds here -- makes this a Bargain Buy

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   The Bargain Buy articles index

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Sony "Original Album Classics" series: Funk soul brothers (and sisters)

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Sony "Original Album Classics" series: Funk soul brothers (and sisters)

In a previous Bargain Buy column we bemoaned that the great Isley Brothers had been unfairly overlooked by rock's history writers. I guess that's because most of those scribes are white and tend to... > Read more

THE BARGAIN BUY: Talking Heads; Speaking in Tongues

THE BARGAIN BUY: Talking Heads; Speaking in Tongues

Prior to this jerky and funky album in 1983, Talking Heads had been critically acclaimed for more than five years on the back of albums which were considered taut, arty, intellectual and even a bit... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

NO DIRECTION HOME a film about Bob Dylan by MARTIN SCORSESE (2005)

NO DIRECTION HOME a film about Bob Dylan by MARTIN SCORSESE (2005)

Against expectation, 2005 was a rare year for 64-year old Bob Dylan, especially since he hadn’t had an album of new material out in four years. Yet Dylan seemed to be everywhere in... > Read more

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE WORLD MUSIC QUESTIONNAIRE:  Tami Neilson

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE WORLD MUSIC QUESTIONNAIRE: Tami Neilson

What can we say about the wonderful Tami Neilson – a longtime Elsewhere favourite – that we haven't said before? She turns in exceptional albums (her most recent Don't Be Afraid... > Read more