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ALBUM REVIEW: "Evolutionary" by War

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ALBUM REVIEW: War – Evolutionary (UMe) 2014

Earlier this year, I attended one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a long time, Cheech and Chong with War. Killing two bucket lists with one ticket, it was great to see the stoner duo on stage performing some of their best comedy bits, for me, the real treat was to finally see the legendary funk and soul band War in person. =

As a kid, I had always had a general liking of War thanks to constant stream of hits on classic rock radio like “Low Rider” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends”, but they really weren’t a top five band of mine until my first real high-school girlfriend introduced me to their deeper cuts when she lent me a couple of her War cassette tapes—she was truly a bad-ass chick, now that I think about it. Either way, after a couple of plays, and a high-speed dubbing or two, I was sold, a life-long fan.

Over 20 years later, that love came full-circle when, after years of waiting, I finally got to see them live at the Firelake Grand Casino, and man, I was not disappointed. Even though there are only a couple of original members left in the line-up, the passion and the soul is still there, sounding just as full of fire now as they did in the 70s.

Their last album of original material was 1994’s Peace Sign, which was also a grand statement from War in a time of grunge and gangsta, a ballsy move that was a truly standout message of love in those musically chaotic times. And even though they’ve continued to tour all around the world, there hasn’t been an LP of any new material since, forcing one to think that the band had decided to rest on their considerable laurels.

Until now. War is back with the explosive new platter Evolutionary and man, in this ultimately barren musical climate of undecipherable indie rock and gutter-filling pop music, it’s not a moment too soon.

Opening with the swinging and swaying East L.A. ritmo-swagger of “That L.A. Sunshine,” in a just world, this would be the summer jam of 2014. The horn-section proudly blasts and the harmonies are such a welcome moment that it’s just not impossible to sink into your chair and enjoy these much-missed grooves.

“Mamacita” is a jazzy tribute to the beauty of Latina women that wouldn’t have been out of place on the seminal album Outlaw and “It’s Our Right/Funky Tonk” is a cool head-bobbing ten minute jam that flows right along with it. Tunes like “Just Like Us” and “Everything” are moving, obviously personal numbers, while updated funk-outs like “Inspiration,” “This Funky Music,” and especially “Bounce” are total party-starters for this or any world.

My own personal favorite number on Evolutionary, however, has to be “War/War After War (A Soldier’s Story),” a brash neo-psychedelic protest tune that interpolates Edwin Starr’s “War” with their own personal plea for peace in our time, but with one difference: this ain’t no folk singer begging from the side of the stage to the choir. No, instead this is a blood-drenched banger that features Malik Yusef and the USC Trojan Marching Band backing up the already heavy band with sheer ferocity.

But besides the sound of the song, it’s also refreshing to see a band return to that classic 70s marching-in-the-street fist-in-the-air anti-war anthem that has been mercilessly murdered off by the jingoistic establishment of the past 20 years wherein speaking out against things like this are well on the way to being considered a treasonous crime against the state. Kudos to War for sticking to their guns and reinvigorating that much-missed need and much-maligned movement.

The deluxe edition of Evolutionary not only comes with a bonus CD of War’s Greatest Hits—a perfect primer to the band’s mostly-70s sounds for the uninitiated—but also a fantastic bonus concert DVD of  War: Greatest Hits Live that, while not as good as the band in the flesh, is still a pretty damn good close second. The whole package is an embarrassment of riches.

I know that it’s still early in the year, but I’m totally prepared to declare that War’s Evolutionary is the best album of 2014.

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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