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Express Yourself - The Best of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band

Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band

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Album Review

Express Yourself: The Best of Charles Wright collects 16 tracks by this underappreciated L.A. funk outfit. By this point, everyone recognizes the oft-sampled title track, but most of their other work is still mainly the province of specialists. That's too bad, because there's a lot for more general funk fans to discover here. Some members of the Rhythm Band had previously played on several Dyke & the Blazers sessions, and there's a definite parallel between those sides and the loose, messy, off-the-cuff brand of funk that Wright and his cohorts lay down. But even if both groups worked out most of their songs through jamming, there's a great deal more variety here. Wright led the band through laconic grooves like "Express Yourself," "Your Love (Means Everything to Me)," "Doin' What Comes Naturally," and the tripped-out "Ninety Day Cycle People"; hard-driving funkers like "The Joker (On a Trip Through the Jungle)" and "One Lie (Leads to Another)"; lean, spare grooves like "Do Your Thing" and "Till You Get Enough"; and mellower, soul-flavored offerings like "Keep Saying," "Tell Me What You Want Me to Do," "Comment (If All Men Are Truly Brothers)," and the hit ballad "Love Land." As a vocalist, Wright could play the soulful shouter or do a bit of crooning, but more often he'd just ride the groove, chanting along or throwing out hip interjections. This collection neglects the group's nuttier, druggier side a bit — it might have been nice to have evocatively titled outings like "High As Apple Pie," "Fried Okra," or "Gimme That Sammich" on board. Still, it's hard to expect anything more generous than this, and there's more than enough here for the uninitiated. An intriguing and underrated listen.

Biography

Born: 1942 in Clarksdale, MS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '90s

Charles Wright headed one of the great funk groups of the late '60s and early '70s, the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Wright, who was born in Clarksdale, MS, was a singer, pianist, guitarist, and leader of the eight-member band, which had been recruited from Watts in Los Angeles. They were originally known as the Soul Runners. Bill Cosby helped get the band off the ground by giving them appearances at his gigs. They began recording for Keyman in 1967, then moved to Warner Bros. in 1969. While "Do...
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