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The Funk Anthology

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Album Review

Shout! Factory's two-disc The Funk Anthology compiles the best of blues icon Johnny "Guitar" Watson's recordings for the DJM label from 1970 to 1981. Also included are three tracks off Watson's 1994 comeback album, Bow Wow. A hugely influential artist, Watson was often overshadowed by his more well-known contemporaries including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Sly Stone, and George Clinton. While Watson got his start rockin' out in the '50s with such blues crossover classics as "Too Tired," "Hot Little Mama," and the mind-blowingly innovative instrumental "Space Guitar," he made an even bigger mark in the '70s playing his unique and equally innovative brand of funk. Changing from a slick pompadour to a groovy afro and three-piece suits, Watson reimagined himself as a blues pimp extraordinaire and backed up his bravado with musical chops that had already made good on the developments of T-Bone Walker, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Ray Charles. Referring to himself as the "Original Gangster of Love," Watson's funk recordings found the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist mixing jazz harmonies, blues, soul, raw funk, disco, and R&B all into his own unique style. This is humorous, raunchy, rhythmically compelling, and melodically infectious music that benefits as much from Watson's juicy synthesizer skills as his adept guitar playing. Barring some horn section and drum parts, Watson often played all the instruments on his recordings, and tracks such as "Ain't That a Bitch," "Funk Beyond the Call of Duty," and "It's All About the Dollar Bill" prefigure work by the similarly inclined funk iconoclast Prince. Also notable is his 1980 rap track "Telephone Bill," which certainly stands as one of the earliest recorded examples of the genre. Featuring gatefold packaging that showcases all of Watson's iconic over-the-top album covers, a booklet full of photos, and lovingly written liner notes by music biographer David Ritz, The Funk Anthology is the definitive tribute to a true funk original.

Biography

Born: 03 February 1935 in Houston, TX

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

"Reinvention" could just as easily have been Johnny "Guitar" Watson's middle name. The multi-talented performer parlayed his stunning guitar skills into a vaunted reputation as one of the hottest blues axemen on the West Coast during the 1950s. But that admirable trait wasn't paying the bills as the 1970s rolled in. So he totally changed his image to that of a pimp-styled funkster,...
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The Funk Anthology, Johnny "Guitar" Watson
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