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In the Jungle, Babe / Express Yourself

Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band

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Album Review

Released in 1997, this two-fer collects Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's third and fourth records, 1969's In the Jungle, Babe and the following year's Express Yourself. A transitional work, In the Jungle, Babe captures a group struggling to find its own identity; for every superb workout like the shimmering "Love Land" or the propulsive "I'm a Midnight Mover," there's a redundant cover of the Doors' "Light My Fire" or Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People" which falls flat on its face. Express Yourself, on the other hand, is the group's masterpiece, a remarkable fusion of funk attitude and soul conviction. Highlighted by the classic title hit — one of the most powerful declarations of independence in the canon, as well as one of the most sampled records of all time — Express Yourself is a whirlwind tour through the spectrum of R&B; from the poignance of the Otis Redding-worthy ballad "Tell Me What You Want Me to Do" (arguably Wright's best vocal turn ever) to the supple funk-jazz jam session "High as Apple Pie, Slice I and II," the record is assured and muscular, a primal blast of soul power.

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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In the Jungle, Babe / Express Yourself, Charles Wright
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