Ok, finally, we finish.
This last post covers the last two Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band albums and the solo Charles Wright album on Warner Bros. (Wright recorded two more albums after that, but not for WB). These are all taken from the excellent WB/Rhino UK reissues of Wright/Watts CDs, all of them containing a slew of bonus material (for your inner completionist!)
Charles Wright and Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band:
Radio Spot A
Solution For Pollution
From Express Yourself (Warner Bros., 1970)
Let’s Make Love, Not War
Nothing To Write Home About
From You’re So Beautiful (Warner Bros., 1971)
Just Free Your Mind
You Gotta Know Whatcha Doin’
From Rhythm and Poetry (Warner Bros., 1972)
Express Yourself, not surprisingly, was the group’s biggest album, thanks to the immense success of the title song (which, if I may add, has achieved a remarkable degree of commercial usage of late). As a result, WB commissioned a few radio spots to help promote it…and wow, this spot was hilarious: “it’s such a stone-out gas, I think hepping people to it is in the public interest.” You think this was from the early ’70s? “Solution For Pollution” is another bonus song from the Express Yourself CD and it was a 45-only release with an environmental message that – sadly – isn’t any less relevant today than when Wright and Watts recorded it back in the day. It’s also a fascinating example of the kind of creative chances the group was taking at the height of their popularity. Wright had some crazy visions and luckily, he managed to get a lot them realized on reel.
Message to retro-soul groups: one of you should cover this. Seriously.
The group continued along a similar vein with You’re So Beautiful, the last Watts album before the group more or less disintegrated (read my liner notes from Puckey Puckey to learn more about that). I’ve written about this album before and it’s also notable for the inclusion of “Express Yourself II,” a valiant (but uneven) attempt to extend on the magic of the original. The creative risk-taking was still there however, including with surprisingly doo-wop sound of the anti-war anthem, “Let’s Make Love, Not War.” I like that throwback feel and the fact that Wright felt like he could throw something like this on here. “Nothing to Write Home About” is an unreleased song that is one of the bonus songs on this CD and it’s a catchy little anti-love song with a humorous bent. I think the modern version would be retitled, “Not That Into You.”
I have to admit: I’m not that acquainted with Wright’s solo career and I haven’t sat with Rhythm and Poetry very long. The upside is that I picked my two songs off here based on first impressions and that’s why “Just Free Your Mind” stood out. For one thing, it’s never a bad thing to begin your song with a shout-out to Clydie King. It’s a sweet slow groover and shows Wright’s continued interest in socially/spiritually minded material. On the other hand, you can hear with “You Gotta Know Whatcha’ Doin'” that Wright was also still trying to remake “Express Yourself” and while the song has a nice groove, it’s a pretty blatant recycling. That said, it’s interesting how much Wright sans the Watts Band still sounds like the Watts Band, no?
The “Watts Up?!” Giveaway (Preview):
So peep…I have every single one of the WB/Rhino UK CDs, plus the two Rhino Handmade CDs. A total of 10 CDs. And I’m going to give this away to a Soul Sides reader. Here’s the deal thought – I want to this to go to a real fan of the group which isn’t to exclude Watts Band neophytes but ultimately, this collection is even more meaningful to the completionist but given that you are a completionist, then I figure it’s only fair to test that knowledge.
I’m working on questions now – possibly with Andy Zax, who headed this entire reissue process, and will get them up within a week. Start studying!