Category Archives: Johnny Guitar Watson

Andre’s Amazon Archive: ‘What The Hell Is This? by Johnny Guitar Watson

What The Hell Is This

Johnny Guitar Watson faced 1979 with a level of musical abandon after his previous album Giant,which blended the disco friendly dance rhythms into his by then well established jazzy funk/soul/blues framework maintained his musical momentum he had been building up in the preceding couple of years. Of course an election year was coming up,and disco had stirred a sometimes violent set of detractors based mainly on cultural and sexual anxiety.

This got millions of people to turn on a type of music production just made for dancers. Of course this interesting set of growing pains was just ripe for commentary from a blues based artist with the wit and musically expansive qualities that Watson possessed in abundance. So for his final album of the decade he faced all of this the way he always did.

The title song has one of the longest horn fan-fares in funk-nearly 1/4 of the whole song and the choruses as well as Watson expresses even more extreme irritation at the economic crisis than usual. With the beautifully orchestrated horn and strong laden ballads “In The World” and “Strung Out” finding Watson again in awe of someone of the opposite sex, “Cop & Blow” shows Watson very much in his pimping state of mind-on a very cinematic type mid-tempo groove of course.

On the funk march of “I Don’t Want To Be President”,he openly declares himself to be a commentator but,weary of the restrictive lives of politicians,not a potential leader of anyone. “Mother In Law” is fast,charged up funk as Watson bemoans the pushy title character we actually hear bemoaning him at the songs beginning. “The Funk If I Know” and “Watsonian Institute”,as the bonus numbers,both sound to have been recorded during these sessions are are two examples of the strongest,chunkiest melodic horn funk…that never made the cut on this original album.

Luckily for Johnny Guitar Watson this would not be the end of the musically winning streak he had been on since the beginning of his own funk odyssey. I personally never traced the exact history of it all down. However it would seem that from the mid 70’s up through the 80’s many a blues musician-from BB King to Etta James began recording with like minded jazz/funk players from bands such as The Crusaders.

And somehow I cannot help but think a lot of this had to do with the influence of the musically clever multi instrumentalist that was Johnny Guitar Watson. He definitely had a strong signature sound during this time that instantly identified the music as being his-filled with a lot of strong melodic horn breaks and synthesized bass lines. At the same time he was able to draw upon his talents as a veteran blues man to variate constantly on his instrumental and lyrical storytelling. And this might have a lot to do with why his music from this era continues to endure as time passes.

Originally posted o February 3rd,2014

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW HERE*

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Filed under 1970's, Amazon.com, blues funk, disco funk, funk guitar, horns, jazz funk, Johnny Guitar Watson, message music, Music Reviewing, Uncategorized

Anatomy Of THE Groove For The Brothers And Sisters Who Aren’t Here: “It’s About The Dollar Bill” by Johnny Guitar Watson

Johnny Guitar Watson was one of those artists whose back catalog is very like a very funky box of chocolates for me. If one enjoys chocolate,it’s very difficult to say you just enjoy one. Consequently it took a little time to determine which of the mans songs to chose to discuss on this blog. Watson was almost as enormous figure in the development of funk as James Brown in one important sense. He helped take the 12 bar blues soloing approach and applied it to a soulful rhythmic attitude from the 1950’s onward. His style of aggressively playing guitar without a plectrum was part of what made him one of R&B’s most theatrical performers in the day as a result.

The question of which song of Watson’s to talk abut today came from a talk with my dad about a memory. Almost two decades ago now, my maternal aunt used to visit my family once or twice a year. Since my father always had music going,a compilation of Johnny Guitar Watson was playing on one such visit. One song in particular got my aunts attention. It was called “It’s About The Dollar Bill”. On it’s own,the song came from Watson’s 1977 album entitled Funk Beyond The Call Of Duty. There are reason’s both musical and thematic for choosing this particular song today. So to get things started,best place to start is to get right into the center of the groove’s musicality itself.

A little light guitar ring introduces the opening and descending horn chart-with Watson chanting right along the chord changes in bassy vocalese. The song has a slow,shuffling swing of a rhythm with a bouncy Clavinet on the choruses. Horns continue to play the chords throughout both the refrains and all of the remaining choruses of the song. On the second refrain,Watson’s vocals are replaced by one of his trademark 12 bar blues guitar solos. The shuffling chorus/refrain pattern continues until the song reaches a conclusion of fanfaring horns,percussion and Watson’s multi tracked vocal harmonies-with all of their grunts,coos and groans to the songs’ fade out.

The more I listen to Johnny Guitar Watson’s music,what strikes me is how much jazzy his arrangements were during his 70’s funk period. Many of his rhythms,including this one have as prominent a swinging shuffling from big band and jump blues as they will have the classic funk breaks and rests. The horns follow the same pattern as well. Lyrically the song is very important to today’s bloated American economy based on consumerism. And coming from the idea of a black musician being in a good position to talk about capital due to having ancestrally been capital during slavery. So this funk’s advice to not let ones eyes be bigger than their pockets has the power to change up many a groove in life.

 

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Filed under 1970's, Blues, clavinet, drums, Funk, guitar, horns, Jazz-Funk, Johnny Guitar Watson, Late 70's Funk, message songs, rhythm & blues, Uncategorized