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