Straight out of South Central Los Angeles, WAR fused genres and delivered pointed messages about race, poverty and conflict over an uplifting groove.
DEL selects 14 essentially tracks from WAR’s storied career for the Essential WAR Playlist.
Galaxy (’78; #8 Dance-Disco/#5 R&B/#39 Pop charts) – This was/is “my jam”! This was War’s real entry into disco-dance but not without its funky roots. The “Plump DJ Mix” rocks. Sampled by, among others, Mellow Man Ace on “Mentirosa”. Note: the band got called out for selling out to “disco”. Many fans wanted a “message” and not rump movin’ – many in War felt that way too… not me!
Good, Good Feelin’ (’79; #49 Dance-Disco/#12 R&B/#101 Pop charts) – While this was also “disco-ish” and an “outlier” for the group, it was none-the-less a hit in the clubs. A great vocal hook that matched it’s music guts.
Me and Baby Brother (’73; #18 R&B/#15 Pop charts) – Originally recorded live as “Baby Brother” a rework turned it into the new name and a B-boy classic was born. This song is unfortunately very topical today as is evidenced in the lyrics, “Shot my baby brother… and they called it law and order”. Funky, choppy, and soul-funk-R&B greatness!
The World Is a Ghetto (’72; #3 R&B/#7 Pop charts) – Real social commentary here: pollution, crime, hopelessness… all viewed through the lens of the band. Interviews 20-30 years later yielded sad reflection that things weren’t “much better”. Get the 119 bpm “Special U.S. Disco Mix”. Spanish Fly, Geto Boys, and King Tee all sampled it well.
The Cisco Kid (’73; #5 R&B/#2 Pop charts) – An ode to War’s hood – this song, (Mexican criminal morphed into a freedom fighter) prompted a huge Latino following for the group. Sampled by Janet Jackson (“You”), 7A3, and Spanish Fly. This Grammy nominated gold record is still an anthem today!
City Country City (’72; uncharted) – The OG is 13+ minutes of instrumental delight. Harmonicas and horns adorn this unlikely funky-dance track that used to light dancers up at seminal clubs like David Mancuso’s Loft as much as it soothed the “home listener”.
Low Rider (’75; #1 R&B/#7 Pop charts) – This should absolutely paint that mental picture of a “low rider car” cruisin’ through the neighborhood on a hot summer’s night. Arthur Baker’s Remix in ’87 hit #59 on the charts. Sampled by the Stereo MCs and Beastie Boys (“Slow Ride”) to full effect.
Why Can’t We Be Friends (’75; #9 R&B/#6 Pop charts) – Reggae-influenced with a feeling of hope and good cheer. A laid-back dance (yep – slow can be “dance”) jawn.
You Got the Power (’82; #6 Dance-Disco/#18 R&B/#66 Pop charts) – A clubby, funky, and a bit formulaic hit.
Outlaw (’82; #13 R&B/#94 Pop charts) – This 130 bpm groove sounds a bit dated now but even this more “commercial” effort was quality and helped War gain another crossover hit.
Gypsy Man (’73; #6 R&B/#8 Pop charts) – Another musical marathon of funky, blusy, jazzy goodness that takes you on an eleven minute gypsy ride.
Ballero (’74; #17 R&B/#33 Pop charts) – Latin flava with a flute that won’t quit – I’m going to bust this out soon, it’s been too long!
All Day Music (’71; #18 R&B/#35 Pop charts) – Yes… you can listen to this all day. If the refrain, “Let’s have a picnic go to the park – rolling in the grass till long after dark…”, doesn’t put you in the mood to chill – you’re already dead!
L.A. Sunshine (’72; #3 R&B/#7 Pop charts) – A jam session packed with eleven plus minutes of improv jazz… loaded with cowbells and the incessant plea to, “Get on down, get on down”.