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War

Evolutionary

Format: CD   Release Date: 05/19/2014
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Though War have been a consistent touring entity in the 21st century, they haven't released an album of new studio material since 1994's Peace Sign. During the silence, four of its original five members left to form the Lowrider Band, with only lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lonnie Jordan remaining. (Conceptualist, arranger, co-songwriter, and co-producer Jerry Goldstein also remains part of the equation.) Musically, the studio group behind Jordan continues to meld funk, jazz, soul, Latin, and rock. Set-opener "That L.A. Sunshine" is a different tune from their iconic "L.A. Sunshine," but the title's reference is deliberate. This is a smooth, contemporary, jazzy funk number, with bright, breezy overtones; it's well-chosen as a single. The USC Trojan Marching Band lend syncopated, chunky brass to the bottom, and L.A. Fats adds a guest rap. A bonus version adds Cheech Chong in classic dialogue style to the mix. The Tower of Power Horns and Eagles' guitarist Joe Walsh aid the band on "Mamacita," a knotty fusion of cumbian funk and reggae. There are two medleys here. The first is a lengthy, jazz-funk jam that features a previously unrecorded composition by the original band -- "It's Our Right " -- with a new tune -- Funky Tonk" -- an instrumental tag written by Jordan and Goldstein, grafted on and stretching it to over nine minutes. It's the best cut here. The latter combines a cover of Norman Whitfield's and Barrett Strong's classic Motown hit "War" to "War After War (A Soldier's Story)," with rapper Malik Yusef delivering the narrative above the timeless chorus. "Outer Space" makes liberal use of dubwise tactics, but Jordan's soulful vocal and acoustic piano are enhanced by them. "This Funky Music" borrows the organ swell of "Slipping Into Darkness" as an intro and contains a hip, synth bassline. Evolutionary is an attempt by Jordan and Goldstein to jumpstart War. [The budget-priced set comes packaged with a thoroughly remastered version of War's initial (and platinum-selling) Greatest Hits album making its first appearance on CD. Its ten tracks are worth the purchase price for anyone who doesn't yet have them.] ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

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