War – Greatest Hits Live (Avenue Records R2512351, 2008)
War- a world music band? I’d testify to it in a court of law. Their mixture of soul, rock, jazz and blues with Afro-Latin and Caribbean rhythms was groundbreaking for its time (paving the way for groups like Ozomatli) and they managed to turn equal measures of fun and social consciousness into pop chart success. Forty years after first forming, they’re still out waging their musical campaign with a largely reconfigured lineup under the leadership of singer, keyboardist, composer and original member Lonnie Jordan.
This live DVD, shot in Anaheim, California late in 2007, is a testament not only to how timely their songs continue to be but how well they still connect with a crowd after all these years. Beginning with the expanded lament of “The World is a Ghetto,” they waste no time laying down and holding on to a righteous vibe through such classic hits and monster jams as “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” “Ballero,” “Gypsy Man,” “Spill the Wine,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” and of course the East L.A. anthem “Low Rider.
Listening to these songs now, it’s easy to pick out such influences as reggae, flamenco and boogaloo- genres I didn’t know existed when I first started listening to War’s music as a kid in the ‘70s. So now I think of these guys as a foreshadowing of and stepping stone towards becoming the world music head I am today. My only minor gripe is that the band’s onstage antics get a little too excessive near the end. It’s great that they all get to solo extensively, but I’d have preferred to see and hear another one of their chart-toppers (like the conspicuously absent “Summer”). Still, this is a whopping good presentation of an ever-great band. The sound and camera work are clean and flawless, the music is both serious and party-hearty and this is one War in which everyone comes out a winner.
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