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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisWhen the multi-racial War burst onto the charts in the early 1970s, no one was expecting its funk, rock and soul amalgamation. Add in some jazz, blues, reggae and Latin undertones and the explosive ensemble was truly a multi-cultural melting pot. Not only did that diversity pay off, including early collaborations with The Animals front man Eric Burdon, but it produced an impressive list of singles for the remainder of the decade into the early 80s.
These days the group is hitting the road hard, continuously supporting its relatively recent (and most satisfactory) career retrospective The Very Best Of War (Avenue/Rhino). Its ever unpredictable face continues through a sea of players spanning several nationalities, but regardless of where they come from, the ability to groove is at the core of each artist's heart. And throughout a two hour, dance-driven set, that's exactly the type of attitude they conveyed with horn-heavy memories like the smoldering "Slippin' into Darkness," the Burdon-era classic "Spill the Wine," the Latin love affair "The Cisco Kid" and the salsa flanked "Gypsy Man."
Listening to War plow through its catalogue also recalled its influence on many modern groups, especially within funk, soul and R&B avenues. Its peculating beats clearly rubbed off on Janet Jackson, its smoky undertones on Macy Gray, its sun-stroked brass on Shaggy and even some thunderous rock elements on the unsuspecting Korn (all of whom have sampled the band at one point or another). And of course there was the sing-a-long "Why Can't We Be Friends?," plus the party anthem "Low Rider," which morphed into a classic rock jam session with a little help from members of Sonia Dada. Aside from this sphere of influence and endurance, the group's social and political undertones were also apparent (primarily during "The World is a Ghetto"), which remain relevant in the wake of poverty's never ending cycle and strained international peace forging efforts. (The more things change, the more they stay the same).
Still, no matter the message or how much the musicians can move in concert, the time has come for them to go beyond mere time travel through the hits and actually cut another album. Its been thirteen long years since the War's last official studio project Peace Sign (Avenue) hit streets, which is clearly too long considering the players still possess fiery chops. But given the momentum of its current outing, hopefully that's in the cards for the near future, though a return live outing would surely fill the gap in the meantime.
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