War – The World Is A Ghetto (1972): Review

war

Produced by Jerry Goldstein, Lonnie Jordan and Howard Scott.
Label – United Artists

When former Animals front man Eric Burdon abruptly quit War, it would have been easy to assume that the band were a spent force. Far from it, indeed, the Los Angeles Latin funk collective went on to forge an equal, if not greater popularity, and the Billboard number one album “The World Is A Ghetto” was a culmination of a swell of adulation for their live performances, and chart hit singles. Their emphasis was to rely less on lyrical content, allowing space to develop the relaxed instrumental groove that became widely respected. In addition, their timing was perfect, as a host of African American stars such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield were experimenting and developing their own sounds and messages, all with increasing critical and commercial success. War’s style developed beyond soul, to loosely fuse progressive rock, jazz, R&B and a splash of calypso. It’s not uncommon for the genre shifts to occur mid jam, which celebrates the uninhibited nature of the band’s psyche towards pushing the sonic boundaries. Often, when direction is as light as the mood, the band can drift into elongated bouts of over indulgence, which is often prevalent on this record.

war1

Kicking off with the hugely popular “The Cisco Kid”, the band tapped into the American romantic imagery of The Lone Ranger type figure, with his ever loyal companion, Pancho. Many critics insist that there’s a political edge to the song, as it has a fantasy backdrop that enables listeners to forget their troubles in the ghetto, but frankly, one has to believe that they’re blindly reaching for answers to somehow explain the faux politicized title of the album. The bottom line is that there is very little lyrical social commentary and the theory that this is one of the great early 70s socio political performances is a myth. The meandering thirteen plus minute instrumental “City, Country, City” is a slow grooved bore that could have been cut by at least 10, and “Four Cornered Room” suffers from the same energy sapping dilemma. If ever one thought that it was solely the domain of prog rockers to treat their fans to drawn out excruciating noodling, then turn to this to realize that they didn’t have exclusivity on self obsessive drivel.

It all amounts to “avant-funk by numbers”, and a dis-organized, frustrating collection that’s the musical equivalent of masturbating and never quite reaching a climax.

4/10

Track Rating
1 – Cisco Kid (6)
2 – Where Was You Out (5)
3 – City, Country, City (3)
4 – Four Cornered Room (4)
5 – The World Is A Ghetto (5)
6 – Beetles In A Bog (4)

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