Johnny "Guitar" Watson had been in the business for over 20 years before he began to amass a large following and achieved gold albums with his first two efforts for DJM. Despite the sad title, The Very Best of Johnny "Guitar" Watson in Loving Memory is a great overview of his 1976 to 1980 work. He quietly started on his hit-making path on Fantasy with 1975's "I Don't Want to Be Lone Ranger." This set ignores that work but offers a healthy sampling from his commercial peak. By 1976 Watson had his sound down pat, his great "band" was essentially him on keyboards, guitar, and bass with drummer Emery Thomas and a three-piece horn section augmenting the patently laid-back sound. The great "Ain't That Bitch" found his caustic yet smooth style refined to perfection. His biggest hit, "A Real Mother for Ya," has great melodic changes and proved that as a "bluesman" Watson had more in common vocally with Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner and Mick Jagger, than, say, Bobby "Blue" Bland. "Tarzan," despite the silly title, has Watson doing great work on electric piano and, of course, the guitar. Shortly after, the tracks "Love That Will Not Die" and "What the Hell Is This?" well-addressed the disco and dance concerns; this effort proves that Watson did run out of ideas. The ballad "Love Jones" is a dispiriting rewrite of the Emotions' "Don't Ask My Neighbors." The laugh-proof "Telephone Bill" is an embarrassing stab at rap with an inane premise. The best work here proves that Watson was one of the more influential artists and is still enjoyable to listen to.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Elias