War

Evolutionary

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Though War has 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 that 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 in what might seem at first hearing to be their signature sound. 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 first single. The USC Trojan Marching Band lends syncopated, chunky brass to the bottom and L.A. Fats adds a guest rap. A bonus version features 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. The song is great, but the production is too frosty to accommodate the percussive heat in the chart. 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 Funky Tonk," an instrumental tag written by Jordan and Goldstein that's grafted on in order to stretch it to over nine minutes. It's the best cut here. The latter combines a cover of Norman Whitfield's and Barrett Strong's Motown classic "War" to another tag entitled "War After War (A Soldier's Story)," with rapper Malik Yusef delivering a narrative above the timeless chorus -- to no good end. The mix is confused, full of sterile digital dub effects and overly busy guitars; even USC's brass can't save it. The other winner here is "Outer Space." It too makes liberal use of dubwise tactics, but Jordan's soulful vocal and acoustic piano are enhanced by them in a sultry, hypnotic groove. "This Funky Music" borrows the organ swell of "Slipping Into Darkness" for an intro, but is so compressed -- despite a hip, synth bassline -- it falls utterly flat. "Bounce" just doesn't, and its use of Auto-Tune is just awful. Evolutionary is a ultimately a failed attempt by Jordan and Goldstein to jumpstart War as a recording entity. [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.]

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
War
5:31 Amazon
2
War
4:29 Amazon
3
War
9:20 Amazon
4
War
6:31 Amazon
5
War
4:15 Amazon
6
War
5:24 Amazon
7
War
3:23 Amazon
8
War
4:16 Amazon
9
War
5:16 Amazon
10
War
4:21 Amazon
11
War
3:31 Amazon
12
War
7:57 Amazon
13
War
5:29 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
War
3:59 Amazon
2
War
3:47 Amazon
3
War
4:08 Amazon
4
War
3:47 Amazon
5
War
5:23 Amazon
6
War
3:30 Amazon
7
War
3:53 Amazon
8
War
3:48 Amazon
9
War
3:10 Amazon
10
War
6:39 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick