Johnny "Guitar" Watson

What the Hell Is This/Love Jones

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This 2013 compilation pairs two of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's funk and disco records from the late '70s and early '80s -- the 1979 LP What the Hell Is This? and its 1980 sequel, Love Jones. The longer Watson played funk and disco, the freer he felt to be truly silly and strange, and both of these LPs have their share of weirdness, as when Watson sings about a "close encounter of the wrong time" on Love Jones and declares "I Don't Want to Be President" on What the Hell, as if it were an option, while letting his mother-in-law berate him on a song of the same name. Watson made the conscious decision to get weirder and funkier on these records, so they're more fun than his earlier stabs at disco and funk, but these records remain just slightly constrained, possibly due to how Watson played every element on here outside of drums and horns. That demonstrates an admirable versatility and a maverick streak, but he's not as funky as Stevie Wonder and Prince, who both found a way to make their one-man band records sound like a full funky band.

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