War explores Latin side
Along with Tower of Power, War was one of the first multi-racial West Coast funk/soul outfits and certainly one of the best known. In the early '70s, War rode the charts with hits like "Low Rider," "Why Can't We Be Friends" and "Summer" with groups like the Ohio Players and Earth Wind & Fire, War showed that even in-your-face black artists could attract a viable crossover audience if the music was good.
Even after the hits stopped coming, War scored with their presciently named "Platinum Jazz, " full of long instrumental breakouts that did, indeed, go over big with jazz fans and even received airplay on so-called "progressive" rock stations, getting sandwiched between Yes and Emerson Lake & Palmer.
Like the above-mentioned Earth Wind & Fire, Tower of Power and Ohio Players, War fell on hard times in the 80s. These guys could all play could improvise with the best of them, could play jazz, country or rock if need be. But their school of music went out of style for a good long spell. They didn't go away; we did.
Following up a box-set retrospective and a new recording a few years back, War's latest project is to remix a lot of their older songs into Latino-oriented arrangements not too much work considering that War's music always had a strong streak of Latin running through it.
"Colección Latina" is a gem, reminding the listener not only what a polyglot melting pot California is but just how good War is. The new CD has two new versions of "Low Rider" on it one with Spanish lyrics and one a contemporary dance mix. There's a remix of "East L.A." with new vocals by Jose Feliciano (so smooth, so hip), and a new mix of "Angel."
The rest of the album is filled out with songs that were from the start reflective of the band's Latin influences "The Cisco Kid," "Ballero," "Cinco de Mayo." There's even a song that wasn't released before, "Salsa."
As always with War, the beat is driving, the jams first-rate.
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