Charles Wright – Something To Make You Feel Good – Album Review
Back again with Mr. Charles Wright venturing into solo-music aside from his role as leader of the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band – I was looking forward to what the man might come up with this time around. A highly-skilled musician, we had slightly mixed feelings on the lead-single “She Don’t Believe In Love” from his new album Something To Make You Feel Good when we checked that out a couple months or so back – but it wasn’t due to lack of skill or know-how, it was just an unexpected combination. After listening to Something To Make You Feel Good…I suppose those unexpected sounds & songs should have come at me a little more naturally this time around…but nope…Wright continues to surprise with the directions he’s taken on solo.
Much of that feeling…like how “Answer To My Prayers” begins…comes from the vocal-department. On the one hand, you’ll appreciate the freedom of expression in Wright’s music…on the other hand, you might find yourself wishing the notes, tones and production on said-vocals might match the strengths of the music more than they do. “Answer To My Prayers” was a great meter-stick to measure with and as the first song, naturally sets the impression for what we might hear on the record to follow. Wright sings with passion…and I like that…he’s missing a few tones and notes by more than a few inches wide of the mark…and that I didn’t like so much. It’s tough to evaluate someone like this that you know beyond the shadow of a doubt has an ear for music…it makes you question your own sanity as a reviewer really…makes you wonder if the music can be as spot-on as it is – what holds back Wright from staying in the studio for just an hour or two more to put in vocal performances that match the energy of the music?
Because LISTEN to the rhythm and groove of “Apartment Living” – and you’ll get what I’m saying. A track like this…with the music coming through so vibrant and strong…it deserves just as much time spent on those vocals as it does the music in my opinion. The bass-lines alone make “Apartment Living” worth the price of admission…great percussion tightly backing it up, same with the guitar notes – they’re sounding great too. When the vocals creep into the song, you can hear that slight addition into the atmosphere of the mix as well…which is usually an indication that they’re sitting just a bit too high up in the track. Using the repetition of its title, “Apartment Living” keeps the song simple by just using this one statement to act as the vocals and add additional rhythm to this second-cut on the record…and as a result of its sparseness, gains a few points by being driven strongly through the instrumentation.
Do people who are gay have a choice is the question, and if so why not chose to go straight? Because when you are different in America, you tend to come out on the loosing end. I find it hard to believe someone would walk into a nightclub and shoot a hundred people or more, simply because of their sexual orientation. It’s also difficult to understand how a person can walk into a church and kill practically everyone, as they knell down to pray.
So what has happened to us at the turn of this century,? Are we making progress or have we simply gone gun crazy? Are we so afraid until we actually believe we need weapons of mass destruction, to protect our homes? Why, other than the fact that some gun dealer is out to fill his pockets, would we need so much fire power?
Are we gearing up for another civil war? Why would we otherwise, be so afraid of each other?
We have an entire army to protect us in case things get out of hand, plus the National Guard and the most progressive police force in the entire universe. So why so many guns and who are we planning to aim them at? I know these are a lot of questions but it seems like this gun toting culture has already begun to slide on an awfully slippery slope. And frankly it’s beginning to make me wonder, what’s it all about?
And what’s going to happen when the children, who’ve been desensitized by all these vicious video games, grow up and inherit these lethal weapons. Has anybody thought about that? Well if not, it’s about time to get to thinking!
THOUGHTS? Express Yourself!
(If All Men Are Truly Brothers)
I originally started out writing this song to my band members, whom I’d taken from a group of starving musicians, to the Pinnacle of popularity. But for some suicidal reason, they decided to self destruct, so this was an effort to appeal to their lack of common sense. In fact, the guy upon the hill, which I refer to in the epilogue is none other than me, myself and I.
My band members were afraid, I was going to up and leave them, which was the absolute last thing on my mind. Yet, they were doing practically everything they could in an effort to hold me hostage.
But while I was writing the song I came to realize, it didn’t simply address the issues concerning my band. The scenario was also a perfect fit for the American society as well. And though I wrote it years ago, it is still as relevant today, as it was back in the late 60’s and the early 70′.
Just expressing myself, that’s all.
Can you think of a way to Bring us All Together?
“Answer to My Prayers” is a simmering R&B song with an emphasis on the blues. The lyrical turns embrace a familiar theme, but Wright spins them into something signature with his charismatic performance. His rhythm section is stellar throughout the release and they lay down the first of many impressively solid, yet elastic, outings on the album. He burrows deeper into the blues with the lightly comedic “Looking for an Ugly Woman”, but it’s the particularly nuanced vocal that pushes this tune over the top. The vocal varies between moments of smirking amusement and lightly rueful passages. Moody brass section work distinguishes “I Got Feelings Too”, but it’s Wright who shines brightest thanks to a painfully intimate vocal that rises and falls well with the music. “She Don’t Believe In Love” will jolt listeners to life with its high octane funk stride cutting through the speakers with the visceral physicality of a blade. Wright’s performance has the same urgency he brings to bear on every preceding song.
Wright describes his childhood in the cotton fields of Mississippi in this debut memoir.
The author, who fronted the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, is best known for his hit 1970 funk song “Express Yourself,” which has been widely featured in movies and ad campaigns and provided the signature sample for the 1988 NWA song of the same name. Yet in this book, the first in a series of planned memoirs covering the entire course of his life, there’s almost no talk of music. Rather, it concerns his earliest years as one of 12 children born to an impoverished sharecropping couple in the Mississippi Delta. As a child in the 1940s, Wright worked beside his parents in the fields, “picking and chopping cotton sunup ’til sundown—WITHOUT ANY PAY!” The author claims that his memory stretches back to three months before he was born, and he displays a preternatural maturity in depicting the complex, often combative relationships between members of his family and the neighbors, fellow sharecroppers, and landowners that made up their hardscrabble community. The exploitative extremes of sharecropping are so troubling—and so reminiscent of depictions of slavery—that readers will find it almost inconceivable that such practices represented the status quo in some parts of the country as recently as the 1950s. This volume ends with Wright’s escape to Los Angeles, with a future of music and self-expression yet to come. Although the conclusion finds the author still in elementary school, readers will be left with the sense that the young Wright has already lived a lifetime. The book’s presentation is a little odd, with awkward formatting and a lot of stock photos. However, Wright is a highly adept storyteller with an excellent sense of detail and momentum. The overall reading experience is almost akin to sitting on the porch of a small, rickety farmhouse listening to the author spin yarn after yarn. “This is my story and most of it is one hundred percent true,” writes Wright, and in so doing he summons a whole host of American memoirists who’ve managed to transmute tragedy and fear.
A remarkable, well-told story of youth.