Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
Real Gone Music
While Charles Wright may not necessarily be a household name, everybody – everybody – knows the quintessential soul track “Express Yourself”. Whether it’s from the N.W.A. track of the same name or the use of the original in the pivotal climax of the 2005 film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith – or you’ve simply got some taste and are hip to what’s good – you’ve heard the infectious grooves of Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Now remastered from the original tapes by Mike Milchner of SonicVision under the premise that previous remasters “have never been up to snuff sonically”, this rerelease of Wright’s seminal record stands strong as a timeless classic.
Opening with the funky, proto-disco “Love Land”, Wright and his band cut through the thin recording with a sense of warmth and nostalgia. “I Got Love” continues with a tighter groove and cements Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band in a place equally inspired by the likes of James Brown as it is Sly and The Family Stone. Taking a turn towards gospel, “High As Apple Pie – Slice 1” adds yet another dimension to Express Yourself, one that is distinctly different in countless of ways from every other track on the record and flourishes through varied instrumentation and lush vocal harmonies. This is then paired with the album closer, “High As Apple Pie – Slice II”, a slower deeper groove, similar in tone and style, yet equally righteous.
Shockingly, the hit and title track that has survived as one of the greatest R&B tracks of the last half-century, “Express Yourself” comes in towards the end of the record. The loose shuffle of the drums and percussion, slinky guitar, the melodic bass, accenting and warm horns, and Wright’s soaring vocals are simply an essential part of musical history – despite the track only peaking at eleven on the charts. Simply put and needless to say, “Express Yourself” is a classic and stands as a brilliant example of songwriting and musical performance.
While the fiftieth anniversary release of Express Yourself proves that Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, half a century later, is an integral piece of the history of funk and R&B music. That being said, while I can understand the desire for a fiftieth anniversary reissue, the remaster of Express Yourself doesn’t quite make much of an audible difference when compared to the original. This, however, should not take away from the celebration of Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, as Express Yourself remains a timeless gem.