Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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War

  • All Day Music [United Artists, 1971] B+
  • The World Is a Ghetto [United Artists, 1972] B
  • Deliver the Word [United Artists, 1973] B+
  • War Live [United Artists, 1974] C+
  • Why Can't We Be Friends? [United Artists, 1976] B-
  • Greatest Hits [United Artists, 1976] A-
  • Platinum Jazz [Blue Note, 1977] C+
  • Galaxy [MCA, 1977] B
  • Youngblood [United Artists, 1978] C+
  • The Music Band [MCA, 1979] C
  • Outlaw [RCA Victor, 1982] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

All Day Music [United Artists, 1971]
I'm beginning to find that their slow groove has a winning depth of character--B.B. Dickerson and Papa Dee Allen get as personal on bass and congas as most rock and rollers do on guitar and piano, and their chants often say more than rock's so-called poetry. Nice to have a couple of hits for purposes of identification, too. But their very slow groove, the one that takes over side one with "That's What Love Will Do," makes me think they take the whole idea of Vanilla Fudge too seriously. B+

The World Is a Ghetto [United Artists, 1972]
According to all my own theories, I should love this big Afro-roots band with the number one album, but it's hard. Jazz pretensions are one problem--"City, Country, City" has a firm bottom, but it's thirteen minutes long, and up top is mush. And if "That's What Love Will Do" was Vanilla Fudge, "Four Cornered Room" makes me think they're trying to start their own genre--blackstrap-rock, they could call it. B

Deliver the Word [United Artists, 1973]
One-two-three green light. Resume normal speed. A literal change of pace. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift accomplishment of their appointed rounds. Get it? B+

War Live [United Artists, 1974]
I thought they might conceivably cut it live, but even in the studio they stretch their tunes like Sherman tanks at a taffy pull. Only "Ballero," which is not a bolero, and "Lonely Feelin'," which is not a slow one, are worth their weight in plastic. C+

Why Can't We Be Friends? [United Artists, 1976]
I like the way "Low Rider" does its bit for fuel economy, but the rest of the good stuff disappoints: the title hit is greater on the radio, "Heartbeat" is greater by the Wild Magnolias, and the salsa section of "Leroy's Lament" gets lost on a record that's a laid-back revision of their basic shtick. They're better off heavy. B-

Greatest Hits [United Artists, 1976]
This band lives up to its name. The powerful, deceptively torpid groove evokes the pace of inner-city pleasures like "All Day Music" and "Summer." But however jokey and off-the-cuff they sound, they're usually singing about conflict, often racial conflict--the real subject of "The Cisco Kid" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?," which many take for novelty songs. A-

Platinum Jazz [Blue Note, 1977]
War's albums work--when they do--by alternating grooves with tunes. This compilation leaves the tunes on Greatest Hits, where they belong, and though most of the grooves that remain kick ass, four sides of them add up to the black Muzak this band has always lapsed into in its laziest moments. C+

Galaxy [MCA, 1977]
The first side of the most unambitious album they've ever made works beautifully as what it is--P-Funk on thorazine, with the phrasemaking acuity of previous War records reduced to one title, "Sweet Fighting Lady." Side two winds down from a pretty good hit single into fourteen minutes of carrying unambitiousness way too far. B

Youngblood [United Artists, 1978]
I actually found myself paying attention to the dialogue on this soundtrack, a first, though I didn't ask for seconds. It's pretty coherent musically, too. But the level of the writing is suggested by the title of the best track, "This Funky Music Makes You Feel Good." And the dialogue hardly makes up for that. C+

The Music Band [MCA, 1979]
Fond as I might become of "Corns and Callouses" (in which "Dr. Shoals" is asked to fix souls) I think fading groove bands are ill-advised to spend most of an album singing about the joys of career. Better to brighten the groove, so the career can continue. C

Outlaw [RCA Victor, 1982]
The pan-Afro-American groove is sharper and the tempos often approach medium fast, but the music sounds almost vintage anyway and that's the big surprise--why should they make their best album nearly a decade after their prime? Professionalism is its own reward--for once. Almost. B

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]