The World Is A Ghetto


Avenue / Rhino Records, 1972

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1972, the funk-rock group War was just hitting their stride. Coming off their hit with Eric Burdon "Spill The Wine" and his departure from the group, they were beginning to really shape their own sound and groove, as evidenced in their album All Day Music.

Their 1972 release The World Is A Ghetto was their most successful to this point - yet over 25 years later, some aspects of it have not held up as well as the message the band tried to get across. The music is still good - it's just overindulgent at times.

Leading off the disc is their first major hit sans Burdon, "The Cisco Kid." A quirky little number which pays homage to the old television series as well as has fun with it, Howard Scott and crew whip out a groove within the first few seconds of the song and refuses to let you go for the four-and-a-half minutes the track runs. A number two hit at the time, the song still enjoys a bit of a cult status, even being used in commercials not too long ago (though I can't remember if it was a beer or a jeans commercial).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The title track is the centerpiece of the album; a slower, more drawn out number that serves as a reminder to anyone listening that we have more in common than we have that separates us. By blending different musical styles, it tries to draw everyone a little closer in order to get the message across.

The overindulgence on The World Is A Ghetto comes on the long songs - even the title track falls into this trap, clocking in at just over 10 minutes. Of the six songs on this album, three of them clock in at over eight minutes in length. And while War was known for its drawn-out jams, there is a time when the musicians should stop playing and let the musical message they created sink in. "City, Country, City" is the gravest offender at just over 13 minutes - while it serves as a showcase for each of the musicians, it was a journey that was far too long for my tastes.

But here's the rub - the songs that were shorter are the ones I wish had been longer! "Where Was You At," admittedly with a riff that could have been recycled from "Get Down," is far too short for me to really be able to get into the groove, and I wish this one had been stretched out a bit longer. And as weird as "Beetles In The Bog" was, it wasn't a bad number, and it would have been interesting to hear how it could have developed even further.

The one thing that's above questioning here is the talent of the individual musicians. B.B. Dickerson knows when to be mellow on the bass, and when to get funky - and he's comfortable in both styles. Lee Oskar proves his skills on the harmonica - though these days I'm spoiled by the work of John Popper. I could go on - but one listen to the disc says more than me rattling off each member's name would.

Was The World Is A Ghetto a slump? No. A stumbling block? No again. If anything, it was a little too ambitious too early. Had this one come out around the time, say, as Why Can't We Be Friends? it might have fit a little better. And while one can't blame the band for wanting to state their message loud and clear, one has to wonder if it wasn't just a bit premature - after all, this was a band still developing into one of the unsung supergroups of the '70s.

The World Is A Ghetto is worth checking out, but should be approached with caution - it's not often I can get through a one-sitting listen of this disc. Still, it has some worthwhile moments.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Avenue / Rhino Records, and is used for informational purposes only.