& Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.
After going for more than a few years without recording, Charles Wright & His 103rd St. Rhythm Band made an unexpected return to the studio in 1998 with Going to the Party. Wright had enjoyed some major hits in the '60s and '70s, but in the '80s and '90s, the singer wasn't nearly as visible (although his signature tune, "Express Yourself," had been sampled by N.W.A and other rappers). This CD's front cover boasts that it was "played by human beings, not by machines," and Wright speaks the truth. Party sounds like it was played by a real band, not just one guy with a drum machine, sequencers, and synthesizers. Instead of trying to appeal to the urban contemporary tastes of the late '90s, Wright sticks with a '70s-type sound on gritty funk smokers like "Groove It" and "She Don't Believe," as well as silky slow jams such as "I'll Give You Time" and "Is It Real." In fact, much of the material sounds like it could have been recorded 20 or 25 years earlier. Wright doesn't have the voice he did in his heyday, and Party isn't in a class with his outstanding Warner Bros. output of the '60s and '70s. But it's a competent and sincere effort from someone who knows what a real R&B band sounds like. ~ Alex Henderson