CD - Johnny Guitar Watson: The Funk Anthology
Watson had a hell of a long career until his death in 1996, effortlessly reinventing himself along the way. In the 1950s he was primarily known as one of the hottest blues guitarists in the States, his own recordings peaking with the terrific instrumental 'Space Guitar' in 1954 and the 1957 Keen release 'Gangster of Love'.
He continued to plough the blues furrow throughout the 60s but, conscious that the blues wasn't paying the bills, changed tack completely in the 70s and reinvented himself as a self styled funk master, generating his biggest chart successes with the likes of 'A Real Mother for Ya' and 'Superman Lover'. It's this period, from roughly 1976 through to 1981 (with 3 tracks from a comeback album from 1994) that's represented on this 2CD anthology.
"Ain't' That A Bitch" (the first and best of the albums represented on this anthology) was a landmark recording in the funk catalogue. What characterised Watson's take on the genre was the creativity he brought to the style, generating something much looser and certainly funnier than anything he or anyone else had done before; and even at his funkiest, you could always hear the blues, if only in his still excellent guitar playing. He also wrote some great songs throughout this period, not something you would necessarily associate with the funk movement in general.
Unless you're a real fan of funk or Johnny in particular, there might be more than you need on this double CD, and some of the later releases to tend to repeat the themes of the earlier, stronger material. But even the casual listener needs to hear the invention, wit and melodic qualities to be found on many of the songs contained in this well put together, nicely annotated 31 track compilation.