Music

Charles Wright and Company Express Themselves

A reissue of Express Yourself, the 1970 album by Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Rhythm Band, includes sunny pop-soul hits and extended gospel-tinged psychedelic jams.

Express Yourself
Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band

Real Gone Music

31 January 2020

Express Yourself, the 1970 album by Los Angeles-based Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band has a curious history. First released in 1970, the album was re-released almost immediately with a slightly different track listing. Both issues shared the self-empowering hit single, "Express Yourself", which has risen to the level of soul classic in subsequent decades. Now, Express Yourself has been reissued, with the tracklisting of the second edition, which will give listeners a chance to hear the Watts band as both catchy hitmakers and expansive musical trip takers.

Express Yourself opens with two groovy little pop-soul songs: "Love Land", which preceded "Express Yourself" up the pop charts, peaking at #16; and the equally infectious "I Got Love".

The album takes a left turn with the third track, "High as Apple Pie – Slice I", a jammy, gospel-tinged tune that hints of things to come. The album's title track follows, with its sunny sound and tongue-twisting lyrics, such as "It's not what you look like when you're doin' what you're doin' / It's what you're doin' when you're doin' what you look like you're doin'." Try to sing that line three times fast. Just try to sing it once and see what happens.

Surprisingly, "Express Yourself", which reached #12 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the fall of 1970, was not Wright and company's biggest hit – "Do Your Thing" charted one notch higher in early 1969. But "Express Yourself" has become the band's most beloved and enduring song, sampled most famously by N.W.A. in a rap (also called "Express Yourself") that has subsequently been sampled on "Droppin' Seeds" by Tyler, the Creator, featuring Lil Wayne, as recently as 2017.

Another enjoyable and relatively conventional song, "I'm Aware", follows "Express Yourself" before the album culminates in "High as Apple Pie – Slice 2". Picking up where "Slice 1" left off, "Slice 2" continues the journey. It is an expansive track that melds gospel choir vocals with Wright's soulful piano playing, along with occasional punctuations from the horn section and vaguely psychedelic effects and handclapping/percussion that swirl throughout the song.

Wright and the group are seemingly in no hurry as they meander through this second slice of "High as Apple Pie" for 17 minutes, arriving in a place that feels close to where they started, but light-years away at the same time. It's soul; it's gospel, but, yeah, it's a little bit of psych-rock as well. Mostly it's the sound of a great loose-but-tight band taking its own advice and expressing itself.

Some listeners might find themselves getting bored with the lengthy "High as Apple Pie – Slice II", and that's fair enough. Not everybody, after all, has an extra 17 minutes to hear where a song is going to go, especially when "Slice I" itself is nearly seven minutes long. But including a lengthy, improvisational piece, in addition to the pop hits, is a testament to the versatility of Charles Wright & the Watts 103 Street Rhythm Band. And a testament to musical self-expression.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnarok' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.