"Express Yourself"

Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band was for me one of the original, funkified, soul-deep bands of the 1960s and 1970s. I loved the urban African American music that hit the airwaves during that time. Earth, Wind & Fire led the pack for me, but they included War, Bloodstone, Maze, Sly & the Family Stone, the Whispers, Parliament, and Charles Wright. The Chicano Funk/Urban sounds emanating from LA, Texas, and the Bay Area around that time mixed right in there, including bands like El Chicano, Malo, Thee Midniters, Sunny & the Sunliners, Azteca, and Tower of Power.

Fortunately, I’ve become friends with Mr. Wright some 30 years after “Do Your Thing,” “Express Yourself,” and “Love Land” brought him international success. He came late last year to Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural at the invitation of our mutual friend, David Sandoval (one of the original producers of Los Lobos). He was there during our last Anniversary event this past February.

On Saturday, June 17, 2006 I was honored to host Charles Wright’s new CD release party at Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural with an amazing band that included original members of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band as well as players for Earth, Wind & Fire and other musicians. In the audience were personalities like Charles McCormick of Bloodstone (“Natural High”) and a member of Sly, Slick & Wicked.

The new CD is called “Finally got it Wright” (Million Dollars Worth of Memories Records), now available at record shops and on the Internet (www.expressyourself.net).

Being there at this listening party and hosting this event was a dream come true for this once violent street kid. Music was one of the few sweet aspects of my crazy life then, particularly that era’s R&B. And Charles Wright and the band performed like there was no tomorrow. Playing some of his hits and cuts from previous albums, he also sang a few of the new ones. By the end, when he brought in the bass notes of “Express Yourself,” everybody in the house was on their feet, dancing, swaying, and singing along.

It’s important to note that this was one of the most authentic and original music this country ever produced. It was a time when people talked about important things like love, but also about the state of the world. There was consciousness and action in the streets and in the songs. While many of our youth today do not know much of this history, they hear the sounds in the various sampled records and current movie soundtracks. It’s still part of their world, although I don’t think we’re doing much to preserve the music or the musicians. I want to do my part to do both.

I want to thank Charles Wright, his band, and all those who attended this fantastic CD release party – for making this such a magical night.

Also please be on the lookout for another classic soul/rock/funk night when Chicano radio personality and music impresario Frankie Firme holds a CD release party of the new Ramparts Records release (featuring some of the West Coast, Eastside Sound they’re famous for) at Tia Chucha’s on July 8 from 5 PM until 10 PM. There will be live performances by Pepe Marquez and Anthony Prieto. Called “The Soul of Aztlan Show,” we’ll also feature a documentary by Ramparts owner Hector Gonzales and film maker Jim Velarde on the Ramparts Records phenomena (we’re also going to give yours truly a musical send off as I get ready to attend the World Poetry Festival in Caracas, Venezuela from July 15 until July 24).

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