The legendary funk-rock band War returns to our island on a great double bill with the Doobie Brothers on April 1 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Blending an irresistible mix of funk, Latin, rock, soul and jazz, War sold more than 23 million records and created an impressive catalog of timeless hits from "Low Rider," "The Cisco Kid," and "Slippin' Into Darkness," to "All Day Music" "Gypsy Man" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?"
The musicians of War first found fame performing with former Animals lead singer Eric Burdon. The core members were veteran R&B players from L.A. who met Burdon in 1969 when he was seeking a new backing band.
Timeless funk-rock band War returns to macc with doobie brothers
To develop material, War began playing marathon concert jams over which Burdon would free-associate lyrics. In 1970 they released their first album, "Eric Burdon Declares War," featuring the dreamy hit single "Spill the Wine."
Burdon and War toured extensively across Europe and the States, garnering rave reviews. A critic in the U.K.'s New Music Express hailed War as "the best live band I ever saw" after a gig in London's Hyde Park. Fans included Jimi Hendrix, who jammed with the band at Ronnie Scott's Club the night before he died.
When an exhausted Burdon quit in the midst of a European tour in 1971, the group continued on their own. War's second solo album sold close to 2 million copies and included the hits "Slippin' Into Darkness" and "All Day Music."
War really hit their stride on the follow-up album, "The World Is a Ghetto," which topped the charts and sold more than 3 million copies, making it the best-selling album of 1973. It also produced two top-10 hits in "The Cisco Kid" and the title ballad.
"All of our songs came out of jam sessions," War co-founder Lonnie Jordan told Uncut magazine. "You'd get a guitar riff, or a bass line, and we'd all improvise over the top, and someone would start hollering, and we'd start rolling the tape."
Success continued with the album "Deliver the Word," which spawned the hits "Gypsy Man" and "Me and Baby Brother." Then "Why Can't We Be Friends?," which sold more than 2 million copies, provided the gold-selling title track and their most famous song, "Low Rider."
The funky hit - hailed as, "the Chicano national anthem" by comedian George Lopez - was born out of a tequila-fueled jam session. At the time, the musicians were working on a documentary about L.A.'s lowrider clubs. "We had the film and all of this music, but we didn't know what kind of lyrics to write," Jordan recalled in the Las Vegas Mercury. "Then our saxophone player walked in and told us that he'd just bought a 1952 Chevy lowrider. I'm telling you, it was dropped to the max, and it looked good. So he strutted into the studio with a bottle of tequila and started singing about his new ride, and there it was."
After a few fallow years, War's potent music began to attract a new following by the 1990s with rap artists like Ice-T sampling their funky grooves. The Latin Alliance released an updated rap version of "Low Rider" in 1991, and Hawaii's Simplisity recorded "Cisco Kid."
Then the album "Rap Declares War" was released in 1992, featuring top rappers such as Ice-T, the Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Kid Frost, Brand Nubian and 2Pac, along with contributions from War's musicians.
Two years later, the studio album "Peace Sign" found War delivering another spicy stew of jazz-influenced gritty funk and positive messages. Musician magazine noted, "this comeback sounds like a ripe nugget from their funkiest years."
Among the group's compilations, the two-CD release "Anthology 1970-1994" was hailed by Jazzizz magazine as "putting homogenized '90s R&B to shame." Reviewing "The Very Best of War," released in 2003, the Boston Herald praised: "Fusing soul, blues, rock and Latin rhythms, War burst onto the music scene with furious, funky grooves and an uncompromising attitude, concocting a tight multicultural stew of musical styles and categories. That formula has rarely been equaled in modern rock."
War's music has also been re-spun by many artists from Janet Jackson, Puff Daddy and the Beastie Boys, to Shaggy, Macy Gray and Offspring with covers or samples of their hits.
The band currently comprises founding keyboardist Lonnie Jordan with newer members saxophonist Fernando Harkless, percussionist Marcos Reyes, lead guitarist Stuart Ziff, drummer Sal Rodriguez, bassist Poncho Tomaselli, and vocalist/harmonica player Mitch Kashmar.
In 2008, they released "Greatest Hits Live," which included a 30-minute "Low Rider" medley. Also in 2008, Eric Burdon reunited with War for the first time in 37 years, performing at London's historic Royal Albert Hall. A year later, War was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Still energizing audiences, a recent concert review praised: "This wasn't a nostalgia show as the band's blend of jazz, funk and soul seems just as relevant today as it was years ago. Blending a mix of their greatest hits with free-form improvisational jams, a set-closing 'Low Rider' jam included portions of Sly Stone's 'I Want To Take You Higher' and Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man.' "
"I consider our music 'universal street music' and no one has been able to duplicate it," Jordan said in an interview. "Now we have the younger generations sampling it, rerecording it, and covering it. So it's been nonstop for 40 years."
* War and the Doobie Brothers perform at 7 p.m. April 1 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $45, $65 and $85, with a limited number of $125 premium seats and table seating (plus applicable fees). Gates open 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 242-7469.
On Saturday evening at 7:30, we have an opportunity to hear John Cruz performing in the McCoy Studio Theater. No guests here, just Cruz solo, back in the islands from touring New Zealand. Following the MACC gig, he heads to the studio to record his eagerly anticipated third album. It should be out by October.
Cruz's superb second CD, "One of These Days," was one of the best contemporary albums released by a Hawaii artist in many years. And we all know his landmark debut, "Acoustic Soul," which earned him "Contemporary Album of the Year" and "Most Promising Artist" Na Hoku awards, and featured the sublime classic "Island Style."
* John Cruz plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $25 and $45 VIP with preshow meet-and-greet (plus applicable fees), available as above.
Na Leo Pulama O Maui presents their annual fundraising "Ho'omau 2011" concert Saturday at the Keopuolani Park amphitheater. The all-day event features entertainment with Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners Na Palapalai, One Inity, Pac Five, Homestead and Kamaha'o.
Halau performances will be presented by Na Hanona Kulike 'O Pi'ilani, under the direction of kumu hula Kapono'ai Molitau and Sissy Lake-Farm, Cody Pueo Pata and Halau Hula Ka Malama Mahilani, and kumu hula Napua Makua and Kahulu Maluo and Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka.
A silent auction will be held throughout the morning with live auction items going up for bid at noon, with artwork by some of Hawaii's most talented practitioners.
The event, from 9 a.m. to sunset, supports programming for the Punana Leo O Maui Hawaiian Language Immersion preschool.
* Na Leo Pulama O Maui's annual fundraising "Ho'omau 2011" concert kicks off from 9 a.m. to sunset Saturday at the Keopuolani Park amphitheater. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, available from Ruby's Diner, Cute and Cuddly Baby Boutique, Mana Foods, Native Intelligence, Pacific Roots Tattoo, Paragon Salon, Ohana Fun Center at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel and the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens.
The compounding tragedy in Japan is inspiring a number of benefit events on Maui. Funds were raised last Saturday at Jake Shimabukuro's amazing MACC concert, where he dedicated a beautiful, solo ukulele version of "Sakura" to the thousands impacted by the devastation.
On Friday at 9 p.m. at Three's Bar and Grill in Kihei, the new soul/R&B band Rabbitt and The Propers headline a "Jam for Japan" benefit along with the Kit Kat Club and comedian Chino Laforge.
Donations will be accepted at the door for the Red Cross to aid in relief efforts, and there will be a silent auction.
Rabbitt and The Propers features vocalist Jessica "Rabbitt" Lewis, guitarist Kanoa Kukaua, bassist David "Wolf" Wolfberg and drummer Aaron Fulton.
* "Jam for Japan" with Rabbitt and The Propers, Kit Kat Club and Chino Laforge starts at 9 p.m. Friday at Three's Bar and Grill in Kihei. For details, call 879-3133.
Multi-Na Hoku award-winner Amy Hanaiali'i returns to Stella Blues Supper Club on Friday and Saturday evening. Her latest CD, "Amy Hanaiali'i and Slack Key Masters of Hawaii," was recently nominated for a Hawaiian Grammy.
* Stella Blues Supper Club showcases the talents of Na Hoku award-winner Amy Hanaiali'i on Friday and Saturday. Cost for dinner, with seating at 6 p.m., and show is $60; just the show, with seating at 7:15 p.m., is $30. Call 874-3779 for reservations.