"The stage will be smoking" when WAR performs at the Greek with longtime friends and collaborators Cheech & Chong.
California funk band, WAR, originally dubbed Eric Burdon and War, have just released their first studio album in 20 years, Evolutionary.
“We approached this album by going into the studio and doing basically the same thing we’ve done in the past. We pretty much improvise and create on the fly,” says founding member, Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan. “Myself and Jerry Goldstein, our producer and my ‘partner in crime,’ got together to plan. During the year and a half of trying to figure out how we were going to do this, we knew we hadn’t recorded anything in twenty years and weren’t very sure of how we were going to be accepted today.”
Known for their famous hits, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” “Low Rider,” “Spill the Wine,” “Summer” and “The Cisco Kid,” the group, who formed in 1969, utilized the knowledge gained from their crossover success in recording Evolutionary. Being in the studio for the first time in 20 years gave them an opportunity to return to their old production roots.
“We gave it a shot in the arm of how we’ve done it in the past, and it worked for us,” remarks Jordan. “We managed to keep the interior of the studio that we had – the whole concept, attitude, everything – it was all like the past. We were able to put a little bit of today, and by today, I mean WAR 2014, in the mixture with WAR of the ’70s. We have something for everyone on this album.”
Fusing elements of Latin, R&B, reggae, funk, rock and jazz is just one of the many traits that WAR has showcased in 45 years of existence.
When considering how the production of an album has advanced so much in two decades, Jordan says, “Our sound, technically, has changed because we are now into the digital age. We decided to no longer go analog because in these years you can’t tell the difference anymore. Even the analogs sound digital now, and the younger kids, meaning the ‘gigglers’, can’t hear the difference because when you decide to record analog, the technical systems are all digital platform. Other than that, the concept is still there and the movement of WAR is still there. You’re just going to hear it cleaner.”
Evolutionary features 12 new tunes. Guests on the album range from Cheech & Chong, who appear on the first album single, “That L.A. Sunshine,” to Joe Walsh, Malik Yusef and the Tower of Power horns.
“It’s a double album, so we have our platinum hits on there as well. It’s digitally re-mastered, too, and sounds even better than it did back then. You can still hear the dirt underneath it all,” Jordan laughs.
For the past year and a half, WAR has been on tour with good friends Cheech and Chong. The Up in Smoke Tour is going to stop by the Greek Theatre this Saturday.
“It’s been a blast. We polished up all our improvising and everything – they improvise a lot, and so do we,” shares Jordan. “It’s pretty much like a play, without the booklet that tells us what’s going to happen next. We like to have you guys surprised. Not only that, but this is kind of like a reunion.”
WAR’s “Low Rider” single appeared in Cheech and Chong’s very first film, 1978’s Up in Smoke, used WAR’s single “Low Rider.” This was the first time that one of their songs had been featured in anything.
Jordan adds, “It makes this whole thing feel like a big reunion. We love it.”
Fans attending the tour are in for a thoroughly unique experience and funk-filled performance from WAR.
“Just like our music, we play our [shows] differently every night, and we get the people into the music every night,” says Jordan. “It’s the people who actually wrote the music, so it’s their song. Whatever they want to do with it at that moment is what’s actually going to happen. Like Cheech and Chong’s films, people wrote their movies – everything that they wrote is a real-life experience from the streets. Just like our music, everything we write about is what we’ve experienced with the people and what they’ve experienced. It’s like we’re all one.”
“You’re going to see a lot of smoke,” Jordan adds. “The stage will be smoking, so bring water cause you’ll be thirsty. The stage will be hot! It’s going to be fun, and that’s the main thing. If you’ve never seen the show, just bring your teeth, and you will be laughing a lot.”
When they aren’t improvising music infused with comedy in huge venues across the nation, WAR is collaborating with Cheech and Chong off stage, too.
“Right now, our main focus is this new album. Although, we do have other projects in the works, which are the videos for this, including the sequel of ‘The L.A. Sunshine.’ Cheech and Chong are working on their next movie. Of course, we’re going to be starring in it and doing the music.”
Evolutionary is currently available. WAR performs May 24 at the Greek Theatre. For more information, visit war.com.