War – Why Can’t We Be Friends?

More Why Can’t We Be Friends?

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  • A stunning sounding copy and the best to hit the site in many years — Triple Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Both sides here are incredibly lush, big and spacious with a huge bottom end, no smear and tons of energy
  • Extremely quiet for this title — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Cut from the same cloth as the band’s 1973 Deliver the Word LP, War’s 1975 Why Can’t We Be Friends? is a masterpiece in its scope and breadth.” – All Music, 4 Stars

Low Rider sounds AWESOME on this one. This is the kind of record you can take to any stereo store or audiophile friend’s house and bring their stereos to their knees. Audiophile systems are rarely designed to play this kind of music at the levels it demands, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. Records like this are the challenge we audiophiles need to make our stereos even better. When the music is this good it’s worth the effort!

Tonality Is Key

Tonality is key to the sound of any Hot Stamper, and this is no exception. The vocals are rich and full — so important! — with airy extension on the percussion that brings out all the harmonics and gets them right to boot. (Proper tape hiss is a dead giveaway for that quality.) The sound of the cowbells and timbales driving so much of the beat here are about as well recorded as any I have heard on a pop record. If you need more cowbell, this record has what you’re looking for.

If you have a Hot Stamper pressing of course. If you don’t, you still get tons of bass; almost every copy had plenty of bottom end. It might not be as note-like or punchy as the bass on the best copies, or go as low, but it’s good enough to get the job done.

But what exactly is The Job that needs doing? What is the record trying to do? What happens on the killer pressings that doesn’t on all the others?

Shootouts Tell You What to Listen For

As usually happens in these shootouts, we learned that there’s so much more to this album than just big bass. What really makes this music come alive on the best copies was the result of two qualities we found were in fairly short supply:

(1) Richness 
(2) Transparency

When the vocals sound thin and pinched as they do on so many copies of this album, possibly the result of the grainy crap vinyl UA is infamous for, that sour sound takes all the fun out of the music. Many tracks have group vocals and choruses, and the best copies make all the guys sound like they are standing in a big room, shoulder to shoulder, belting it out live and in living color. These are not classically trained singers. These are guys who love their music, who make up in enthusiasm what they lack in polish. I say more power to them. Smoke ’em if you got ’em and turn it up!

The good copies capture that energy and bring it into the mix with the full-bodied sound it no doubt had live in the studio. When the EQ or the vinyl goes awry and their voices start to take on a lean or gritty quality, the party’s over. (Seriously; this album has a party atmosphere; it’s overflowing with fun energy. If you can’t play it loud enough to rock because the sound is fighting you with every click of the volume knob, what is the point of playing it all?)

Transparency and the Feeling of Reality

That’s one thing we learned from our shootout. The other was the importance of TRANSPARENCY. Of course this has to be a multi-miked, multi-tracked, overdubbed pop record — they don’t make them any other way — but it doesn’t have to FEEL like one.

When you get a good copy it feels like all these guys are live in the studio. They may have their own mics, and are certainly being placed artificially in the soundfield to suit the needs of the track (kick drum here, timbales over there), but the transparency of the killer pressings makes them sound like they are all in the same room playing together. You hear their grunts and laughter way back in the mix, just as if you were at one of their concerts. (Which, considering all the drums and percussion, must have been an absolute blast!)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Don’t Let No One Get You Down

This track has a fairly quiet intro, just guitar and bass, which is not exactly an ideal match with the UA vinyl that these original LPs are pressed on. There will always be some surface noise at the start, but once the rest of the band comes in, there’s so much going on that the surfaces are no longer much of a problem.

Lotus Blossom
Heartbeat
Leroy’s Latin Lament: Lonnie Dreams
The Way We Feel
La Fiesta
Lament

Side Two

Smile Happy
So
Low Rider
In Mazatlan
Why Can’t We Be Friends?

AMG Review

(By the way, we agree with practically every word of praise here. This guy is a fan and so are we!)

Cut from the same cloth as the band’s 1973 Deliver the Word LP, War’s 1975 Why Can’t We Be Friends? is a masterpiece in its scope and breadth. And, emerging as the last work the band would do for its longtime label, United Artists, it became a fitting swansong, powering up the charts and giving War its fourth and final number one hit. In recent years, the album has been overshadowed by the monstrously popular bass-beating and bright brass of its singular hit, “Low Rider.”

Indeed, the song would become the band’s signature theme, as the Latino street-cruiser jam quickly became a live set staple and, much later, was reinvigorated through sampling on songs by the Beastie Boys, Stereo MC’s, and Offspring. However, that one track, iconographic as it is, is by no means the only treat onboard Why Can’t We Be Friends? There are far more interesting and superb treats roiling in the wake of “Low Rider.” The snappy title track, which poses the question of the decade and, oddly, closes the album, is a feel-good thumper. Its bright brass punctuation and rakish vocals are wonderfully combined with an absolutely contagious reggae beat.

Then, add the doesn’t-get-much-better-than-that medley “Leroy’s Latin Lament.” Divided into four “songs,” the music swings from the smart vocal opening “Lonnie Dreams” to the effervescent Latin jam of “La Fiesta.” And, of course, where there’s War, there’s funk — this time on the seven-plus minute”Heartbeat.” Wrap it all up with the poignant ballad “Lotus Blossom,” and the result is pretty much perfection. Why Can’t We Be Friends? remains one of War’s truly outstanding efforts, and has become an integral part of the funk genre’s landscape. It also remains the nightcap of their finest hour. War’s ill-timed move to MCA changed the energy and focus of the band forever.