JOHNNY "GUITAR" WATSON — A Real Mother For Ya (review)

JOHNNY Album · 1977 · RnB Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
You have to admit that “Real Mother For Ya” has a real mother of an album cover . Yes that’s Johnny’s mom pushing him in a baby carriage that has been made to look like a gold Rolls Royce, implying that young Johnny has grown up to do pretty well for himself in the music business, which indeed he did. Starting in the 50s, Watson was a star guitarist and vocalist in the blues world, especially in Houston where he was from. Moving out to LA, Johnny made the transition to a modern funk sound, and did so convincingly, scoring several big hits, while still maintaining much of his blues flavor. One such big hit was this album’s title track, with its humorous tales of ironic disappointment, rip-offs and plain bad luck. These are the kind of lyrics that anyone can relate to and Watson delivered them with plenty of funny asides in his distinctive twangy voice. The song became a real mover on the dance floor with its double heavy bass reinforced with a heavy analog synthesizer. As is typical for dance records, the title track comes first on side one so that DJs will have no problem finding it.

Sometimes albums like this, which are centered around a big hit, have nothing but filler after the hit passes, but the rest of “Real Mother” contains some well written and creatively produced tracks. Johnny covers all the bases on here, writing all the songs, playing all the instruments except horns and drums, and taking care of production as well. Watson is a great producer, different parts stand out and shimmer as he achieves great separation and clarity, and often puts some semi-psychedelic glitter on things. Johnny’s writing style combines blues, RnB, jazz and art pop, like a mix of Curtis Mayfield, The Ohio Players, The Crusaders and The Beatles. Some interesting tracks include the somewhat spacey, “Your Love is My Love”, on which Watson delivers all the vocals through a vocoder foreshadowing today’s frequent use of such vocals and, “I Wanna Thank You”, on which Johnny reveals he is just as good on the piano as he is on the guitar. “Nothing Left to be Desired” has a dreamy middle section on which Watson builds vocal layers over a jazzy chord progression. Johnny’s lyrics are never deep or heavy, but he delivers them with plenty of clever humor and spoken asides. Looking at the horn section, I see frequent Frank Zappa sideman Walt Fowler on trumpet. As many already know, Watson delivered some humorously over the top vocals on Zappa’s “One Size Fits All”.
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tupan wrote:
4 months ago
A pleasant album!

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