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Any serious fan of '70s music should have some War in their possession. If War is one of your favorite bands, this one is probably not for you, although the booklet that accompanies the double CDs is an excellent comprehensive history of War from their early '60s roots to the date of this release in 1994. This set is best for the casual fan who liked War but doesn't have any particular desire for a complete collection.
War was the only group to do the Latino/soul/pop/rock thing nearly as well as Santana, and they were funkier. They came to the attention of the music world through the efforts of former Animals singer Eric Burdon, who, along with Danish harmonica virtuouso Lee Oskar, was looking for new direction and found this bunch of African-American musicians who had been heavily influenced by Latin rhythms. He renamed them from "Nightshift" to "War," stating that no one with a name like that could be overlooked, with everyone talking about peace as they were in 1969. He was right about the band's talent, and he was right about the name. It stuck.
Burdon led the band for two LPs, including their big hit together "Spill the Wine," and then went his own way while War climbed the ladder to stardom with their own hits like the lovely "All Day Music" and sparse "Slippin' Into Darkness," each of which established their career-long pattern of members sharing vocals with no one lead singer. It was 1972 when they really hit it big, with "The World Is a Ghetto" and "The Cisco Kid."
It's here that this anthology hits its most unfortunate theme, by including truncated versions of their songs. War was famous for their extended jam sessions, both live and in the studio, and including 4-minute single edits is like trimming Grateful Dead concerts down to half-hour TV show length. Yeah, what's there is great, but what's NOT there is good too. This is why the set is best for casual fans only, those of us who just want to have some good War in our possession. When you want to hear this kind of music, little else hits the spot.
In spite of that kind of exclusion, the set is also to be lauded, in my opinion, for covering an entire 25-year span of music. That's an anthology in its proper format, and while the music on Disc Two doesn't come up to the quality of that on Disc One, I'm glad to have it too. By the time we've run through the many hits of War, with those named above as well as "Gypsy Man," "Me and Baby Brother," "Ballero," "Why Can't We Be Friends," "Summer," and their ultimate classic "Low Rider," there's plenty of space for sampling their other works as well.
The sound quality is as good as one could wish, the aforementioned 50-page anthology booklet (lots of visual art but lots of text as well), and even the packaging itself, is top quality. I would like longer versions of some of the tracks, particularly "The World Is a Ghetto," but still recommend this set, especially if you can get a slightly used or otherwise unopened copy at the lower price.