Loaded with just six songs, and recorded in under a month in a studio on Vine Street in Hollywood, War’s fifth album “The World Is a Ghetto” is widely considered a masterpiece that helped bring progressive Black music to the mainstream with its mix of soul, funk, blues, a bit of psychedelia and songs about inner city life.
It became the best-selling album in America in 1973 and as it turns 50, it could become one of the hottest-selling albums on Record Store Day’s Black Friday next month.
The band’s triple-platinum album, which generated two gold singles and landed on Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, is being re-released as “The World is a Ghetto: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition.” The five-LP box set includes never before heard songs from the band’s album studio sessions and behind-the-scenes recordings. Only 4,000 copies will be released on Friday, Nov. 24 The original album and bonus tracks are pressed on two gold-vinyl LPs while “the making of” tracks are pressed on three black-vinyl LPs.
“It still sounds fresh to me even, and when I talk to people about the album they say the same thing because it’s still different than any music that’s out there today, and then,” said Compton native Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan, one of the founders of the band, which came together in Long Beach in 1969.
“It all started in Long Beach, that’s where we started creating ‘The World Is a Ghetto.’ Our surroundings, we knew we were in the hood back then and that pretty much inspired us,” Jordan said.
Jordan and the band will be performing in the area before the release of the box set with shows scheduled in Santa Barbara County at Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez on Oct. 20, The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco on Oct. 21 and a sold out event at The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Oct. 25 inside the venue’s 200-seat Clive Davis Theater. The band returns to the Southland on Dec. 2 for a show at The Magnolia in El Cajon.
“I think to myself dang, we did all that and what really goes through my mind is how people still react to our music when we perform,” Jordan said.
Those who are able to snag a copy of the box set will be in for a treat because besides the original six tracks that include songs like “The Cisco Kid,” and the 10-minute long title track, the release will include six unreleased songs that didn’t make the original album.
“To me it’s amazing the stuff we did 50 years ago and how good it sounds today,” said Jerry Goldstein, who helped put the band together and produced the album.
“We didn’t know any better back then, we were just street bums. Jerry took us from the streets, he didn’t even try to make us sophisticated, he just said do what you do and I’ll push the buttons,” Jordan added.
For fans that want to take a deep deep dive into the record, the set includes unreleased “the making of” recordings that trace the evolution of each of the six original album songs from the first note to the final take.
“We decided that we wanted to bring the audience into the studio and listen to how we recorded each song. It’s amazing, we expose the good and the crazy and it’s fun. You hear a little cursing here and there, a little direction here and there,” Goldstein said.
“The feeling in the studio when we made the record was really amazing. And nobody thought about what it was going to be and we sat down and listened to the different tracks and we blew our minds on this one,” Goldstein added.