Charles Wright – Something to Feel Good About
The latest album in a long career, both as a band member and solo artist, Something to Feel Good About solidifies any lingering doubts about the continuing genius who penned the legendary R&B staple “Express Yourself” and set himself apart as one of the brightest artistic forces in popular music. Wright has much respect, but has never quite received the same dues bestowed on so many of his peers and has, instead, contented himself with working on establishing a legacy with the potential to far outlive him. His books, music, and vital contributions to the African American experience mark him as one of the most substantive imaginative and articulate figures yet to emerge from a rich, varied musical school like R&B and all of its variations.
Wright opens Something to Feel Good About with “Answer to My Prayers”. It’s an extraordinarily stylish, deceptively simple blues without any of the form’s more predictable or heavy handed trappings. “Apartment Living” is much more idiosyncratic than the opener and relies on a minimalist lyric to convey its theme. The music is a slippery hybrid of raucous R&B married with funk overtones. The steady pulse of “Looking for an Ugly Woman” has a deliciously deep swing that obscures the clever songwriting at its heart. Wright tinkers playfully with some longtime tropes of the genre and comes up with an interesting variation seldom heard in modern music today. The title “Better Watch Out” suggests an uptempo, even slightly strident, R&B barnburner, but instead Wright shows off his penchant for the dimly lit slowburner and knows how to set everything up in an ideal way for the listener to derive a full dramatic effect. The same swing setting “Looking for an Ugly Woman” apart from its surrounding songs is present again on the album’s first single, “She Don’t Believe In Love”. Despite its rueful reflection, there’s a hard swagger in the music that Wright amply embodies. It’s much like the aforementioned song in other ways. At its heart, the single is a rather cunning bit of songcraft containing subtler messages just below its surface.
“Thank God for Tonight” is a similarly cut track bursting with energy, thanks in no small part to its brass section, but the funk edges are softened in favor of a more focused R&B approach. Wright slows things down more with the deep soul turn on “Made in the Shade”, a pleasurably deliberate ballad Wright coaxes to greater and greater life. While the backing instrumentation is always superb, Wright is the undisputed star of the show and he is placed to the fore on songs like this in such a way that his presence is inescapable. “Throwing in the Towel” is a late highlight on Something to Make You Feel Good. It’s a gloriously direct, unfettered stomper that never wavers and earns a throat-shredding, joyful vocal. It’s the album’s most seemingly spontaneous moment and plays like a happy accident some attentive engineer managed to record. Charles Wright brings it all back home and together again with this album and it stands as a testimony to this prodigious figure’s abiding virtues in an ever-changing world.
9 out of 10 stars.