This was Earth, Wind & Fire's debut album and it was released six long years before they really struck it big, chart-wise. The sound is far more of a down 'n' dirty funk one as opposed to the poppy soul grooves of 1977. Some of the typical vocal harmonies are there, though, and you can detect signs of what the group would progress to. It is a remarkably short album, only twenty-seven minutes. The old "side two" contains only three short tracks - amazing what artists could get away with in 1971. That is not to say that is not a good album, though, because it has many good points.
Certainly there are some good moments on this album, but there are not really enough of them to make it an album that particularly sticks in one's consciousness or urges repeated re-visits. It is pretty short and struggles to find its own real identity. A couple more tracks would not have gone amiss. Having said that, the first three tracks are pretty good and listening to them once more finds me getting into them a lot more, so there you go.
This was the album that finally stared to break it big for Earth, Wind & Fire. Vocalist Jessica Cleaves had left and they now had an all-male line-up, not that it particularly affected the sound. They just seemed to ease from being a cult band to a far more popular one. The album seems just slightly more focused in its mix of funky soul with slight jazz influences. The sound quality is improving as well, just slightly, not that it was bad, but it seems a bit warmer and bassier on this one.
Spasmodic Movements is a jaunty piece of jazz that sits a little incongruously among the funk but it doesn't stop it being most infectious. Rabbit Seed is a pointless thirty second interlude, the like of which the group often put on their albums. Caribou is another samba groove featuring Brazilian-style "ba-ba-ba" backing vocals. Open Your Eyes ends the album with a harmonious slow ballad. The album has fizzled out just a bit, it has to be said, but it still the group's best one thus far.
This was the album that established EW&F as global soul superstars. It sold lots and solidly developed their instantly recognisable style of brass-powered sweet, funky soul and led in the creation of this kind of soul within the broad genre. The tracks alternate between energetic funk and sublime ballads.
After That's The Way Of The World finally gave Earth, Wind & Fire platinum-selling success, with their sixth album. This, their seventh studio offering, built on that success with an even better album, which in many ways, was a defining moment in their career. After so many albums searching for a defining sound, they had reached it at last. They merged funk, soul, kick-ass brass and harmonious vocals superbly and now had found the knack of writing songs with killer hooks.
One cannot analyse albums like this too much more, to be honest, it is simply pleasurable brassy soul and that's that. I have used so many superlatives in the review, but I couldn't help it, the album deserves them. Earth, Wind & Fire had now become a very impressive group, almost a genre in themselves with their particular brand of soul. Their albums were very short, though, and over before you knew it, but sometimes that isn't a bad thing, it makes an album more concentrated and less sprawling than the post-2000's seventy minute offerings.
This album has a strong case to be the quintessential Earth, Wind & Fire album, one which saw this multi-talented funk-soul group at the peak of their powers. It is an album full of soul-funk classics and joined together by some short instrumental interludes derived from “world music”, in this case the sound of Brazil. Along with a fascination with ancient Egypt (look at this album’s cover), founder member Maurice White also loved the ethnic sounds of Brazil's marketplaces and backstreets. They influence this album considerably in some of its instrumentation and samba-style grooves.
Runnin' is a funky, jazzy work out with occasional “ba-ba-ba” backing vocals and some seriously impressive trumpet along with a hypnotic bass line. The final interlude segues into the saxophone intro of the soulful ballad Be Ever Wonderful. It is a track full of perfectly harmonious vocals and supreme brass, bass and orchestration backing. Check out the amount of musicians used on this album, there are so many.
The album is over almost before you’ve realised. It is a beautifully vibrant, lively and also soulful album. Very representative of the best of the late seventies, soul-wise.
This album, from 1979, saw Earth, Wind & Fire at the height of their popularity. 1977's All 'n' All had sealed the deal and they were now guaranteed chart success, for both albums and singles. Their brand of dramatic, grandiose, brassy soul-funk had captured a considerable following by now. Despite it being the era of punk and there being a disco backlash, EWF didn't suffer. They were on the radio all the time in 1979.
This is probably their most instantly appealing album. It is not an all-out disco album, though, despite the more dance-y nature of some of the tracks. It is an EWF soul-funk album that dabbles considerably in disco. It does so far more so than on any of their previous albums, though. The group have moulded their sound to meet the contemporary trend for disco. Although I liked many of the previous albums, this one is probably my favourite. It is certainly their most overtly commercial.
This was Earth, Wind & Fire at their commercial best. Having finally found a formula, this album exploited it to the full. More of the same was soon to follow...
The hugely successful Raise! was released in 1981 and to an extent takes in contemporary gritty street funk vibes of the sort that artists such as Rick James, Kool & The Gang and The Brothers Johnson were putting out, while not straying too much from that unique EW&F dramatic brassy funk sound.
The group were at the height of their popularity in the late seventies-early eighties and this commercially-successful outing exemplifies that. Maurice White and Philip Bailey’s different yet complimentary vocals are showcased perfectly, along with some great saxophone, some searing rock guitar in places and, of course, that poppy funkiness that they specialised in. Shalamar would be heavily influenced by this.
...and there was another ancient Egyptian-inspired cover too.
What was strange was that retrospective and indeed much contemporary criticism has been harsh on the album, a lot of it adopting a sniffy "they've had they day....more of the same..." tone. I am not sure the general public saw it that way, though. I remember it being really popular at the time. Let's Groove was a track you heard everywhere. Both You Are A Winner and I've Had Enough were energetically funky too. Lady Sun bubbles with the same funky enthusiasm. My Love was a classic EW&F ballad and Evolution Orange certainly had the funk in shedloads. What's to criticise there ? For me, not much.
|Stevie Wonder||Rick James||Ohio Players|