Earth, Wind & Fire: when the picture came together
30th June 2017
Label: Speakers Corner
There’s a lot of people out there who, when they here the word ‘funk’ lose interest. For many people, funk can be a bit niche in musical terms, some see it as being a sort of nerdy version of soul and R&B. Full of life, showmanship and groove, sure, but also offering little in general melodic terms and maybe there’s a few questions to be answered in terms of songwriting quality or even broad appeal. Yet, for those people who scrunch up their nose to funk, they will gladly spend a lot of time listening to Earth, Wind & Fire…a funk band. So what’s so special about EW&F?
Their musical professionalism, melodic creativity and the sheer innovation in terms of arrangement stand head and shoulders over many of their colleagues in the funk genre. The fact the the band enjoys folding in other genres into their songs, such as jazz, smooth soul, gospel, pop, rock, psychedelia, blues, folk, African music and disco helps too. There’s also a sparkling showmanship, a skill with a ballad and a mystical edge, a sort of spiritual underlying theme to all of their music. At their best EW&F were truly and eye poppingly spectacular.
To get to this point, the band had just release a soundtrack That’s the Way of the World, a self-penned LP. While the film bombed this LP scored. The cash from its success allowed EW&F to build its spectacular live show and establish its famed brass section, the Phoenix Horns. Also Maurice White took over the arranging after long-term group member, Charles Stepney, who tragically died of a heart attack.
Spirit, which played on the band’s positive and uplifting quasi-religious, mystical bent, featured a host of excellent songs such as On Your Face, Getaway and the poetic ballad Imagination. The band were on top form, especially Philip Bailey’s excellent vocal performance.
Mastering is excellent, beautifully pressed on quiet vinyl, the mastering is tonally balanced with strong bass never blooming or masking the fine detail. Midrange is focused but never bright while compression is absent, giving the music a warmly organic presentation.