Earth Wind & Fire – 1971 – Earth Wind & Fire
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Earth, Wind & Fire’s first album — recorded at a time when the group recently had ties to the Chicago soul and jazz scenes, and a range of experience that ran the gamut from work with Sun Ra, the Artistic Heritage Ensemble, The Pharoahs, Ramsey Lewis, and countless other influential groups. Headed up by Maurice White on drums and percussion, the group forged an amazing blend of all these influences, creating a future soul sound that pushed black music to the next level — taking a wealth of previously underground modes of expression, and fusing them into a soaring sound that would soon put them at the top of the charts. This album’s a lot looser and freer than their Columbia albums — with plenty of raw funk and some nice off-beat jazz soling. Includes the classic break track “C’Mon Children“, plus “Fan The Fire“, “Bad Tune“, and “Moment Of Truth“.
1.Help Somebody (3:37)
2.Moment of Truth (3:08)
3.Love Is Life (5:02)
4.Fan the Fire (4:59)
5.C’mon Children (3:08)
6.This World Today (3:33)
7.Bad Tune (4:31)
The debut for the nine-member Earth, Wind & Fire was as assured as that of any rock band from the ’60s and early ’70s. Already fluent with the close harmonies of the classiest soul groups, the deep funk of James Brown, and the progressive social concerns and multiple vocal features of Sly & the Family Stone, the group added (courtesy of auteur Maurice White) a set of freewheeling arrangements, heavy on the horns, that made Earth Wind and Fire one of their finest albums — the artistic equal of their later hits, if not on the same level commercially. Unlike the work of most early funk bands, the songwriting was as strong and focused as the musicianship; the record boasts a set of unerringly positive compositions, reflecting the influence of the civil rights movement with nearly every song urging love, community, and knowledge as alternatives to the increasing hopelessness plaguing American society.
The stop-start opener “Help Somebody,” the deep funk extravaganza “Moment of Truth” and the sweet ballad “Love Is Life” were unified in their pursuit of positivity, while even the potentially incendiary title “Fan the Fire” was revealed in a peaceful context: “The flame of love is about to die/Somebody fan the fire.” And the instrumental closer, “Bad Tune“, is hardly a cast-off; the furious kalimba work of Maurice White and wordless backing vocals combine to create an excellent piece of impressionist funk.