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Music Review: Earth, Wind and Fire – The Beautiful Ballads Series

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I was introduced to Earth, Wind and Fire in an unusual way. When I lived near Akron Ohio, a good friend of mine announced he was being transferred to Atlanta soon. Downhearted, we decided to make a “suicide pact” and go to the local Ticketmaster and buy concert tickets to whatever was playing at the Cleveland Coliseum that week… no matter what it was.

We ended up being the only two white (and I mean really white) guys in the whole place! We also wound up nearly in the back row behind a post — behind the stage. To prove how suicidal he really was, my friend decided to begin working his way down and around, occupying empty seats until someone one came along with tickets and we’d have to apologize and move. Did we go back meekly to our own seats? No, he’d keep urging us forward to the point miraculously where we were about fifteenth row center.

I expected to be murdered at any moment or thrown out by security.

In the darkness a pyramid appeared in dry ice smoke and the sides dropped to the opening strains of “That’s the Way of the World”.

My jaw dropped. To this day that song has a lot of meaning to me. The studio version (which is reproduced crystal clearly here) versus my scratched album can take you off on a relaxing cloud of "Ahhhh…" It is best listened to with cranked headphones and a DO NOT DISTURB sign hung around your neck.

Earth, Wind, and Fire produced the kind of Grammy winning music that you listen to over and over and over again. While doing so you think you’ll never get tired of it. However after a few months of eye-closed cologne bottle lip-syncing to the words and playing either air guitar, air trumpet or air piano, you’ll eventually put it away in favor of their next album. A couple of months later you hear it on the radio and you go back and you’re hooked all over again and again and again.

There are songs here that will make you moan in satisfaction and cause you to smile at a memory that the opening chords will evoke. When “After the Love is Gone” starts, the next thing you know you’ll be up on your feet, headphone cord whipping around your ankles while the cat plays with it, and eventually your imaginary concert crowd will applaud you wildly as you bow and sign autographs all over again. To this day I still can’t listen to that track without breaking out in tears.

I don’t care how bad your falsetto is — it’ll get a workout on “Reasons”. Just make sure no one’s recording you while you’re blissfully unaware in your headphones with your eyes closed.

Over the years the personnel of this large group of talented performers has grown and changed, but there’s one thing that never has — the music.

There are roots in gospel, blues, jazz and even country music. You’ll hear hints of Elvis, Ray Charles, James Brown, and even Bach and Mozart.

Compilation producers Leo Sacks and lead singer Maurice White did a great job for Legacy.

Track List:

*My personal favorites. **My absolute favorites.

1. That's the Way of the World**

2. All About Love
3. Devotion
4. Can't Hide Love*
5. Fantasy*
6. I'll Write a Song for You*
7. Be Ever Wonderful
8. Wait*
9. After the Love Has Gone**
10. Love's Holiday
11. Keep Your Head to the Sky
12. Reasons**
13. Spirit
14. Imagination

Even if you’ve never heard of Earth Wind and Fire, this CD is definitely worth trying out. Once you do, you’ll never look at today’s music the same ever again. Unlike a few rip-off CDs, these are the original glorious recordings, all clear and beautifully flawless.

Just be sure the "previous track" button works on your remote — it’ll get a workout.

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About Jet Gardner

I like collecting books, music, movies, chess sets and friends
  • You might take note here that Amazon has this listed as Fire, Wind and Earth. Why I don’t know?

  • Nice job on the review Jet. You might want to make a mental note that not all of EWF’s songs were sung by Maurice White (though he did write most). Quite a few, including, I believe, one of your favorites “Reasons” were sung by Phiollip Bailey (that falsetto you hear is usually gonna be Bailey — the deeper stuff is usually White).

    Maurice White was one of my very first interviews as a music writer. Very spacey guy at the time, but also a complete gentleman and a class act. I always was a lot more partial to their funk and jazz stuff (“Shining Star,” “Sun Goddess”). But this sounds like a solid collection based on what you had to say.

    Again, nice job on the review Jet. Maybe I should take a stab at politics or something in your usual arena…


  • Thanks Glen, point of order though, I mentioned Maurice only because he co-produced this compilation. To list all the musicians (and I tried) that were part of this group over the years was impossible. It would’ve been longer than the article!

    Thanks again.

  • PS Glen, I’m reviewing the entire series, which includes Gladys Knight & the Pips (in pending), The Isley Brothers, Patti LaBelle and The O’jays.

    Stay tuned….

  • Jet,

    Bailey’s contributions to EWF over the years are second only to White’s, most notably including that falsetto you talked about–thats the only reason I mentioned it.

    He actually is more or less leading the group today, (at least as far as their live shows go) since Maurice White is basically too ill to perform (though he still does from time to time).

    My point is Bailey’s contribution to EWF’s sound is far from minor, thats all. He’s not some guy who was in the horn section for a minute.

    That said, I thought your review was very good. I’m always more interested in reading a review when a writer incorporates his personal experience with the music. It’s something I always try to do with my reviews (especially when it involves a reissue like this). Some of the other music writers here on BC do this as well–Mark Saleski is a guy who does this whose stuff I particularly enjoy reading. Your own personal experience discovering EWF made your opinion of this reissue much more real. Like I said Jet, good job.

    And I look forward to reading your take on the other titles in this series.


  • Thanks Glen, Some of my “fans” want me to give up politics, so I’m going to do music and sports for a while.


  • Don’t give up on the politics Jet. Your stuff in that area is too good and your voice would be missed there. If your political stuff gets a reaction — good or bad — that means you’ve touched a nerve.

    But you’re off to a good start on the music.

    One more thing I wanted to mention and thats in regard to your comment about Amazon getting the name switched around. In my day job, I enter metadata for music and Sony is notoroius for sending Earth Wind & Fire in two strings. One field says “Earth”, the other “Wind & Fire” (they do the same thing with “Blood” and “Sweat & Tears.”

    It’s a standing joke with us music data geeks. LOL…

    Happy Holidays, and speaking of which, I’m back to work….

  • Jet: Fuck that shit, you just write about whatever the hell you want; the old folk in the politics rest home here at BC are just having a little trouble adjusting to the 21st Century, bless ’em!

  • Mark Saleski

    thanks for the kind words glen.

    and just look at the weird synchronity here between me and jet’s review: everybody knows that one of my favorite artists is Pat Metheny. at Metheny shows, they play one particular song over the pa system just before the lights go down and the show begins: That’ The Way Of The World.

    no kiddin’.

  • Chris, I’m commited to 5 music reviews, and then I’ll consider it, but thanks for your input sir.

  • Mark, I take it you like the way I was introduced to Earth Wind and Fire?

  • Mark Saleski

    yea, as glen says, personal anecdotes are always cool. i mean, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a ‘standard’ review. i just happen to be drawn to the personal connection, which is partly why i write the way that i do.

    by the way, was that ‘cleveland coliseum’ the one that used to be called the richfield?

  • It was in 1977 and I believe it was in Richfield.

  • STM

    Yeah Jet, just write whatever you want. Don’t worry about what any other bastard thinks or wants.

    Life’s too bloody short to be living in someone else’s head. And if it’s anything like mine, you’re probably better off not being there.

    Do your own thing mate … that’s what life’s all about.

  • Mark Saleski

    richfield coliseum: i saw Springsteen there on The River tour. also Kiss and The Tubes.

  • In my experience when you are writing about something as personal as music — especially when we are talking about reissues — there is usually going to be a personal memory or snapshot associated with it. I always like reading that kind of thing. I also have fun relating those types of stories when I write. I think in a way it’s something that makes a review “breathe” a bit more and become more alive to the reader.

    Which is why I enjoy Mark’s stuff (as well as others here and elsewhere) and why I enjoyed the story you told in your review Jet.

    Of course, when you are writing about a brand new band or artist, it then becomes somewhat more incumbent to concentrate the descriptives on the music itself. Since chances are good the reader isn’t aware of the band yet.

    I think the best thing any writer can do is just try and be as honest and true to the subject matter as you can and let the chips fall where they may. They will either agree or disagree, but if it’s written well you’ll get their attention either way.

    Kinda like you do with the political (and satirical) stuff Jet. Nudge::Nudge::

    If you are getting their attention, you know you’ve done something right.

    Its only when you’re not getting their attention that I’d start to think about shifting gears.

    My favorite writer here bar none (with apologies to Mark) is a guy I rarely, if ever agree with: Al Barger. Still, I read his stuff religiously because the guy is sharp as a fricking whip and funny as hell to boot — especially when he “engages” those brave enough to spar with him in the comments section. Uncle Al’s intellect and humor are matched only by the thickness of his skin.

    One last thing Jet (and then I’ll get off my soapbox — promise). Those of us that write about music get plenty of nasty mail too (am I right Mark?). I wear mine like a badge of honor actually — LOL.

    Merry Christmas!


  • James

    That is most likely the All-n-All show and yes thats when I first saw Earth, Wind and Fire. Regarding MAurice White and Philip Bailey trading off vocals, they both sang lead and background. What is amazing is the range of both singers, Bailey has an amazing falsetto yet he can sing deep, funky, melodic etc. WHite has a sophisticated baritone, but he can get deep, high, funky, etc. WHat a combo!

  • What was really great James, was that I was completely unaware that I’d been listening to their music and liking it for a while and didn’t realize it.

    I went there as an adventure and came out a fan.

    Since then I’d go into a record store and pick a pop album at random and buy it, just for the hell of it. One day I went in and decided to buy the very first and very last album in the racks and discovered Aerosmith and ZZ top.

    Thanks for contributing your thoughts