Earth, Wind & Fire: Now, Then & Forever

Posted October 7, 2013 by in Funk



2/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: , , , , , , ,
Genre: R&B, funk, soul
Producer: Neal H. Pogue, Walt B., Jai-Dig, JR Hutson, Philip J. Bailey, Myron McKinley, Justin Panarielo, Philip D. Bailey, Larry Dunn
Label: Legacy
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 43:21
Release Date: 10 September 2013
Spin This: "My Promise," "Sign On"


"My Promise" is worth multiple spins


Relatively disappointing for a EW&F record; lacks splendor, dynamic vision and radio-ready R&B

Very few elements of surprise make up EW&F’s latest record

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Very few elements of surprise make up EW&F’s latest record

Earth, Wind & Fire, the last great funk band known to the masses, hardly needs to cut another album. On the road, they are still electrifying audiences with their vast catalog, and still leave devout fans whimpering over the many classic tracks they’ve failed to stuff in their two-hour sets. Definite standouts from their star-studded last album, Illumination, hardly get any shine in their live sets. But every now and then, Phillip Bailey, Ralph Johnson and Verdine White – the only original members of Maurice White’s EW&F posse – likes to stir up their creative juices to produce an albums worth of new material. Breaking their eight-year hiatus, EW&F steps out with a ten-track collection loaded with elements of familiarity and then some. Although the album title suggests that there’s a fair balance of “now” and “then,” the music inside only flirts with the goodness of the EW&F sound, while slightly bending to what’s healthy in R&B now. The only accessible standout offered is “My Promise,” a three-minute thrill ride co-written by Siedah Garrett that takes off like “September” and fades out like a ‘70’s pop radio edit should. The falsetto-triggered Bailey does a good job trying to nail down some of Maurice White’s tonality, particularly on the opening verses. Sadly, the talented leader, who retired from touring due to his bout with Parkinson’s disease, is sorely missed on this record. His fingerprints aren’t even on the album as a producer, becoming their first collection of songs White had no interest in.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album lacks the splendor and glory normally associated with EW&F. “Sign On” sounds good, especially with the dazzling horn intro and Bailey’s infamous falsetto, but never quite takes off like it should. “Love Is Law” is severely bogged down by its overly repetitive chorus. “Guiding Lights” tries too hard to become a “Reasons” follow-up, even if it peppers up using Mint Condition swag. The album starts to seriously sink when Bailey tries to put the band on the 21st century dance floor with “Night of My Life.” The trivial beats and out-of-date synths are light-years away from the rave-ready electropop circulations of Rihanna and Calvin Harris. Sadly, in reference to EW&F’s zenith, it still doesn’t hold a candle up to the innovative timeless wonder of “Let’s Groove.” Those familiar with the kalimba-strummed odysseys and eccentric jazz interludes of their classic albums will find some kind of relief in recognizing the utopian riffs on tracks like “The Rush,” “Splashes” and “Belo Horizonte.” Novices to EW&F will call this album filler, but it’s still a pleasure to hear the boys exploring their spiritual self-indulgent roots.

Hurting the album this time around is a lack of a fearless leader. Unlike Illumination, there are no heavyweight producers to prop them above treacherous waters. Bailey takes on much of the album’s coordination, with co-writing credits on almost every track offered, but without a visionary producer or on board to transport them past the levels of mediocrity, the band is left with echoes of their former glory. Original member Larry Dunn and hit-making songwriter alum Allee Willis do team up to create the closer (“The Rush”), but even that track will have you begging and pleading for Kalimba to play you a tune.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response


Please support HIFI Magazine
By clicking any of these buttons you help our site to get better