Today's artists are an American band that has spanned the musical genres of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, Latin and African. They are one of the most successful bands of all time. Rolling Stone Magazine described them as "innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing" and declared that the band "changed the sound of black pop" All month at Grooves..... ..... N'joy
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Earth, Wind & Fire were one of the most musically accomplished, critically acclaimed, and commercially popular funk bands of the '70s. Conceived by drummer, bandleader, songwriter, kalimba player, and occasional vocalist Maurice White, EWF's all-encompassing musical vision used funk as its foundation, but also incorporated jazz, smooth soul, gospel, pop, rock & roll, psychedelia, blues, folk, African music, and, later on, disco. Lead singer Philip Bailey gave EWF an extra dimension with his talent for crooning sentimental ballads in addition to funk workouts; behind him, the band could harmonize like a smooth Motown group, work a simmering groove like the J.B.'s, or improvise like a jazz fusion outfit. Plus, their stage shows were often just as elaborate and dynamic as George Clinton's P-Funk empire. More than just versatility for its own sake, EWF's eclecticism was part of a broader concept informed by a cosmic, mystical spirituality and an uplifting positivity the likes of which hadn't been seen since the early days of Sly & the Family Stone. Tying it all together was the accomplished songwriting of Maurice White, whose intricate, unpredictable arrangements and firm grasp of hooks and structure made EWF one of the tightest bands in funk when they wanted to be. Not everything they tried worked, but at their best, Earth, Wind & Fire seemingly took all that came before them and wrapped it up into one dizzying, spectacular package.
White founded Earth, Wind & Fire in Chicago in 1969. He had previously honed his chops as a session drummer for Chess Records, where he played on songs by the likes of Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, and Etta James, among others. In 1967, he'd replaced Redd Holt in the popular jazz group the Ramsey Lewis Trio, where he was introduced to the kalimba, an African thumb piano he would use extensively in future projects. In 1969, he left Lewis' group to form a songwriting partnership with keyboardist Don Whitehead and singer Wade Flemons. This quickly evolved into a band dubbed the Salty Peppers, which signed with Capitol and scored a regional hit with "La La Time." When a follow-up flopped, White decided to move to Los Angeles, and took most of the band with him; he also renamed them Earth, Wind & Fire, after the three elements in his astrological charts. By the time White convinced his brother, bassist Verdine White, to join him on the West Coast in 1970, the lineup consisted of Whitehead, Flemons, female singer Sherry Scott, guitarist Michael Beal, tenor saxophonist Chet Washington, trombonist Alex Thomas, and percussionist Yackov Ben Israel. This aggregate signed a new deal with Warner Bros. and issued its self-titled debut album in late 1970. Many critics found it intriguing and ambitious, much like its 1971 follow-up, The Need of Love, but neither attracted much commercial attention despite a growing following on college campuses and a high-profile gig performing the soundtrack to Melvin Van Peebles' groundbreaking black independent film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.
Last Days and Time Dissatisfied with the results, White dismantled the first version of EWF in 1972, retaining only brother Verdine. He built a new lineup with female vocalist Jessica Cleaves, flute/sax player Ronnie Laws, guitarist Roland Bautista, keyboardist Larry Dunn, and percussionist Ralph Johnson; the most important new addition, however, was singer Philip Bailey, recruited from a Denver R&B band called Friends & Love. After seeing the group open for John Sebastian in New York, Clive Davis signed them to CBS, where they debuted in 1972 with Last Days and Time. Further personnel changes ensued; Laws and Bautista were gone by year's end, replaced by reedman Andrew Woolfolk and guitarists Al McKay and Johnny Graham. It was then that EWF truly began to hit their stride. 1973's Head to the Sky (Cleaves' last album with the group) significantly broadened their cult following, and the 1974 follow-up, Open Our Eyes, was their first genuine hit. It marked their first collaboration with producer, arranger, and sometime-songwriting collaborator Charles Stepney, who helped streamline their sound for wider acceptance; it also featured another White brother, Fred, brought in as a second drummer. The single "Mighty Mighty" became EWF's first Top Ten hit on the R&B charts, although pop radio shied away from its black-pride subtext, and the minor hit "Kalimba Story" brought Maurice White's infatuation with African sounds to the airwaves. Open Our Eyes went gold, setting the stage for the band's blockbuster breakthrough.
That's the Way of the World In 1975, EWF completed work on another movie soundtrack, this time to a music-biz drama called That's the Way of the World. Not optimistic about the film's commercial prospects, the group rushed out their soundtrack album of the same name (unlike Sweet Sweetback, they composed all the music themselves) in advance. The film flopped, but the album took off; its lead single, the love-and-encouragement anthem "Shining Star," shot to the top of both the R&B and pop charts, making Earth, Wind & Fire mainstream stars; it later won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group. The album also hit number one on both the pop and R&B charts, and went double platinum; its title track went Top Five on the R&B side, and it also contained Bailey's signature ballad in the album cut "Reasons." White used the new income to develop EWF's live show into a lavish, effects-filled extravaganza, which eventually grew to include stunts designed by magician Doug Henning. The band was also augmented by a regular horn section, the Phoenix Horns, headed by saxophonist Don Myrick. Their emerging concert experience was chronicled later that year on the double-LP set Gratitude, which became their second straight number one album and featured one side of new studio tracks. Of those, "Sing a Song" reached the pop Top Ten and the R&B Top Five, and the ballad "Can't Hide Love" and the title track were also successful.
Spirit Sadly, during the 1976 sessions for EWF's next studio album, Spirit, Charles Stepney died suddenly of a heart attack. Maurice White took over the arranging chores, but the Stepney-produced "Getaway" managed to top the R&B charts posthumously. Spirit naturally performed well on the charts, topping out at number two. In the meantime, White was taking a hand in producing other acts; in addition to working with his old boss Ramsey Lewis, he helped kickstart the careers of the Emotions and Deniece Williams. 1977's All n' All was another strong effort that charted at number three and spawned the R&B smashes "Fantasy" and the chart-topping "Serpentine Fire"; meanwhile, the Emotions topped the pop charts with the White-helmed smash "Best of My Love." The following year, White founded his own label, ARC, and EWF appeared in the mostly disastrous film version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, turning in a fine cover of the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life" that became their first Top Ten pop hit since "Sing a Song." Released before year's end, The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 produced another Top Ten hit (and R&B number one) in the newly recorded "September."
1979's I Am contained EWF's most explicit nod to disco, a smash collaboration with the Emotions called "Boogie Wonderland" that climbed into the Top Ten. The ballad "After the Love Has Gone" did even better, falling one spot short of the top. Although I Am became EWF's sixth straight multi-platinum album, there were signs that the group's explosion of creativity over the past few years was beginning to wane. 1980's Faces broke that string, after which guitarist McKay departed. While 1981's Raise brought them a Top Five hit and R&B chart-topper in "Let's Groove," an overall decline in consistency was becoming apparent. By the time EWF issued its next album, 1983's Powerlight, ARC had folded, and the Phoenix Horns had been cut loose to save money. After the lackluster Electric Universe appeared at the end of the year, White disbanded the group to simply take a break. In the meantime, Verdine White became a producer and video director, while Philip Bailey embarked on a solo career and scored a pop smash with the Phil Collins duet "Easy Lover." Collins also made frequent use of the Phoenix Horns on his '80s records, both solo and with Genesis.
Bailey reunited with the White brothers, plus Andrew Woolfolk, Ralph Johnson, and new guitarist Sheldon Reynolds, in 1987 for the album Touch the World. It was surprisingly successful, producing two R&B smashes in "Thinking of You" and the number one "System of Survival." Released in 1990, Heritage was a forced attempt to contemporize the group's sound, with guest appearances from Sly Stone and MC Hammer; its failure led to the end of the group's relationship with Columbia. They returned on Reprise with the more traditional-sounding Millennium in 1993, but were dropped when the record failed to recapture their commercial standing despite a Grammy nomination for "Sunday Morning"; tragedy struck that year when onetime horn leader Don Myrick was murdered in Los Angeles. Bailey and the White brothers returned once again in 1997 on the small Pyramid label with In the Name of Love.
After 2003's The Promise, a mix of new material and fresh looks at classics, the group realigned with several top-shelf adult contemporary artists and released 2005's Illumination, which featured a collaboration with smooth jazz juggernaut Kenny G. The album was Grammy-nominated in the category of Best R&B Album. Earth, Wind & Fire continued to tour and made a show-opening appearance on American Idol's Idol Gives Back show in 2007. Three years later, Maurice and Verdine White, Bailey, Dunn, and McKay were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The band released Now, Then & Forever, their first album in five years, in 2013. Three years later, on February 3, 2016, Maurice White died from the effects of Parkinson's disease at his home in Los Angeles; he was 74 years old.
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Many groups lose the steam that propelled them to the top; Earth, Wind & Fire, contemporary sound and all, were still blazing when this album was released. "Fall in Love With Me" was the first single. With its festive rhythm and sauntering vocals, it became a number four hit on the Billboard R&B charts and a number 17 pop hit. The percolating single "Side by Side" was the second release. The precise horns, sensuous female backing vocals, and Maurice White's animated vocals make this an entertaining piece. Though it should have fared better, it settled in at number 15 on the R&B charts. The final release was "Spread Your Love." The sonically aggressive special effects are contrasted with a soothing chanting chorus. The single peaked at 57. All three of the above feature Maurice White on lead. Throughout the entire album, White's unifying message is fueled by the aggressive rhythms and relaxing melodies.
Earth Wind & Fire - Powerlight (flac 290mb)
01 Fall In Love With Me 5:40
02 Spread Your Love 3:51
03 Side By Side 5:56
04 Straight From The Heart 4:59
05 The Speed Of Love 3:35
06 Freedom Of Choice 4:10
07 Something Special 4:24
08 Hearts To Heart 3:44
09 Miracles 4:58
Earth Wind & Fire - Powerlight (ogg 105mb)
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Commercially, Earth, Wind & Fire were slipping in 1983. Though a decent album, Powerlight wasn't the type of big seller EWF was used to. Maurice White responded with a change of direction that proved to be both a commercial and artistic fiasco. Working with very in-demand (and very formula-oriented) studio figures like Martin Page and David Foster, EWF went for a much slicker and more high-tech approach on the weak and disappointing Electric Universe. White saw that synthesizers and drum machines were playing more and more of a role in both R&B and pop, and wanted to acknowledge technology's impact on music with this album. But EWF usually ends up sounding insincere and even sterile. The type of synth-funk that worked so well for the System doesn't work for EWF. A few of the songs are interesting (including "Electric Kingdom" and the single "Magnetic"), but they don't prevent Electric Universe from being EWF's weakest album ever. When this release flopped, EWF's members temporarily went their separate ways, with Philip Bailey and Maurice White concentrating on solo careers.
Earth Wind & Fire - Electric Universe (flac 263mb)
01 Magnetic 4:19
02 Touch 4:54
03 Moonwalk 4:08
04 Could It Be Right 5:15
05 Spirit Of A New World 4:29
06 Sweet Sassy Lady 4:08
07 We're Living In Our Own Time 5:18
08 Electric Nation 4:30
Earth Wind & Fire - Electric Universe (ogg 92mb)
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Four years passed between 1983's embarrassing Electric Universe and their reunion album, Touch the World. Before the album's release, there was excitement as well as skepticism among Earth, Wind & Fire fans. Was EWF still capable of delivering a great album? And even if it was, how well would the album do in an R&B market that was radically different than that of the 1970s? As it turned out, a lot of the old magic was still there, and Maurice White and Philip Bailey proved that they could still be a powerful combination. From "Evil Roy" (which describes an urban youth's life of crime) to the major hit "System of Survival," Touch the World proved that EWF was still quite capable of excellence. Though White doesn't shy away from technology, he uses it in an organic fashion and remains faithful to the outfit's rich history. Despite "System of Survival"'s success, the album wasn't the huge commercial hit it deserved to be, but it wasn't a bomb either.
Earth Wind & Fire - Touch The World (flac 294mb)
01 System Of Survival 4:59
02 Evil Roy 4:51
03 Thinking Of You 4:41
04 You And I 4:03
05 New Horizons (Interlude) 2:01
06 Money Tight 4:36
07 Every Now And Then 4:21
08 Touch The World 5:15
09 Here Today And Gone Tomorrow 3:59
10 Victim Of The Modern Heart 3:48
Earth Wind & Fire - Touch The World (ogg 100mb)
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With the positive reception the 1987 album Touch the World and it's three successful singles received? The newly reinvigorated Earth Wind & Fire were back in the studio beginning the recording for their follow up album the very next year. Of course one critical thing happened to be a huge game changer in 1988: the emergence of Teddy Riley with his group Guy and productions for Keith Sweat,Al B. Sure and Bobby Brown. The quick tempo hip-hop friendly shuffle of new jack swing had arrived. Essentially the soul/funk community was exiting the electro/boogie/synth groove of the mid 1980's and entering essentially into the modern era-one where heavy electronic hip-hop/pop based productions would be the mainstream for contemporary R&B-as it would come to be called. Maurice White actually saw a positive in this-an opportunity to showcase a younger generation learning the same cultural lessons and values that fueled Maurice's vision for EWF in the first place. The result finally emerged,and quite appropriately in 1990 with this album.
"Soweto" opens and closes the album with a strong African percussion Kalimba based melody. "Takin' Chances" goes into a bluesy horn packed electro go-go style funk jam that essentially updates the production of a rather "Shining Star" style song. "Good Times",featuring a very vocally chocked and quite rare guest vocal from Mister Sly Stone himself is a very fast paced house funk type groove with a great deal of wah wah guitars and choir vocals from the band itself. The title song is a well crafted hip-hop friendly track with the boy band The Boys that features a wonderfully jazzy classic EWF style refrain. This is actually an incredibly funky album. It updates the rhythms for the hip-hop/pop era yes. But the beats and rhythms are essentially classic EWF under all the programming and such. It might be wise for those who are still naysayers to this album to revisit it. Might find a pretty well done album,full of sometimes powerful grooves,if one re-listens without prejudice.
Earth Wind & Fire - Heritage (flac 393mb)
01 Interlude: Soweto 0:36
02 Takin' Chances 3:30
03 Heritage 4:05
04 Good Time 4:05
05 Interlude: Body Wrap 0:24
06 Anything You Want 4:46
07 Interlude: Bird 0:37
08 Wanna Be The Man 4:21
09 Interlude: Close To Home 1:35
10 Daydreamin' 4:01
12 King Of Groove 5:20
13 I'm In Love 4:01
14 For The Love Of You 4:27
15 Gotta Find Out 4:09
16 Motor 3:44
17 Interlude: Faith 1:01
18 Welcome 4:04
19 Soweto (Reprise) 0:39
Earth Wind & Fire - Heritage (ogg 136mb)
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