Dec 31, 2016

RhoDeo 1652 Grooves

Hello, the final post this year is on Earth Wind & Fire. The last in a series posted in honor of the great artist behind the band Maurice White, singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger and bandleader. He was the founder of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. White died February 4, 2016 in his sleep from the effects of Parkinson's disease at his home in Los Angeles, California. He was survived by his wife, Marilyn White, sons Kahbran and Eden, daughter Hamia and brothers Verdine and Fred. Maurice was one of the great artists that sadly left this realm this year..

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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Earth, Wind & Fire's return to Warner Bros. with 1993's Millennium proved to be short-lived -- the album failed to meet the company's expectations commercially. Four years later, EWF ended up on the independent, Miami-based Pyramid label with the surprisingly retro In the Name of Love. More personnel changes had taken place, but thankfully, Maurice and Verdine White and Philip Bailey were still on board for what was EWF's most live-sounding, least high-tech offering since 1983's Powerlight. (However, EWF had been touring without Maurice since 1994). Live horns and real instruments abound, and everything from the ballads "Cruising," "When Love Goes Wrong" and "Right Time" to the punchy funk ditty "Rock It" sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1970s. One very pleasant surprise is a remake of "Love of Life," which the pre-Bailey EWF embraced on its self-titled debut album of 1971. Bailey's son, Sir James Bailey, raps on the sociopolitical "Revolution," but on the whole, this excellent album is unapologetically retro.

Earth Wind & Fire - In The Name Of Love    (flac  339mb)

01 Rock It 4:27
02 In The Name Of Love 4:48
03 Revolution 5:05
04 When Love Goes Wrong 4:51
05 Fill You Up 4:06
06 Right Time 4:02
07 Round And Round 4:00
08 Keep It Real 4:52
09 Cruising 5:41
10 Love Is Life 4:59
11 Avatar (Interlude) 2:09

Earth Wind & Fire - In The Name Of Love  (ogg    119mb)

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In the early '00s, Earth, Wind & Fire's hardcore followers were given a few more reasons to smile when various labels put out some previously unreleased live recordings from the soul/funk innovators' '70s/early-'80s heyday. One was Legacy/Columbia's That's the Way of the World: Alive in '75; another was Live in Rio, which came out on EWF's own Kalimba label in late 2002 and focuses on a 1980 appearance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Even if Live in Rio's packaging leaves something to be desired, the performances are nothing to complain about. In 1980, EWF was very much on top of their game, and die-hard fans will be thrilled to hear live versions of hits like "Fantasy," "Boogie Wonderland," "Getaway," "September," and "Serpentine Fire." Observant listeners will notice that this album sticks to EWF's post-Gratitude output -- that is, songs they recorded after their live album Gratitude, which came out in 1975. You won't hear "Shining Star," "Devotion," "That's the Way of the World," or "Reasons" on Live in Rio, although EWF probably performed some or all of those hits at this concert -- arguably, Kalimba Records should have offered the Rio set in its entirety and simply made Live in Rio a double album. Nonetheless, the arrival of Live in Rio is still something to celebrate. The vast majority of EWF fans will agree that Gratitude remains the band's most essential live album, but Live in Rio is still a valuable addition to their catalog.

Earth Wind & Fire - Live In Rio   (flac  417mb)

01 Dialog 1:13
02 Rock That! 0:52
03 In The Stone 4:23
04 Serpentine Fire 4:08
05 Fantasy 3:58
06 Can't Let Go 3:21
07 Getaway 5:25
08 Brazilian Rhyme 2:09
09 Magic Mind 3:57
10 Runnin' 6:05
11 After The Love Is Gone 6:04
12 Rio After Dark 3:02
13 Got To Get You Into My Life 4:11
14 Boogie Wonderland 3:18
15 September 3:43

Earth Wind & Fire - Live In Rio  (ogg   148mb)

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A certain reverence needs to be paid toward a group that can manage to still produce interesting, soulful music well into a third decade. Earth, Wind & Fire has endured practically everything a music group can experience and still remain true to the very essence of what made it popular. However, those expecting a knockout traditional Earth, Wind & Fire record will be slightly disappointed with The Promise. Though the magic of Philip Bailey and Maurice White's instantly recognizable vocals is still potent, there are a few things that Earth, Wind & Fire fanatics will immediately notice are different. The use of drum machines as opposed to a live drummer on the majority of the record takes some of the energy and magic out of the delivery, especially when revisiting classic moments of the group's career. Unnecessary interludes also serve more as distractions than interesting segues, and take away what little cohesiveness The Promise holds. Individually, the songs are still well-produced and hold up on their own -- and all would be considered suitable for a smooth jazz/adult R&B setting. Overall, The Promise still retains many of the qualities that endeared fans to Earth, Wind & Fire so many years ago -- it's extremely soulful and soothing, and the loyalists will eat this release up (especially with the renditions of older songs).

Earth Wind & Fire - The Promise  (flac 399mb)

01 All In The Way 4:28
02 Betcha' 3:43
03 Wiggle 0:39
04 Why? 4:04
05 Wonderland 4:05
06 Where Do We Go From Here? 5:21
07 Freedom 0:42
08 Hold Me 4:37
09 Never 5:09
10 Prelude 0:40
11 All About Love 4:24
12 Suppose You Like Me 4:37
13 The Promise 0:27
14 She Waits 5:09
15 The Promise (Continued) 0:51
16 Let Me Love You 4:17
17 Dirty 3:47

Earth Wind & Fire - The Promise (ogg   143mb)

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Following 2003's The Promise, Earth, Wind & Fire went back to the studio and refined and updated their approach to music with a more contemporary neo-soul sound on Illumination, and the gamble paid off plentifully, as it's one of the group's freshest and most fully realized album since the glory years of the '70s, when the group was releasing one timeless single after another. What makes Illumination work so well is their approach to staying contemporary without looking ridiculous in the process. The production from start to finish is polished and ready for prime time urban radio airplay, while still maintaining a sensibility of the old-school sound that made it work in the first place. Guest appearances are the norm, rather than the exception, with nonstop cameos from a wide range of artists, from OutKast and the Black Eyed Peas' all the way to soft rock horn tooter Kenny G. But the crown jewel of the album is unquestionably the eight-minute jam "Show Me the Way," with Raphael Saadiq handling lead vocals in a way that should make Maurice White blush with pride, confident in the kno
wledge his influence is very much alive and well in the next generation of soul musicians. The album's final pieces are puzzling, as Brian McKnight's eloquent appearance on the ballad "To You" is roughly knocked out of place as the fitting closer by a smooth jazz cover of OutKast's "The Way You Move," an ill-fitting move for an otherwise outstanding record. Sequencing error aside, Illumination is the musical defibrillator other aging soul musicians should grab a hold of and take note.

Earth Wind & Fire - Illumination   (flac 410mb)

01 Lovely People 4:29
02 Pure Gold 4:40
03 A Talking Voice (Interlude) 0:19
04 Love's Dance 4:28
05 Show Me The Way 7:47
06 This Is How I Feel 4:21
07 Work It Out 4:29
08 Pass You By 4:59
09 The One 5:11
10 Elevated 4:37
11 Liberation 5:2512
12 To You 4:37
14 The Way You Move 4:36

Earth Wind & Fire - Illumination (ogg 143mb)

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