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Earth, Wind & Fire

Columbia 33694
Released: December 1975
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 54
Certified 2x Platinum: 11/21/86

Earth, Wind & FireEarth, Wind & Fire is a show band. A show band is an organization whose main features are precision of execution and crowd-pleasing ability. There is generally little or not art involved. Show bands were common through the decades between 1920 and 1960 (Paul Whiteman, Fred Waring, Irving Aaronson and His Commanders, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Les Brown and His Band of Renown, Glenn Miller). But in the late Forties the distinctions between show bands, large jazz bands, and more presumptuous bands began to blur.

Still, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the old Sly and the Family Stone, the Ohio Players, the Average White Band, and many others are all show bands. Most of them have gotten away with the idea that they're doing something more significant and important because they're playing rock mixed with jazz. America's Only Native Art Form, Inc.

Earth, Wind & Fire is a good show band as those things go; their execution is admirable, their energy is high-voltage, their vocals are sturdy, their material is dreadful, and listening to them soon becomes deadly dull.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 4/76.

Bonus Reviews!

"Bargain" priced double set captures this soul/pop/jazz/Latin vocal instrumental group "live" on three sides and in the studio with new material (including their new single) on the fourth. Though they have always turned out superb LPs, the band has always been at its best live and this set does an admirable job of capturing them during several concerts held in recent months. One of the few groups with true universal appeal and one that has managed to cross across all fields without reverting to tired disco formulas or leaping onto any other particular bandwagon. As with their studio sets, EW&F and Maurice White offer something for everybody, often in the same song. Best cuts: "Devotion," "Sun Goddess," "Sing A Message To You," "Shining Star," "Sing A Song," "Can't Hide Love."

- Billboard, 1976.

The three live sides reflect their genuine jazz orientation, flowing along enjoyably and unexcessively and offering more new material than is superstar practice. But orientation ain't chops, and despite my prejudices I'd rather hear Dvorak's New World Symphony than the Whites'. The four songs on the studio side are enjoyable, too -- took them a while to figure out their formula, but now they've really got it down. The news that "the good Lord gonna make a way," however, is gonna come as a surprise to Him, Her or It. B

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A two-record set that blended live and studio cuts and was a testimony to the band's immense popularity at the time. It was a huge success and even topped the charts for a time, something that live sets never did, especially live albums by black funk bands. Saxophonist Donald Myrick's blistering solos on the live cuts immediately put him in the spotlight, even though he'd been an active session musician for years, while Philip Bailey's spiraling, wondrous vocals were in the forefront throughout the record. * * * *

- Ron Wynn, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Three months before Frampton Comes Alive topped the US chart, Earth, Wind & Fire were setting their own standard for live albums with Gratitude. Combining seven live cuts and five new studio recordings, this 1975-released double set gives some hint of the fact that, as good as the band were on record, they excelled in live performance acts in the 1970s.

Released only a few months after their studio album breakthrough That's The Way Of The World, Gratitude captures Earth, Wind & FIre at the peak of their live powers. "Reasons" combines the astounding voice of Philip Bailey and saxophonist Don Myrick; there is also room for such fare as the nine-and-a-half-minute instrumental suite, "New World Symphony."

The new studio recordings include another million seller and Billboard R&B Number One, the uplifting dance track "Sing A Song," which became a crossover Top Five hit in early 1976, just as the album moved to Number One in the States for a three-week run. Given their striking presence as a stage act, Gratitude surprisingly stands as the only major-label live album release by the group.

As of 2004, Gratitude was the #78 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

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