Thursday, 31 October 2013

Earth, Wind & Fire - Now, Then & Forever

Not just the title of Earth, Wind & Fire's new album, but a highly appropriate heading for these humble jottings regarding the evergreen  funk band who burst into your author's life around forty years ago.

The album has been out on the streets for eleven days at the time of writing, and it is only by my perusing through the online version of Blues & Soul Magazine, and listening to "Now, Then & Forever" on Spotify, that I have come to realise  just how good this  latest work by arguably my favourite band of all time really is.

Having politely listened to the "best" of Pink Floyd with my housemate and our dinner guests last night, I cannot express enough how refreshing this latest collection is to my hearing buds.

"Now, Then & Forever" offers fresh, exciting new material that also retains the overall Earth, Wind & Fire "sound".

I am not going to review the album here. There are far better purveyors of that respected trade than I could ever aspire to. Suffice to say, the music on offer is a spectrum of sound, from dance-able funk, to smooth love songs to jazz fusion that were the trademark of those halcyon days that spanned the 1970s and 1980s.

So why should this album, their first for eight years, be so highly regarded? The band have, by their own admission, gone back to their roots. Two years ago the album was ready to be released; founder member Philip Bailey, who has taken over the reins from Parkinson's-stricken former band leader, Maurice White, listened again to the collection and decided it just wasn't good enough.

Bailey then decided to listen to all of Earth, Wind & Fire's recordings, from the early days, through the golden era which heralded their major successes on the disco floor, onward to the experimental period when they allowed themselves to get caught up in the digital explosion, thereby losing that fresh cutting edge sound that gave them so much success.

It was clear that they needed to get back to that crisp sound with the Phoenix Horns, real percussion and hypnotic bass lines that carried them through their most prolific period.

As a group, Bailey, Verdine White (Maurice's bass playing brother) and percussionist Ralph Johnson, the three survivors from the band's glory days, decided they had to get back "into the groove".

Two years on, returning from the drawing board, Earth, Wind & Fire have come up with a classic album that brings back the excitement of "September", "Boogie Wonderland"; the freshness that brought us "That's The Way Of The World" and the romance of "After The Love Has Gone".

With "Love Is Law", "Dance Floor" and "The Rush", as well as the rest of the album, Earth, Wind & Fire return to the arena as victors.

And just to add to the excitement, BBC viewers caught Earth, Wind & Fire on the "Strictly Come Dancing" Results Show last weekend.

Earth Wind & Fire are definitely back living  the "Fantasy" of  a resurrected career. I, for one, am filled with "Gratitude".

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