EARTH WIND & FIRE — Gratitude (review)

EARTH WIND & FIRE — Gratitude album cover Live album · 1975 · Jazz Related RnB Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
If I had to pick an all-time favorite modern RnB record it would be this masterful blend of pop, jazz, funk, progressive rock and African fusion. Released in 1975 when this band was at its peak, this two record set contains a mix of live material and new studio cuts as well. I saw the tour from which this live material was pulled and EW&F at this time was one of the most incredible music ensembles I have ever witnessed.

The show opens with Africano/Power Medley which is a high energy blast of big band rock-funk groove that features blistering sax solos from David Myrick. From here the pace doesn’t let up as the band heads straight into the fast funk energy of ‘Yearnin Learnin’ and then bam!!, everything stops so Phillip Bailey can step to the mic and deliver his soaring vocals on the beautiful ballad, ‘Devotion’. This was the EW&F formula at the time, furious fusion energy mixed with soulful ballads that featured soaring vocal harmonies. EW&F could do it all; the fastest horn section around, polyrhythmic percussion section, unreal falsetto vocal harmonies and some of the best progressive song writing for the time.

Despite all the other talents and attributes of this group, its always been the songwriting that has impressed me the most. EW&F chord progressions and structures are unique and they stood far apart from the other RnB artists of their era. I’m not sure what the exact inspiration for some of their harmonic progressions are; possibly modern fusion bands, Ellington‘s orchestrations, 70s progressive rock and classical music are all possible contributors to their unique sound. There was always something very modern and even futuristic to the EW&F sound, and it is a sound that still sounds modern to this day. This is a band that followed no one and charted a brave new musical world of their own.
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