Earth, Wind, & Fire

Greatest Hits (Columbia ’98) Rating: A
Though the band produced some fine albums, Earth, Wind, & Fire were first and foremost a great singles band, making this their definitive album. A slick, commercial outfit of nine members led by singer-drummer Maurice White, the group melded jazzy horns and keyboards with funkafied rhythms and a sunny outlook, resulting in joyous pop music that was made for the dance floor. Philip Bailey’s soaring falsetto and the group’s creamy backing harmonies were also band trademarks, gracing classic tracks such as “Shining Star,” “September,” “Serpentine Fire,” and “Fantasy.” Hearing these songs brightens my day, and though sometimes the band is a bit too obviously commercial and/or "spiritual", most of these Greatest Hits showcase a sophisticated pop band at their very best. Songs such as “That’s The Way Of The World,” “Reasons,” and “After The Love Is Gone” show that they had the ballad knack down pat, too, and it’s hard to imagine anyone not being won over by the uplifting pull of this music, which clearly recalls the '70s but which sounds just fine today. The band was able to keep it going briefly through the disco period, too, as demonstrated by songs such as “Boogie Wonderland,” featuring The Emotions. This 17-track compilation covers their prime years (1973-1981) and can effectively replace the previously released Best Of Earth Wind & Fire, Volume I and Best Of Earth Wind & Fire, Volume II since it gathers the best songs from those two albums onto a single cd.

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