Maurice White formed Earth, Wind & Fire during 1969 while living in Chicago. Now 45 years, over 90 million albums sold, 20 Grammy nominations received, and a 2000 induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame; the Columbia Legacy label has issued a two-CD, 35 track retrospective titled The Essential Earth, Wind & Fire, which sums up the release perfectly.
Earth, Wind & Fire was and is a sprawling 8-10 man group lead by longtime members Maurice White (vocals, percussion), Philip Bailey (vocals), Verdine White (bass), and Ralph Johnson (drums). They are a funky R&B band that also incorporates elements of soul, jazz, and gospel into their sound.
The material that comprises The Essential Earth, Wind, & Fire has been in circulation for years and in a number of formats. Fans of the band who own any of their Greatest Hits releases or box sets will no doubt own these tracks many times over. Still, when they are presented in chronological order, they not only present a good history of the band but catch them at their best.
Anyone who has even been marginally interested in music is no doubt familiar with the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. Songs such as “Shining Star,” “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “Boogie Wonderland,” “September,” “Let’s Groove,” and “After The Love Has Gone,” have been radio staples for decades. In many ways they have become such a part of musical landscape that people forget just how creative and unique they were at the time of their release.
There was an album of the same title, and much of the same material, released a little over a decade ago. That release was plagued with poor sound quality. That issue has been corrected this time around as there is a clarity to the tracks that enables the listener to explore the layers and textures of each song. What is missing is any type of essay that gives a history of the band and music.
The Essential Earth, Wind & Fire is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to explore the bands legacy and for some will be the only album needed. Even for people who are familiar with the band, it gathers all their essential tracks into one place. As far as Earth, Wind & Fire are concerned, these tracks are indeed essential.