That's The Way Of The WorldEarth, Wind & Fire
Going into this album, the only song that I recognized immediately looking at the tracklist was the classic opener “Shining Star.” By 1975 Earth, Wind and Fire were well on their way to establishing themselves as one of the leading R&B/funk bands of the decade. Track two is the monster title track, which somehow I had forgotten about until the opening notes kicked the song immediately back into my brain. The track leaves little doubt the band was as comfortable in mid-tempo territory as when they are dropping classic funk tunes. Mixing jazz and world influences into “Happy Feelin’” the band is just humming and mastering every tool at their disposal. Did someone mention quiet storm? “All About Love” delivers that and more. Creating a template that others, like Luther Vandross, would perfect, the band utilizes spoken word, excellent background vocals, and a tremendous horn section to pepper the track with personality. However, an overindulgent keyboard part throughout the final minute is entirely unnecessary and distracting. “Yearnin’ and Learnin’” is the first sign of filler. It's not a terrible song but feels like the type of funk song the band could write in their sleep. The horn section during “Reasons” saves it from being a generic ballad. Featuring a falsetto vocal, horns, and strings, the group does everything possible to dress it up. The album regains it's footing with the afro-centric beats of the instrumental “Africano.” I’ve heard the band was fantastic live, and it's easy to see this getting an excellent work out in concert —plenty of 70s style funk guitar, horns, and percussion light this track on fire. “See the Light,” the closing track, is a rumination on the struggles of mid70s America with a hint of spirituality as well. Throw in some psychedelic-inspired keyboards and some Broadwayesque backing vocals, and the song leaves an impression. Although, I’m not convinced it's a positive one. I wouldn't call this record a masterpiece; however, there are some highlights and a couple of indisputable classics. Overall, the legendary status that surrounds EWF appears warranted.