It has been a long time (eight years to be exact) since we had a new studio album (this is their twenty-first) from the legendary group, Earth Wind & Fire.
I had the immense privilege to see them in concert, combined with Chicago some years ago, and I noted that the driving bass from EWF co-founder Verdine White was something you could feel in your chest, as well as hear with your ears, as he kept the groove going with the most energy I have ever seen anyone generate on stage! The man does not stop moving for a second!
Anyway, you can imagine how excited I was to hear about the new album and even more so as Verdine granted us a cover interview for our August 2013 issue. To quote Rick Suchow, “The man who puts the “Earth” into Earth Wind & Fire is and always has been Verdine White.” This interview is a ”Must read” if I do say so myself!
With super-groups like Earth Wind & Fire putting out a new CD, I believe that there is a huge amount of pressure, as their only real competition is their past albums. Just think, you have some tune of theirs that is your old favorite… now, introduce a package of new songs, and you can’t help but compare that set list from your ‘memory’ list; you might even be reluctant to enjoy the new sound. Fortunately for all of us, this new CD delivers the consistent EWF sound that we all enjoy so much, and then some!
Let’s have a closer look at “Now Then & Forever”…
The opening track “Sign On” comes out swinging with classic EWF attitude! Punchy, tight horns precisely blended with a no nonsense bass-line struts the bands stuff within the first few bars and clearly tells you, “We are back”. This is old school EWF that we all loved back in the 70’s, and there is no one that can match their sound. The familiar tone of the vocals and the structure of the musical arrangement is recognizable, but it is new enough that it has a fresh quality. As the song ends, all the tracks, but the voices, drop out and they seriously hold their own.
“My Promise” goes right into high gear from the start. The song starts with a percussive rhythm, guitar and keys. The horn section interjects condensed bursts of adornment and the tune blossoms as the vocals expand the dimension. As the chorus joins in, you recognize the classic EWF signature and serious demonstration of their vocal range. This track will get you up on your feet and make you want to dance!
Just so you don’t get the impression that all the tracks are upbeat, there are some real nice smooth, romantic tracks like “Love is Law” and “Got to be Love”. Break out the the Courvoisier and light the candles and you are good to go. These tracks are sure to set the mood!
I must mention “Belo Horizonte” (Beautiful Horizon) as it appeals to my love of Brazilian music. Here, we are treated to a sweet little samba EWF style. The smooth guitar work and characteristic Brazilian percussive elements are a treat in this instrumental track. My only disappointment is that it was not more that an almost two minute tease; I suppose they must leave you wanting more, no?
“Dance Floor” opens with the Verdine laying down a bass-line with the percussion section, and the rest of the song grows around his solid foundation. The energy increases and the message is clear as the vocals state the bands purpose. There is an exotic quality to the arrangement and, as always, a mathematical precision as all the parts form a solid, cohesive body. This one will be a hit in the clubs!
There is no doubt in my mind that Earth Wind & Fire’s latest CD “Now ,Then and Forever” is simply another gem in the enormous legacy that is their music. This work is a wonderful gift to us all, as many times musical groups just can’t come back to their former glory. The musicianship is solid and the arrangements familiar enough to be recognized, yet still be fresh. The recording approach of the entire band in the studio produces a dynamic feel of excited joy as the musicians play off of each other. Solid Bass work sets the groove and keeps the motion going.
I enjoyed this CD and I am sure all you will too. I am also hoping to see them live as they tour the country, as the showmanship that goes with this musical phenomenon is unparalleled.