Saturday, April 18, 2015

Album Review of Earth, Wind & Fire's All ‘N All

Legendary R&B/funk/jazz band Earth, Wind & Fire were at the peak of their popularity and success when they released their ninth album All ‘N All in late November of 1977. They were probably the biggest African-American band in the world at the time, boasting legions of fans of all races and nationalities across the globe. However, the mega-talented outfit didn’t rest on their laurels and broke new sonic ground with this amazing collection. It’s a highly creative work but still very accessible to a wide audience.
The album is chock full of musical gems and is extremely cohesive; all the songs complement one another, with one song flowing seamlessly to the next.  The lead single, “Serpentine Fire,” is a rhythmic masterpiece—fusing funk, African, gospel, soul and Latin in one explosive package. The track has a really unique percussion-laden groove; and it boasts a monstrous bass line and a super-tight horn arrangement. Also, the dynamic intro sounds like the band is bursting out of a volcano. In short, this is massive RHINOCEROS FUNK. The song was a big hit, spending seven weeks atop the U.S. Billboard R&B singles chart and peaking at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The other big hit from the collection is the majestic, uplifting “Fantasy.” The song is superbly arranged and orchestrated, and Philip Bailey delivers a sterling lead vocal performance. It charted at #12 on the U.S. Billboard R&B singles chart and at #32 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s one of Earth, Wind & Fire’s best-known tracks and still gets a lot of play on the radio.

The hyperkinetic “Magic Mind” is one of the band’s most underrated songs. It’s about striving to achieve your highest potential in all aspects of life, taking risks and not being afraid to fail—as well as not allowing the negativity in the world to consume you. The song’s title refers to how powerful the human mind is and the endless things you can accomplish if you fully utilize it.  The potent, hard-driving groove boasts some incredible playing from the celebrated Phenix Horns; and Verdine White keeps things nice and funky with his impeccable bass work.

 “I’ll Write A Song for You” is a gorgeous ballad that features an exquisite vocal performance from Bailey. This track illustrates what a truly gifted vocalist he is.

The urgent, high-energy “Jupiter” is a about a wise and benevolent extraterrestrial who travels to Earth to spread a message of love and positivity. The band’s flawless musicianship elevates this supersonic groove to the stratosphere.  The primitive-sounding “In the Marketplace” interlude is a great lead-in to “Jupiter.” It takes the listener from ancient times to high-velocity futuristic funk. And Maurice White provides some great kalimba work on the interlude.

The powerful ballad “Be Ever Wonderful” showcases Maurice’s impressive vocal chops. Another track in which he shines on lead vocals is the luminous mellow jam “Love’s Holiday.” And it features a terrific guitar solo from Johnny Graham. “Love’s Holiday” is followed by the irresistible interlude “Brazilian Rhyme,” which has a marvelous vocal arrangement and some splendid bass work from Verdine. Even the interludes are first-rate on this album. This could stand on its own as a full song.

The band flexes its jazz muscles on the fusion-jazz instrumental “Runnin’.” The song features some dazzling keyboard work from Larry Dunn and excellent solos from saxophonist Don Myrick and trumpeter Michael Harris.

All ‘N All was produced solely by Maurice White, who also helped write the majority of the album’s tracks. It’s one of EWF’s most successful albums, both critically and commercially. The collection climbed to the summit of the U.S. Billboard R&B album chart, where it remained for nine weeks; and it peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart. It also charted in the top 20 in several other countries and made the top 10 in Canada and the Netherlands. The collection went triple platinum and was the best-selling R&B album of 1978. And it received high marks from music critics. Additionally, the album won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group or Chorus; and “Runnin’” landed the band another Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental.

Earth, Wind & Fire outdid themselves with All ‘N All—one of the landmark albums of the late ‘70s and a jewel among the band’s acclaimed oeuvre.

Serpentine Fire

In The Marketplace (Interlude)/Jupiter

All 'N All at Amazon

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