I’m glad that I left this one until last this week; one shift of my order would have placed this after two other albums representive of the nascent 80’s. I think that much ante-80’s can kill a person.
I Am hit the public as Earth Wind and Fire were already established and were well in their swing. One of their most well remembered hits September was recorded with I am and released as a single in 1978. The album opens in a very theatrical style with In the Stone, the introduction quickly being taken by the more simple dance style of the song.
Although this album basically falls slap bang at the height of the popularity of disco, this album is somewhat disco-lite (bar one glaring exception which we’ll come to). I Am is much more in the style of feel-good funk with a disco lilt. This is so important as seminal disco works can be pretty damn divisive to people.
The exception, of course, is Boogie Wonderland and you’ve all heard it! Which ever side of the coin you fall on, this track is definitive disco, catchy with a chorus that gets stuck in the head. Earth Wind and Fire share credit with The Emotions here, who provide the titular lyrics in that bouncy, cheeky dance style.
In general, Earth Wind and Fire’s style constitutes the straightforward bounce of percussion with a bassline that feels free to hop around. The vocals are usually a soft rhythmic tenor style that several of the group take; it’s rare to hear a direct soloist in the band. Also expect that high pitch “bah, bah” that the band have become known for. All this being said, the most definitive thing about the band’s sound is the inclusion of the horns, used wherever possible, either to accompany or just to add a fanfair to the mood.
I should mention another notable track of this album, the ballad After the Love Has Gone. It opens with a much more reserved sound, with a much slower, musing tone. Primarily the verses just need that backing piano, which perks a little for the bridge to the chorus, joined by those definitive horns… and oh… I’m listening to Earth Wind and Fire. This track is a little different in style to the rest of the album but a really solid inclusion.
Is this album for you?
I’ve a feeling you already know! Earth Wind and Fire are good enough to produce a really solid definitive album of their style. You know what? I haven’t been fair enough really, this album is fun, memorable and catchy. Not to everyone’s taste but it drips the late 70’s style and is just overall a feel-good sound. If you can get into it, you will feel great listening to it!
- Writing: 7.5/10
- Performance: 9/10
- Style: 8/10