Saturday, April 19, 2014

Eagles - Snapshot #1 - Solo Eagles Fly High

The word ‘legendary’ is bandied about far too much in relation to high achieving and/or influential music artists (actually it’s bandied about far too much in general).  But one band that merited the application of the world ‘legendary’ are the Eagles.  In the decade between their formation in 1971, and messy and prolonged disbandment in 1982 (though they hadn’t actively played together since 1980), the Eagles amassed several platinum albums, many millions in record sales, a clutch of Grammy Awards, sold out world tours, and had earned the widespread respect of their peers.  The band eventually reformed in 1994 (and as Glenn Frey stated “for the record we never broke up, we just took a 14 year vacation”), releasing the #1 album ‘Hell Freezes Over’ - a quip at what was once considered necessary for the band to ever play together again.  The album featured four new cuts, and eleven classics recorded at a MTV concert performance, and went on to sell over five million copies.

But what of the intervening twelve years, between the dissolution of the Eagles, and their eventual reformation.  What follows is a look in isolation at one solo project from each of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmidt, recorded during that period.

Eagles drummer/ vocalist Don Henley released his debut solo album ‘I Can’t Stand Still’ (US#24/ OZ#42) in August of ‘82.  Produced by Henley with Danny Kortchmar and Greg Ladanyi, and released on Elektra Records, the album featured 11 tracks in all, 6 of which had been co-written by Henley and Kortchmar.  The lead out single was ‘Johnny Can’t Read’ (US#42/OZ#49), a salutary tale about the declining state of the education system in the U.S., wrapped in a bouncing rock-a-billy coating.  But it was the follow up single that would announce Henley’s arrival as a solo artist.  ‘Dirty Laundry’ cleaned up its act and shone bright at #3 on the U.S. charts in early ‘83 (OZ#51).  Lyrically, it was an acerbic swipe at gossip, rumour mongering, and gutter journalism.  The track featured a blistering guitar solo from Joe Walsh.  The title track and third single, ‘I Can’t Stand Still’ (US#48), was a trouble in paradise love song.  Aside from his own talents, Henley assembled an impressive list of guest players, including former Eagles Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, J.D. Souther, Toto players Jeff Porcaro and Steve Lukather, and Warren Zevon.  The album (which I own on CD) was an impressive start to Henley’s post-Eagles career.  But bigger things were on the way.

Henley released his sophomore solo album, ‘Building The Perfect Beast’ (OZ#4/ US#13/UK#14) in late ‘84 and hit commercial pay dirt.  The album realised the hit singles ‘The Boys Of Summer’ (OZ#3/ US#5/UK#12), ‘All She Wants To Do Is Dance’ (US#9), and ‘Sunset Grill’ (US#22), as well as earning Henley a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

The album , ‘The End Of The Innocence’ (US#8/ UK#22/ OZ#44) followed in 1989, and yielded the title track (co-written by Henley and Bruce Hornsby) as a hit single (US#8/ UK#48), as well as the track ‘The Heart Of The Matter’ (US#21).  In 1992, Henley returned to the upper reaches of the charts with ‘Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough’ (US#2/ OZ#4/UK#22), a duet with Patty Smyth.  Henley’s most recent solo album was 2000’s ‘Inside Job’ (US#7), with most of his creative energies directed to the reformed Eagles.

Eagles’ guitarist/vocalist Glenn Frey released his debut solo album, ‘No Fun Aloud’ (US#32/OZ#44) in May of ‘82 on the MCA label.  The ten track affair spawned two hit singles - ‘The One You Love’ (US#15), and ‘I Found Somebody’ (US#31).  Next up Frey released the album ‘The Allniter’ (US#37/UK#31) in mid ‘84, which yielded the hit singles ‘Sexy Girl’ (US#20), and ‘Smuggler’s Blues’ (US#12/UK#22), the latter featuring in an episode of the TV series ‘Miami Vice’, in which Frey was a guest actor.

Glenn Frey’s moment in the sun as a solo artist came via his 1985 hit single ‘The Heat Is On’ (US#2/ OZ#2/UK#12), lifted from the blockbuster Eddie Murphy comedy film ‘Beverly Hills Cop’.  Frey followed this up in late ‘85 with ‘You Belong To The City’ (US#2/OZ#20), culled from the ‘Miami Vice’ soundtrack album.

Three years elapsed before Frey resurfaced with the album, ‘Soul Searchin’ (US#36/OZ#49), released in August of ‘88.  The album featured ten tracks, eight of which had been co-written with regular song writing cohort Jack Tempchin.  The album’s only hit major single came in the form of ‘True Love’ (US#13/OZ#54), which I purchased at the time on vinyl 45. The track ‘Livin’ Right’ reached #22 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart (#90 Hot 100), whilst the title track performed well at #5 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart.

Four years later Frey returned to the fray with the 1992 album ‘Strange Weather’.  Frey worked with Jack Tempchin and Jay Oliver to pen 15 songs for inclusion on the album, but commercial fortunes were waning for Frey the solo artist, as the album missed the U.S. top 200, and only the single ‘I’ve Got Mine’ (US#91) made a dent, or at most small scratch on the paintwork of the Hot 100.  Prior to reforming the Eagles, Frey released a live album in 1993, a mixture of Eagles and solo work.  In 2012, Glenn Frey released the album ‘After Hours’, a collection of mellow classics from a bygone era, perhaps beginning to feel that he too is a mellow classic from a bygone era.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Neneh Cherry - Running In The Family

The term ‘runs in the family’ can have many and varied connotations, good and bad, depending upon context.  Popular music is sprinkled with family connections of all natures, and in the case of Neneh Cherry, the Cherry family tree has served to produce one of the most talented singer/songwriters to have emerged during the late 80s, and into the 90s.  The ‘Rolling Stone Encyclopaedia of Rock & Roll’ surmised her early career as encompassing styles as disparate as “dropping beats and wisdom like a cosmo boho”, through to “prancing like an African queen”.  It was doubtless the girl was artistically versatile, with depth and substance to match.

Neneh Cherry was born Neneh Mariann Karlsson in the land of Volvo’s and all things ABBA, but moved to New York City at an early age.  She was raised and educated by her Swedish mother Moki (an artist), and step-father Don Cherry (whose surname she adopted).  Don Cherry was a world renowned jazz trumpeter who struck gold back in 1956 with the worldwide top five smash ‘Band Of Gold’.  Suffice to say jazz music was a mainstay soundtrack in the Cherry household, and a young Neneh soaked up the influences, in particular becoming a devotee of jazz luminary Ornette Coleman, often falling asleep to a jazz soundtrack whilst on tour with her step-father Don.

At age 17, Neneh Cherry relocated to London where she initially sang backup to the ska band Nails, then augmented the line-up of (nearly) all-girl punk outfit the Slits.  She already had a connection of sorts with the band, as step-father Don had provided guest trumpets on earlier work.  Following the demise of the Slits in 1981, Cherry followed drummer Bruce Smith (the father of her first child) to the newly formed outfit Rip, Rig & Panic, with whom she sang and played percussion.  The band was a stylistic blending of punk, funk, jazz, ska, and soul, that would inform Neneh’s future musical direction.  They released three albums - ‘God’ (1981); ‘I Am Cold’ (1982); ‘Attitude’ (1983) - before parting ways.  I recall seeing Rip, Rig & Panic guest on the TV sitcom ‘The Young Ones’ during the 1982 series.  Cherry followed up her tenure there with a debut single, titled ‘Stop The War’, followed by a new project Float Up C.P. during the mid 80s, and began rapping regularly at London clubs.  Her soulful vocals were also in much demand during that period and she appeared on The The’s ‘Slow Train To Dawn’ during 1986, and worked with Massive Attack as an arranger.  That same year Cherry met Cameron McVey (better known as Booga Bear), and the two formed a song-writing partnership that would bear considerable fruit before season’s end.

In 1988, Neneh Cherry entered the studio with producer/ musician McVey to record a revamped version of a song from McVey’s mid 80s project Morgan-McVey.  ‘Buffalo Stance’ was a funk-edged song laced with hip-hop beats, and interposed with Cherry’s wide-girl rapping.  It hit the charts during November of ‘88 and took a stance at #3 on both sides of the Atlantic (OZ#16).  Cherry came to notice as a woman of substance when she appeared on Top Of The Pops in a lycra bodysuit, whilst heavily pregnant with her second child.  The smooth and soulful ‘Manchild’, backed by a captivating music video, followed in May of ‘89 (UK#5/OZ#51) as a lead in to the release of Cherry’s debut album.

With such a diverse musical background, Cherry brought with her a melting pot of stylistic influences in the recording of her debut album - infusing it with hip-hop, jazz, soul, R&B, and avant-rock elements.  ‘Raw Like Sushi’ hit stores in mid ‘89 and soon served up a feast at #2 on the British charts (US#40/OZ#35).  The single ‘Kisses On The Wind’ blew in at #8 on the U.S. charts in late ‘89 (UK#20/OZ#52), and was followed by ‘Inner City Mama’ (UK#31), which further exemplified Cherry’s depth lyrically, addressing issues of motherhood and feminism with a maturity that belied her still young age (25 years).  In 1990, Cherry contributed the track ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ (cover of Cole Porter song - UK#25/OZ#63) to the AIDS research benefit album ‘Red, Hot and Blue’.  Soon after, Cherry returned to Sweden with now husband McVey to write and record her sophomore album in the township in which she grew up.

By late 1992, Cherry returned with the appropriately titled album ‘Homebrew’, a slightly less intoxicating set than her debut effort (UK#27/ OZ#74), which was led out by the single ‘Money Love’ (UK#23/ OZ#84).  The album featured guest spots from Gangstarr’s Guru, and R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. The follow up single ‘Buddy X’ was, upon initial release, restricted to top 40 status (UK#35) - though it became a staple on MTV - but in late ‘99 was given a makeover and re-released by Dreem Team Vs. Neneh Cherry, and found a spot at #15.

After a quiet couple of years, Neneh Cherry came to the fore again in 1994 with the mesmerising and evocative single, ‘7 Seconds’, a duet with famed Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour.  Backed by an affecting promotional video, ‘7 Seconds’ took no time at all to peak at #3 in both Britain and Australia, and reached top spot in France (where it stayed for a remarkable 17 weeks) - I purchased the song on CD single at the time.  In March of ‘95, Neneh Cherry’s name was attached to the Comic Relief charity single, ‘Love Can Build A Bridge’, a British #1 hit that also featured Cher, Chrissie Hynde, and Eric Clapton.

Having released her work in Britain via the Circa label, Cherry signed with Virgin subsidiary Hut for her third album, 1996’s ‘Man’ (UK#16).  The album featured  the powerful feminist anthem ‘Woman’ (UK#9/OZ#16) which hit the charts mid year, a lyrical retort to the 1966 James Brown hit ‘It’s A Man’s World’.  Other featured tracks included ‘Kootchi’ (UK#38), and ‘Feel It’ (UK#38).

Neneh Cherry then took an indefinite sabbatical from solo recording to focus in part on family duties, but she remained actively involved in all manner of creative endeavours.  She formed a production company with her husband, has worked on several television projects, collaborated in jewellery design, contributed vocals to artists as diverse as Peter Gabriel, and Groove Armada, and was an integral part of the band CirKus (alongside her husband, and daughter).  In 2011, Cherry returned to her jazz roots when she collaborated with The Thing, an experimental jazz group, with whom she felt a great affinity.

Following an absence from solo work of nearly eighteen years, Neneh Cherry released an album of new material in early 2014, titled ‘Blank’, with a European Tour in support announced soon after.

Proof that the Cherry doesn’t fall far from the family tree came in the form of Neneh Cherry’s half-brother Eagle-Eye.  Born the son of Don Cherry and Neneh’s Swedish mother Moki, Eagle-Eye was so named due to his opening of one eye shortly after birth, whilst being looked over by father Don.  Like his half-sister Neneh (four years his senior), he was raised in New York City, though also like Neneh, he spent a good amount of time in tow as his father toured the world.  Through such experiences, Eagle-Eye soon gained an ear for drumming, and a multitude of other musical instruments.  But his first passion upon reaching maturity was firmly in the thespian arts, enrolling in the famed Manhattan School of Performing Arts (FAME!).  It wasn’t until he was 24 that Eagle-Eye Cherry gravitated to a formal musical environment, when he joined his first band, whilst still studying towards a degree.

Within two years he had been signed up to Sony’s subsidiary Work Records label, and contributed soon after on the Marvin Gaye tribute album, ‘Inner City Blues: The Music Of Marv’, in 1996.  It was during this period that Eagle-Eye Cherry amassed a solid catalogue of self-penned songs, that would form the basis of his debut album.  Said album, released on Polydor, arrived in mid ‘98 under the banner of ‘Desireless’ (UK#3/US#45).  Like older sister Neneh, Eagle-Eye infused a myriad of song styles, and influences on the critically lauded debut set, from 70s era funk, through Dylan-esque guitars, and Motown vocals, he quickly drew comparisons with Lenny Kravitz (see future posts).  The debut single, ‘Save Tonight’ was a world wide smash (UK#6/UK#5/ OZ#17), and was followed up by another British top ten hit with ‘Falling In Love Again’ (UK#8).  The source album, ‘Desireless’, went on to sell over four million copies worldwide, and achieved platinum status.

With a burgeoning reputation as a songwriter with innate sensibilities and a wide aural palette, Eagle-Eye Cherry was enlisted to compose the soundtrack albums for the films ‘Best Laid Plans’ and ‘Go’ in the year following his debut set.  With producers The Dust Brothers and Rick Rubin on board, Cherry released his sophomore album ‘Living In The Present Future’ (UK#12) in 2000.  It featured my favourite track of his, ‘Are You Still Having Fun?’ (UK#21).  Over the ensuing twelve years, Eagle-Eye Cherry released three further albums - ‘Sub Rosa’ (2003); ‘Live And Kicking’ (2007); ‘Can’t Get Enough’ (2012).  In early 2014, he released the single ‘Dream Away’.  With sister Neneh reviving her solo career, it may not be beyond the bounds of reality to envisage a creative collaboration between the two of them in the not too distant future.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Earth, Wind & Fire - Snapshot #2 - Welcome To 'Boogie Wonderland'

Previously, Maurice White had been intent on utilising the playing roster within the band, but for a new song he had written, he had in mind recording it with a bank of female vocals to compliment his own.  He recruited the services of female vocal trio the Emotions (see future post), who had scored a US#1 hit in 1977 with ‘Best Of My Love’.  The Emotions had toured with Earth, Wind & Fire previously and it wasn’t unheard of for the two acts to share the stage.  The trio comprised the Hutchinson sisters, Wanda, Sheila, and Pamela, who had come under the guidance of Maurice White and the auspices of his production house Kalimba Productions (the name taken from the African thumb piano - one of many exotic instruments White incorporated into the EW&F sound).  The song that Maurice White had written was ‘Boogie Wonderland’ (US#6/ UK#4/OZ#6), a hit that would be one of the defining anthems of the disco era.  Lush, and resplendent in style, ‘Boogie Wonderland’ renders its listener helpless in the face of an overwhelming urge to get up and dance, even those of us not proficient in shaking one’s booty.  The song was backed with a lavish performance based promotional video, showcasing the band’s stage craft and doubtless helping push the song to the upper reaches of the charts.

‘Boogie Wonderland’ was harvested from the source album, ‘I Am’ (US#3/ UK#5/OZ#12), which also yielded the silky smooth ballad, ‘After The Love Has Gone’ (US#2/ UK#4/OZ#62), which was one of the few songs not penned for the group by White (it had been co-written by the prolific David Foster).  The album also spawned the US#16 hit, ‘Star’.

With such an impressive benchmark to match, Earth, Wind & Fire took their time to re-emerge from the studio, but re-emerge they did in October of 1980 with the new album, ‘Faces’ (US#10/ UK#10/ OZ#55), but relative to ‘I Am’, the album was a commercial disappointment, producing just one top thirty hit in the guise of ‘Let Me Talk’ (US#44/UK#29).  It might have been resultant of the imminent demise of disco in the face of a ‘new wave’ of music, but White & Co must have been questioning whether the band were still relevant in their current mode of operation.

But disco, and dance music still had a mainstream audience, if a little hard to reach via the airwaves, and Earth, Wind & Fire (now with Bautista back on guitar) managed to access that audience with one last tilt at the upper reaches of the charts.  The album was ‘Raise!’ (US#5/ UK#14/OZ#37), and the associated single was the infectious ‘Let’s Groove’ (US#3/ UK#3/OZ#15), backed by a promotional video that showcased all of the band’s glitz and glamour, partnered with the era’s cutting edge video effects.  As the clip ends, Earth, Wind & Fire are shown to fade into the distance, symbolic perhaps of the path the band were to take from there on in.

Released in early ‘83, the album ‘Powerlight’ (US#12/ UK#22/OZ#82) represented more of a power-cut for Earth, Wind & Fire, as for the first time in a decade they released an album that failed to penetrate the top ten (though it did yield the top twenty single ‘Fall In Love With Me’ (US#17/UK#47).  Unperturbed, another album followed late in ‘83 in the form of ‘Electric Universe’ (US#40), which was the band’s poorest selling album since their Warner Bros. days.  With commercial fortunes drying up, and a sense of the band being directionless, Maurice White took the decision to place Earth, Wind & Fire on an indefinite hiatus from March of ‘84.  White pursued solo interests and continued to write and produce work for other artists, whilst Philip Bailey continued with a solo career he had made tentative steps towards back in ‘83.  Bailey would combine with Phil Collins on the 1985 US#2 ‘Easy Lover’ - see future post.

White reconvened Earth, Wind & Fire in mid ‘87, establishing the new playing roster of himself, Bailey, Verdine White, Andrew Woodfolk, and new guitarist Sheldon Reynolds.  It was the sleekest line-up the band had ever had, with other duties being augmented by session players.  The relaunched band released the album ‘Touch The World’ (US#33) in November of ‘87, but it generated only two minor hits in the form of ‘System Of Survival’ (US#60/UK#54 - #1US R&B), and ‘Thinking Of You’ (US#67).  Ralph Johnson (percussion) and Sonny Emory (drums) were added to the band for 1990’s ‘Heritage’ (US#70), but despite the band’s rich heritage, it was only their core fans that looked to purchase their work.

Two more albums surfaced during the 90s, ‘93s ‘Millennium’ (US#39 & about seven years too early), and ‘99s ‘In The Name Of Love’.  In 2003, Earth, Wind & Fire released the album ‘The Promise’, a mix of original material and classic hits of the band’s career, followed by a venture into neo-soul on 2005’s album ‘Illumination’, with Maurice White taking more of a backseat involvement in proceedings.  The band continued to tour over the ensuing decade, and in 2010 were collectively inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Their latest work was the 2013 album ‘Now, Then & Forever’.

Though strongly identified and aligned with the 70s disco phenomenon, Earth, Wind & Fire were a much more diverse musical force than could be contained by just one style.  They were also innovators in their craft, and strongly influenced many of their peers, and subsequent generations.  With album sales over and above 20 million, who could deny the band their rightful place of prominence in pop music folklore.

Earth, Wind & Fire - Snapshot #1 - The Elements Come Together

Some songs age well, whilst others are consigned to become dated almost overnight.  Though the disco era received an unfair mauling at the hands of pop-rock purists, in time it has become evident that the genre yielded some of the most pristinely crafted popular music, not just of its time, but imbued with a longevity of appeal thirty years after the word ‘disco’ was dismissed as throwaway music.  As with most music genres, disco eventually came back into fashion, and nostalgia has tinted it with an air of respectability.  For mine, disco was never ‘out of fashion’.  Sure it turned up its share of howlers, as any musical style does, but in the most part it produced finely crafted pop music that infuses the listener, the open minded listener, with a sense of high energy and freedom.  No song captures that brief better than Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘Boogie Wonderland’.

Earth, Wind & Fire brought its many elements together in 1969, under the stewardship of Maurice White.  White had a vision for the band from early on in his life.  He grew up playing music, at one time jamming with Booker T. Jones, later of the Memphis soul band Booker T. and the M.G.’s.  At age 16, Maurice White entered the Chicago Conservatory of Music, with a view to becoming a music teacher.  Following a stint as a session musician at the renowned Chess Records’ studios (where he played with the likes of Jackie Wilson, Fontella Bass, and The Impressions), he joined a group called the Ramsey Lewis Trio.  The group toured the Middle East, whereby White became a student of mysticism, which would inform the vision for his own band.  He even drew a picture of what they might look like.

Relocating to Los Angeles, White first conceived of a new name for his band - Note: for a few months during 1969 whilst based in Chicago, White, and his assembled backing band at the time, were known as the Salty Peppers, but White wasn‘t happy with that name - I mean who would be?  Drawing from his astrological star sign, Sagittarius, he identified the three elements earth, air and fire (but no water).  He changed air to wind, and behold - Earth, Wind & Fire was born.  There was just one problem, he needed to find some musicians to fill the roster for his new project.  White not only looked for like minded musicians, but like minded people.  Most of the assembled band were vegetarians, and into mysticism and meditation - something the band did collectively before performances.  The original line-up for the newly born Earth, Wind & Fire was Maurice White (vocals, drums, percussion), Verdine White (bass), Wade Flemons (keyboards/vocals), Don Whitehead (piano/vocals), Michael Beal (guitar), Sherry Scott (vocals), Yackov Ben Israel (congas/percussion), Chet Washington (tenor sax), and Alex Thomas (trombone).

Earth, Wind & Fire first recorded as a brass laden, jazz/fusion/ funk band.  After their first two albums (‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ - US#93 and ‘The Need Of Love’ - US#89) failed to garner much interest, the band was dropped from the Warner Brothers’ roster at the beginning of 1972.  Maurice White had to rethink the conceptual side of the band, which included a virtual clean out of the ranks.  Maurice retained only the services of younger brother Verdine, and recruited a new line-up featuring Philip Bailey (vocals/percussion - a key recruit with his distinctive falsetto vocal style), Larry Dunn (keyboards/clavinet), Ralph Johnson (drums/percussion), Roland Bautista (guitar), Ronald Laws (saxophone/flute), and Jessica Cleaves (vocals).  The band signed to the Columbia label in ‘72, and released the album ‘Last Days And Time’ (US#87) which failed to improve much on previous efforts.  The band’s line-up was fluid in nature during this period (sometimes resembling a cast of thousands), and more changes were made late that year, with Al McKay (guitar), Andrew Woodfolk (horns), and Johnny Graham added to the mix.

1973’s ‘Head To The Sky’ (US#27) served to increase the band’s profile, and featured their first top fifty single, ‘Evil’.  By 1974’s album ‘Open Our Eyes’, which yielded the top 30 single ‘Mighty Mighty’ (US#29), Earth, Wind & Fire had adopted a more overtly danceable style of music, layered in rich folds of funk, soul, and R&B, whilst retaining White’s positive, even metaphysical lyrics within.  The blueprint had been laid for a sound that would evolve over the next five years, one that was precise yet sensual, with a broad palette of stylistic brush strokes, from Latin-funk, gospel harmonies, unremitting horn sections, all under the production tutelage of Maurice White.  The band’s roster also stabilised during this period as White had found the right chemistry for the outfit.  It’s worth noting that the band’s live and studio sound was sometimes augmented by the Phoenix Horns, headed by saxophonist Don Myrick, who also appeared regularly on Phil Collins and Genesis albums of the early 80s - another connection between Philip Bailey and Phil Collins beyond their 1985 collaboration on ‘Easy Lover’.

In 1975, Earth, Wind & Fire released their sixth studio album, ‘That’s The Way Of The World’, which brought to the fore the falsetto vocal gymnastics of Philip Bailey.  The album was a conceptual affair intended to serve as a soundtrack to a film about an aspiring rock and soul band (I’m thinking semi-autobiographical), portrayed by the members of Earth, Wind & Fire at the time - Maurice White, Philip Bailey, Fred White, Verdine White, Larry Dunn, Alan McKay, Ralph Johnson, John Graham, and Andrew Woolfolk. The first single from the album was ‘Shining Star’, a funk based song that impinged more than slightly into the burgeoning disco/dance style.  ‘Shining Star’ entered the U.S. Hot 100 at #86 in February of ‘75.  Fifteen weeks later ‘Shining Star’ displaced Tony Orlando and Dawn atop the U.S. charts (OZ#95), only to be dimmed a week later by the arrival of Freddy Fender at #1.  The song also won the  band their first Grammy Award for ‘Best Vocal Performance By A Group’.  The #1 and double platinum album, ‘That’s The Way Of The World’ (OZ#84), also spawned a #12 hit in the title track.

It was during this period that Earth, Wind & Fire graduated to playing arena style venues, with their concerts featuring elaborate stage shows, and spectacular costumes.  With a solid schedule of touring under their belt, it was about time Earth, Wind & Fire released a live album, which took the form of ‘Gratitude’ (US#1), which was released in late ‘75 and produced the #5 hit single ‘Sing A Song’ in early ‘76 (one side of the double album set contained new studio tracks).  By year’s end, the band had recorded another studio album, ‘Spirit’ (US#2), which harvested the hit ‘Saturday Nite’, the band’s first incursion into British chart territory (#17/US#21).  By this stage, Earth, Wind & Fire were a flagship performer on the tidal wave that was disco music.  ‘All ‘N All’ (US#3 /UK#13/OZ#21) - the band’s fourth platinum album - opened proceedings for Earth, Wind & Fire in 1978, yielding the hit single ‘Fantasy’ (US#32/ UK#14/OZ#25).

With disco the dominant musical genus, Earth, Wind & Fire polished their collective glitter balls and gave a danceable overhaul to the Beatles’ classic, ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ (US#9/ UK#33), and followed that up with one of the consummate party anthems ‘September’ (US#8/ UK#3/OZ#12) in late ‘78.  Both hits featured on the mega-selling compilation, ‘The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol.1’ (US#6/ UK#6/OZ#7) which served as an entrĂ©e to what was to be a sumptuous feast of Earth, Wind & Fire music in 1979.