‘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’.
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.
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.