Album + Compilation
Earth, Wind & Fire remain perennial favourites in the UK. Although there has been little appetite for any new music they have made since 1982, the demand for their work of the seven years prior to that point appears stronger than ever. And that's because it is so very upbeat and joyous. It is impossible for new generations and lapsed fans not to be moved by hits such as Boogie Wonderland or September.
This is at least the eighth EWF hits collection, and unlike their last major greatest hits set in 2002, there are no remixes or reimaginings to cloud the memory of their oeuvre. There's not a career overview or even a photograph of them on this slender reissue; what you find, simply, is a hatful of hits: 17 of them. And yes, they are all crammed with their joyous blend of jazz and soul, of American and African rhythms, topped off with the marriage of leader Maurice White's gravel vocals to Philip Bailey's soaring falsetto.
The hits line up from the relatively recent, such as 1981's Let's Groove, to their earlier breakthroughs Reasons and Saturday Nite. There are touching, almost syrupy ballads such as After the Love Has Gone and also the relatively obscure Let Me Talk from their popularly-misjudged concept album, Faces.
If you haven't heard them and want to know what the fuss is still about, listen to the introduction of In the Stone, the triumphant opener from their best-selling UK album, I Am. An appropriate amount of pathos and expectation is built by its dramatic horn flourish before it climatically gives way to a beautiful, percussion-rich, loping groove. And then those voices hit you. And this is before you hear the sultry That's the Way Of the World, arguably their finest moment in a career strewn with highlights.
At the time of writing, the live band - well, what's left of them: Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson - have just been on a UK tour. But neither that, nor the TV campaign supporting this release, can account for this compilation's huge success. Like a well-loved brand, EWF can keep being sold into houses the length and breadth of the land.