Review Summary: If you’re feeling this music, the world around you is perfect.
This being one of EWF’s finer albums, just proves that after ten years of hard work and a decade of black music transformation, that Earth, Wind & Fire were one of the finest African-American groups of the 1970’s. “I Am” is the first album of their 70’s collection that waited two years of release since their previous release “All ‘N’ All” (1977) and holds the mirror-like effect of Earth, Wind & Fire’s previous hits from 1978, such as “September” and “Got To Get You Into My Life”. This 1979 release contains a mixture of spiritual grooves that capture the life of the listener, a sensation of get-up-and-dance waves of music collaboration, profound romanticism and a well composed production with the aid of a constant nine-piece band.
The initial anthem of “I Am” is “In The Stone”, a favourite in their past performances such as in Rio, Montreal and Oakland. This piece, indeed, is a greatest hit favourite as it involves the whole vocal group, the beautification of the amplified congas, the sensational rhythm guitar by Al McKay, and the funky bass plucks by Verdine White. Earth , Wind & Fire are not only mentioned in the books of music for their fantastic music compositions, but their unique and uplifting lyrics, and “In The Stone” proves to be one of them anthems, as it finishes with a psychedelic chant, transitioning to “Can’t Let Go”.
Such simple, but sweet words by lead tenor Maurice White, this song conveys. It is applauded to the fact that they can twist the simplicity of their lyrics to the complexity of their landmark funk. That, the beautiful and sexy synthesis by Larry Dunn through the build-up sector, which is firmly but celestially accommodated by the Fire horns, exploding with the energy and love that is painted in the song, making this the most funky and most soulful track on this must-buy LP.
Through the years, EWF had, mainly, a black audience – a large black audience. And it wasn’t until “After The Love Has Gone” where the simple ambient-acoustic piano was added to a typical Maurice White vocal, that the joining of both colours came to sing this smooth soul piece, during the love-making, on the dance floor and boy, did it create tension in the charts! It was probably their first full-on mainstream hit, which showed both good, but bad signs, such as the very much loved commercial piece “Boogie Wonderland”.
“Let Your Feelings Show” is a very “grand” piece, and when I say “grand”, I mean it’s just okay – not the EWF standard. Though, it makes my mouth water when I see it live in 1980, the studio recording has its flaws. White on vocals, is perhaps too rigid for his own liking. Then sometimes, he has got a very smooth and flowing voice. It is very much redeemed when it turns to the funk falsetto man, Phillip Bailey himself. It is, perhaps, too heavy on the rhythm guitar, constantly being amplified with the confusing collaboration of the bass guitar and Larry Dunn’s bass-like synthesiser. Saying so, I do enjoy it.
The laymen will disagree with me on this opinion, but then again, the laymen don’t know the true Earth, Wind & Fire, but “Boogie Wonderland” is a typical 1970’s dance-floor hit where someone would ask “Who’s singing this song"” and the reply would be “I don’t know – but sounds good!” And that’s the problem; Earth, Wind & Fire have always had that distinctive groove in the 1970’s. You turn to “Can’t Let Go” and “In The Stone” and you will know it’s Earth, Wind & Fire. Nevertheless, it has its typical EWF effect with Bailey on falsetto and the signature horns in the background. Not a terrible track, mind you, but I would rather have “September” on this one instead, as it didn’t even get on a proper LP.
Now, I know I might have nagged a bit, but these guys really know how to keep it cool. “Star”, a fun, disco, smooth and whack track, that breaks into vocal solos, horn solos, synthesiser solos, spine-shivering builds and a non-stop feel-good mixture to it all. Their signature “Bah bah bah” chants really are irresistible and it’s no wonder that this was on their greatest hits. And it can only be applauded to the fact that there is a fine cross-over from funk to soul, soul to funk, all the time on this release, and it’s melted down to a T when “Wait” slides on.
If you’re seeing someone and you really want to find some inspiration to “go steady”, then “Wait” is the song for you. This is not Earth, Wind & Fire...in fact, it is, and I’m loving it. It distorts my admiration for this crowd when I observe the simple but complexly composed lyrics and music, and how it fuses perfectly with each octave and beat. It’s one of those tracks that will enlarge your amour for your partner with its sweetness and easy-listen swishes of the horns.
“Rock That!” is a fine interlude-like piece that has a very, rock & pop effect and an energetic aspect that smoothly transfers onto “You And I” – yet another love song that is very inspiring to the lovers’ ear. Like “Let Your Feelings Show” and “In The Stone” there is a great acknowledgement for the foreground percussions and the background brass horns. The chorus in itself is probably one of Earth, Wind & Fire’s more simpler ones, but dang, it will get you up off your feet and dance ‘til you sweat! There is only so much I can say about this piece, but it’s definitely a thumbs up EWF release.
“I Am” is no album for, as I call them – “the laymen”. If you’re an Earth, Wind & Fire fanatic, you already know what I’m talking about, and if you just want to dance, open your heart to love and fantasy, this album is the CD that you will need in your stereo, playing every morning and night. This is the first of the commercial-original compositions, and boy, did they do a good job!