Review Summary: More confident and tightly written this time, it is still slightly marred by a weak closer to reach to excellence.
An improvement in every area! The band delved further into the sea of commercial funk, soul and R&B, refined its new style and released their breakthrough album commercially, thus entering into their “classic” period in 1973 which gloriously lasted until 1980.
Musically, the formula created in Last Days And Time
is once again present here, but this time the whole experience is more evocative. This has a lot to do with the even more haunting harmonies that are so prominent here, as well as the lush, exotic and colorful arrangements that dress the six numbers here. What is more, the songwriting is also improved, as every song boasts at least one extremely catchy hook to keep you interested, resulting in the album flowing even better than the previous release.
Thus, even minor efforts like Build Your Nest
or especially The World’s A Masquerade
exude more gravitas and charm than something like I’d Rather Have You
or Remember The Children
from the previous album, both of which were worthy songs, no doubt, but lacked the confidence and refinement to go beyond that level. Even better than those two is the excellent Clover
, an ethereal and dark mid-tempo ballad that soon transforms into a frenzied guitar solo before fading away.
What makes the record such a great experience is the one-two punch of Evil
and the title track. Make no mistake, these two are the first legitimate classics of the “mainstream” period and represent the hit-making formula of the band at its finest. The opener has, like Clover
, a firm Latin influence in the rhythm section to go along with the usual funkiness, while each verse slowly builds to the explosive chanting chorus with astonishing finesse. One of the most energetic numbers in their catalog, even if it’s not the fastest or the loudest; it balances everything to a tee and that’s what makes it such a standout classic.
Keep Your Head To The Sky
employs the same build-up technique, but this time the atmosphere is much more melancholic and plaintive than before. Philip Bailey sings his heart out, while the harmonies create a majestic feel to go along the positive and inspirational lyrics. Simply put, one of the most uplifting funk numbers in existence, don’t miss this one.
Up until now, the record easily grants an “excellent” score without a sweat. What drags it down a bit, however, is the closing Zanzibar
. It is by no means a bad song; I’d be hard pressed to find anything negative to say about it, but it isn’t that gripping as a whole. The first three or four minutes could make another excellent piece like Clover
, but the soloing that permeates the majority of the song isn’t that inspired. The whole experiment sounds like a Santana outtake, what with the Latin overtones and the intense guitars but, try as they might, they couldn’t beat the master in his own field of expertise.
All in all, this is a mostly excellent release that’s slightly marred from the closing number, but that shouldn’t trouble anyone. There are enough classics and excellent songs here to satisfy anyone with even the slightest interest in funk, so proceed freely.