Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"The Columbia Masters" by EARTH, WIND & FIRE (2012 Song/Legacy 16CD Mini Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Let's Groove…"

With 15 albums (2 of which were originally vinyl doubles) and a packed Bonus Disc personally chosen by the band’s principal songwriter and guiding force Maurice White - there’s a huge cache of Soul/Funk goodies on here – so let’s get to the cosmic details right away. Released June 2012 – “The Columbia Masters” by EARTH, WIND & FIRE is a 16CD Mini Box Set on Sony Legacy 88697894692 and breaks down as follows:

1. Last Days And Time, November 1972 album, 11 tracks, 39:52 minutes
2. Head To The Sky, May 1973, 6 tracks, 36:39 minutes
3. Open Our Eyes, March 1974, 11 tracks, 39:53 minutes
4. That’s The Way Of The World, March 1975, 8 tracks, 38:54 minutes
5. Gratitude, November 1975 2LP set, 16 tracks, 66:11 minutes
6. Spirit, October 1976, 9 tracks, 36:23 minutes
7. All ‘n’ All, November 1977, 11 tracks, 38:58 minutes
8. The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol.1, November 1978, 10 tracks, 40:10 minutes
9. I Am, June 1979, 9 tracks, 37:40 minutes
10. Faces, November 1980 2LP set, 17 tracks, 66:07 minutes
11. Raise!, November 1981, 9 tracks, 38:30 minutes
12. Powerlight, March 1983, 9 tracks, 41:20 minutes
13. Electric Universe, November 1983, 8 tracks, 37:19 minutes
14. Touch The World, November 1987, 10 tracks, 42:47 minutes
15. Heritage, February 1990, 17 tracks, 51:22 minutes
16. Constellations – The Universe Of EW&F, 2012 Exclusive, 16 tracks, 68:10 minutes

Their first two albums “Earth, Wind & Fire” (1971) and “The Need Of Love” (1972) were both on Warner Brothers in the USA – so are not covered by this box set. And the eagle-eyed collectors amongst you will also have noticed the absence of ‘bonus tracks’ on all albums - when the 1999 and 2001 Legacy single issue CD remasters all had about 4 extras each. But there is disc 16 – which has "Live From Rio" stuff, 12" instrumental mixes and duets.

The chunky 40-page mini booklet is fabulous – well put together with full album annotation – an Intro from Leo Sachs – photos of singles and publicity photos. Overall mastering is by Mark Wilder – but a quick listen to any disc and its clear that the Legacy remasters of old have been used – and that means great sound quality throughout. And a bonus for us who appreciate our Repro Artwork – each card is a gatefold – even the albums that had a single sleeve issue initially.

The chart statistics surrounding EWF are staggering - “Shining Star”, “Sing A Song”, “Getaway”, “Serpentine Fire”, “Got To Get You Into My Life”, “September”, “Let’s Groove” and “System Of Survival” were all Number 1’s in the USA R’n’B charts. Every other chart entry they had between 1973 (“Evil”) and 1990 (For The Love Of You” with MC Hammer) are all here too – nearly 40 of them! But what a set like this does is to allow you to dip into those lesser-travelled paths – the stunning Fusion instrumental “Power” on “Last Days And Time” – the lovely Isley Brothers Soul of “Keep Your Head To The Sky” – the out-and-out Power Funk of “Mighty Mighty” (a Number 4 in March 1974) – and the irresistible floor-filling joy of “Let Me Talk” which opens the ambitious double “Faces”.

Sixteen CDs worth of EWF is probably a little too much for the average Soulster (a single “Best Of” will do) – but at its presently reduced price of just over a twenty spot – in 2014 it doesn’t half offer ludicrously great value for money. And all of it sounding like it’s ready to put ants in your pants…

Always a joyous Soul and Funk band – Earth, Wind & Fire’s “The Columbia Masters” is a winner…

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exceptional CD Remasters - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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