All’n All – 1977
Review by RJM – Rating:In 1976, Maurice White was deeply affected by the passing of his friend, mentor and co-producer, Brother Charles Stepney. Amazingly, he rebounded very strongly the following year.
It’s always been the case that Earth, Wind & Fire albums initially don’t overwhelm me. The first time I heard «All-n-All», however, I was absolutely enthralled from beginning to end. This represents their peak – the ultimate refinement of the sound which dominated Black pop in the mid to late ’70s. Even the cover art set the standard.
Side one smokes with «Serpentine Fire» and the classic «Fantasy»; I’ve yet to understand how the former outdid the latter on the charts. Next is the exotic interlude «In The Marketplace», followed by the mystical «Jupiter». You’ll truly appreciate «Jupiter» if you succeed in ignoring the impossible horn and powerful bass lines and focus on the guitars and percussion. Then there’s the sexy «Love’s Holiday», which elicits a response from the ladies comparable to the works of Al Green and Marvin Gaye. Top it off with their most famous interlude by far, «Beijo», which was wrongly credited as the third excellent interlude «Brazilian Rhyme» (on the flip side of the LP). The result is EWF’s strongest side ever – it ain’t even close.
Side two is quite good with the better than average dance music, vocal arrangements and mind-blowing horns of «Magic Mind», and the Grammy-award winning fusion of «Runnin'». With its complex rifts and tight instrumentation, «All-n-All» didn’t score as «That’s The Way Of The World» – a reflection of the primitive tastes of the general public. Because «Gratitude» has more jazz and is much longer, it narrowly edges out «All-n-All» as the best EWF album.
It’s interesting the two «weakest» selections, the decent but unoriginal «Be Ever Wonderful», and the syrupy «I’ll Write A Song For You» have been chosen as standouts. This is evidenced by their inclusion in 1996’s «Greatest Hits Live», and the 1992 box set «The Eternal Dance». I appreciate the transition «I’ll Write A Song For You» undergoes, starting quietly and building to an exciting climax, but it simply isn’t on par with the rest of the album. Regardless, both fit like a hand in a glove into «All-n-All»; a work where the worst cut has the quality of «Be Ever Wonderful» is almost incomprehensible. Clearly one of the ten greatest albums ever made. I bet when Miles said how much he liked EWF, it was probably just after hearing «All-n-All»
In 1999, «All-n-All» was remastered and re-released, adding seriously different takes of «Love’s Holiday» and «Runnin'» – am I allowed to give a higher rating? (Rating is for original release.)
Besides «All-n-All», EWF members were involved in other projects in 1977. Among these, it is necessary to mention the awesome fusion of «Tequila Mockingbird», with its stunningly complex opening arrangements. «Tequila Mockingbird» was written, arranged, and produced by Larry Dunn for Kalimba Productions, done once again for Ramsey Lewis. It features ex-EWF member Ronnie Laws on sax and most of EWF (except for Maurice). Any real EWF fan would immediately recognize Verdine White’s bassline in this piece.
«Tequila Mockingbird» appears on two Ramsey Lewis CDs, the album with the same title, and «Electric Collection». The former contains two other EWF cuts, «Skippin'», and «That Ol’ Bach Magic». The latter contains other EWF points of interest, such as two more Dunn productions, and Maurice’s «Brazilica». Disgustingly, «Sun Goddess» isn’t included in this compilation. Although some of «Electric Collection» is repulsive, it would be my choice of the two.
order of strength:
Original total playing time: 39:09
Also released in 1994 as a 24
karat gold disc in the Sony Mastersound series.