Avatar – 1996
By RJM – Rating: No ratingPlease note – this ain’t no review; it’s a spewfest.
It’s hard not to notice my reviews are written from a myopic American point of view (being from New York City can only make it worse). Sometimes we here in the States forget great groups like Earth, Wind & Fire attract quite a following internationally.
It seems EWF had been living a double life, kept secret from America. Though virtually ignored in the States, EWF had maintained much of their popularity in Europe, and had actually hit the mainstream in Japan. (Need a rare EWF CD? You’ll find it in Japan, but almost certainly not here in the States.) Is their popularity in Japan indicative of vitality? In any case, give the Japanese people credit for recognizing true quality, and snatching EWF from Sucka F.
In 1996, EWF released a new album in Japan (but not in the USA) titled «Avatar». Included were three cuts, «Change Your Mind», «Take You To Heaven» and the interlude «Bahia». Thanks to the webmaster, I’ve now heard the first two, and they sound acceptable. «Avatar» is available as an import but way overpriced; one should think it over before taking the plunge.
In 1997, this work was finally released in the States with a different title and a rearranged track sequence. It included the two new singles which appeared on the 1996 VH1 Fairway to Heaven IV Concert, «Revolution (Just Evolution)» and «In The Name Of Love», but not the three aforementioned cuts. (See next review.)
One track on «Avatar» is called «Feel U Up». This must have been a mistake. The Symbolic One recorded this title, about – you guessed it – groping. The cut was re-released as «Fill You Up»; this title actually fits the lyrics.
Since you asked, it really bothers me that high quality music like «Revolution» is completely ignored by radio DJ’s, especially surprising after «Sunday Morning» snagged a Grammy nomination. Maybe «Revolution» is too controversial for radio airplay. I guess nobody else knows of Steve Biko or wants to know of Geronimo Pratt. Can anybody give me any other reason why I NEVER hear (even a reference to) «Revolution» anywhere?
This, in spite of the fact Philip Bailey, and Maurice and Verdine White do a voice commercial here in the States for the elevator-jazz radio stations, which euphemistically refer to themselves as «smooth jazz». These fuzak stations play virtually no EWF music, probably because it’s quality is too great. Even more insidious is the DMX schitt coming through your cable box – makes me want to pay to hear commercials.
I once heard a fuzak remake of «Reasons» – what a yawner. Hey, «DJ», what about playing the vastly superior version from EWF’s «Greatest Hits Live»? I’ll admit calling much of their work «smooth» is a stretch because it’s so full of energy (i.e., not lifeless robo-jazz), but who in their right mind can claim the fuzak stations play actual jazz? The pop poop these stations try to pass off as jazz stupefies the brain. Furthermore, these stations honor the legendary Stevie Wonder by playing a wide range of his music. Is Stevie smooth and EWF not? Does Stevie play more jazz than EWF? Come now.
If just about any other former superstars released something as good as «Revolution», the media would have gone berserk here in the States. The Spice Girls could cover Michael Bolton and hit the top of the pop charts. Maybe the lack of acknowledgement is because they’re a bunch of Christians – how boring. These days, success as a Black pop star involves sex, being a gangsta, or worst of all, being a freak.
Since I’m on a roll, I can point out that Phil Collins is performing «Easy Lover» in his oldies concerts, a song I haven’t heard Philip perform in years. It’s amazing this cut is considered Philco’s when it appeared on Philip’s album. Hence the mystery of Philip’s identity is perpetuated. By the way, Philip could and should teach Philco some new steps.
Finally, I couldn’t obtain tickets to see this allegedly washed-up group at Caesar’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during winter break ’97-’98, though willing to fork over an astronomical $127.50 per head. This demonstrates EWF, despite the media conspiracy, hasn’t been forgotten by their American fans.
Avatar is available in Japan only, and was released in July 1996. It contains 13 tracks: "In The Name Of Love", "Keep It Real", "The Right Time", "Feel U Up", "Avatar (interlude)", "Cruising", "Revolution (Just Evolution)", "Round And Round", "Change Your Mind", "Love Is Life", "Take You To Heaven", "Rock It" and "Bahia (interlude)". The track "In the Name of Love" was released as a single in Japan and "Cruising" is featured on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s movie Get On The Bus. Where to get it: GEMM
Released: July 1996 in Japan only