Electric Universe – 1983
Produced by Maurice White and Wayne Vaughn for Kalimba Productions
Arranged by Maurice White and Jerry Hey

Review by RJM – Rating:

Electric UniverseYears of being the kings of Black pop were taking its toll on Earth, Wind & Fire. A split was inevitable, even if they’d recovered from their early 80’s slump. They’d been on top for most of the second half of the 1970’s with little real competition. No one stays on top of the pop world forever. They could have concentrated on making quality music and certainly more jazz. Maybe stop touring so much, and occasionally slip in some gimmick to keep the bills paid.

Instead, 1983’s «Electric Universe» is remembered as what finally finished off EWF. The crossover kings had finally crossed completely into a strange world of electronic-pop-dance-rock (for lack of a better phrase), the result being mostly indigestible. Band members’ songwriting credits were now non-existent – even Maurice’s credits were at an all time low. «Electric Universe» should have been titled «Maurice White and Friends Present EWF».

In terms of instrumentation, «Electric Universe» isn’t among EWF’s worst. Verdine was still an excellent musician, popping away at the bass, and guitarist Roland Bautista as proficient as ever. What else can be said about the phenomenal Larry Dunn? The vocal arrangements are very good with a real sense of urgency, but we expect no less of EWF. However, the really obnoxious part of «Electric Universe» are those darn synth drums and arrangements. These appear on every cut in the same form, including the ballads, where they’re totally out of place – arrrrgh.

The theme of «Electric Universe» is computerized, futuristic music and lyrics. This project, including the cover art, seemed rushed, probably because it was the third release in 1983. Though the lead single, «Magnetic», charted, it was the first time since 1973 that no EWF single hit the top fifty from a given album. In spite of the advertising blitz, sales of «Electric Universe» were the poorest since 1972’s «Last Days And Time».

«Magnetic», with its irrelevant video, was a clear sign of desperation. I would have responded infinitely better to «Magnetic» with the lead part of the chorus («the rhythm of a dangerous dance …» ) deleted. It keeps repeating, making me cringe every time I hear it. They made little effort in revamping the excellent «The Changing Times» and delivered it’s musical carbon copy «Electric Nation». The Vaughns’ «Sweet Sassy Lady» is the nail on the coffin.

There are some non-offensive tunes like «Touch», and the pretty ballads «Could It Be Right» and «Living In Our Own Time», but these were destined for oblivion. The arrangements on «Could It Be Right» are nice, so the cut suffers only from the identity it derives from «Electric Universe». 
There’s not one interlude here, which would have been welcomed to break the monotony. Like «Raise!», this work sounds more like itself than anything else EWF has done. I’m not sure it’s a sell-out, but I am sure it’s formula driven.

«Electric Universe» is the only EWF CD no longer in print. If one had to go, this had to be it. After this fiasco, EWF finally disbanded, and serious fans feared they were finished.
Not just yet! 

RJM (revised)

Tracks in order of strength:
1. Could It Be Right
2. Living In Our Own Time
3. Touch
…and the rest:
4. Magnetic
5. Electric Nation
6. Spirit Of A New World
7. Moonwalk
8. Sweet Sassy Lady

Total playing time: 37:24
US: Columbia CK 38980
EUR: Columbia 463079-2
JAP: 25DP-5127

Gunnar Homdrum 1996 © 2005