Faces – 1980
Produced by Maurice White for Kalimba Productions
Arranged by Maurice White, Thomas Washington, Jerry Hey,
Erich Bulling, David Foster, Jerry Peters and James Newton Howard

Review by RJM – Rating:

To quote Punk Funker Rick James, «when you’re on the top, there’s no place you can really go but down, down, down». 1980 saw the release of «Faces», which ended Earth, Wind & Fire’s double platinum string started in 1975 by «That’s The Way Of The World». Real problems finally became apparent, and critics at the time claimed they’d lost their «fire». Well, not exactly.

The lead single, «Let Me Talk», is an excellent cut which showcased the abilities of the best pianist in pop music, namely Larry Dunn. (Listen carefully to realize that Larry’s notes make sense.) But once again, as with «All-n-All», the music was too sophisticated for the singles buying primates, and «Let Me Talk» sputtered. The likely original intention was to release «You» – a nice cut which didn’t really differentiate itself musically from the phenomenal «After The Love Has Gone». 

A big mistake was committed in not releasing the uplifting «Turn It Into Something Good» («wake up!»). In any case, along with «Pride», which has tight instrumentation if you overlook the increasingly obsolete style of lyrics, side one of this double LP is pretty good. «Pride» and «Let Me Talk» are a hearty attempt by EWF to write their own material again, a concept from which they strayed on «I Am». 

After side one, the slide begins. «Sparkle» sounds familiar – it’s cut out of the «Fantasy»-«Sunshine» mold, but isn’t particularly interesting. EWF brought in guitarist Steve Lukather of the pop group Toto to give «Back On The Road» a rock feel, and it worked out. Philip Bailey’s tragic «You Went Away», also featuring Lukather, is quite likable.

Possibly because it leads on side three, the second release was «And Love Goes On». This cut sounds like EWF hijacked some piano rifts from the Doobie Brothers. Among the rest, «Take It To The Sky», «Sailaway» and «Share Your Love» are reasonable, but by the time «In Time» rolls around, you’ve grown weary of «Faces». This album is just too long, possibly because they wanted to fill a double LP. If the filler had been shaved from «Faces» yielding a single (and thereby less expensive) LP, there’s little doubt it would have been received better. Instead, it represents their weakest delivery since 1972’s «Last Days And Time».

The excellent title track, possibly EWF’s purest full-length jazz composition with its hard impacting orchestration, redeems this album. Unfortunately, «Faces» is the last (non-interlude) jazz composition appearing on an EWF release. Why couldn’t more of their music be like the title track?
No single from «Faces» cracked the top 40 pop, which caught Maurice White’s attention. He decided a change was needed.


Tracks in order of strength:
1. Faces
2. Let Me Talk
3. Turn It Into Something Good
4. You Went Away
5. You
6. Take It To The Sky
7. Back On The Road
8. Sailaway
9. Share Your Love
10. And Love Goes On
…and the rest:
11. Pride
12. Win Or Lose
13. Sparkle
14. Song In My Heart
15. In Time

Total playing time: 65:57
US: Columbia 36795
EUR: Sony 983316-2
JAP: Sony SRCS 6116

Gunnar Homdrum 1996 © 2005