Head To The Sky – 1973
Review by RJM – Rating:Earth, Wind & Fire finally began to hit their stride in 1973 with their first gold album «Head To The Sky». It contained two legitimate charters, namely the uplifting «Keep Your Head To The Sky», and the standout «Evil». This version of EWF would remain almost completely intact for the longest time.
«Head To The Sky» is the first EWF release where the vocal arrangements complemented the music, rather than supplementing it. Quite noteworthy here is the fantastic percussion and the absence of the blaring brass section.
«Head To The Sky» is heavily Latin-influenced, as was some concurrent pop, such as «Do It Again» by Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder’s «Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing» and, of course, everything by Santana. Maurice White’s kalimba playing, especially the blistering solo at the end of «Evil», focused attention on the African thumb piano in urban Black American culture. Why didn’t the high quality «Evil» crack the top 50 pop?
Also hot is the fusion of «Zanzibar» which, at over 13 minutes, is EWF’s longest single. Besides overall excellent arrangements, «Zanzibar» features awesome horns, especially near the end, making it worth listening to closely. It was daring to put such a long jazz cut on an album supposedly aimed at R&B listeners, and «Zanzibar» rightfully caught the attention of fusion fans. «The World’s A Masquerade» was cloned too many times in subsequent years.
Though I can live without the other two cuts, this is an exceptional work, marking the beginning of the modern EWF sound. The framework of basic EWF elements, which led to their subsequent huge success, was now in place. However, glaringly absent are strings and the EWF trademark horn section, so «Head To The Sky» is somewhat oversynthesized to fill the void. At times «Head To The Sky» sounds a bit distorted, giving the album a raw edge. That’s OK, because it works in spite of these shortcomings.
order of strength:
US: Columbia 32194