Heritage – 1990
Review by RJM – Rating:Apparently, Maurice White decided though «Touch The World» was a success and regained respectability for Earth, Wind & Fire, he wanted to be on top again. Thus, the mostly electronic «Heritage» was conceived as an attempt to score with young urban Blacks. Because of mainstream America’s discovery of rap, he must have thought he could appeal to a much wider audience.
For «Heritage», EWF employed Sly Stone («Good Times» and «Body Wrap»), M.C. Hammer («Wanna Be The Man» and «For The Love Of You») and the young rapsters The Boys (title track). The release of the album and the title track were held back a bit to the beginning of 1990 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday. Unfortunately, «Heritage» turned out to be the second major disaster for EWF. The problem with such a crassly commercial effort is when it misses its target audience, your core fans are offended and you’re left out in the cold.
The start is relatively innocuously at «Takin’ Chances», though there’s a sign of trouble. The style of lyrics on this cut and most of the album can be described as hedonistic, egotistical, and adolescent. In other words, trying to take on attributes of rap. This is not a natural domain for EWF.
The title track and video were actually decent if somehow The Boys’ nonsensical contribution could be removed – how would it have been received under these circumstances? Furthermore, on the title track, you’ll find that EWF signature guitar work by Sheldon Reynolds. The message in the lyrics is positive, making me wonder why it bombed. The Boys must have given them an aspect the public wasn’t willing to accept. Or something.
You know you’re in big trouble upon hearing the choral vocal arrangement of the fourth cut «Good Times». It sounds like the most nauseating of contemporary pop. Though you can never criticize Maurice White’s flawless production techniques, «Heritage» is simply weak material. The vocal arrangements are the worst ever for EWF, and it’s clear Maurice wasn’t responsible for many of them.
The filler «Motor» and the vocal arrangements on «King Of Groove» (oh oh oh oh oh oh) are especially vile. I should expand on how much I dislike the latter. Maybe I’m missing the point, but hearing Maurice utter the phrase «Everybody want to ride in my limousine» is absolutely absurd. «King Of Groove» ranks extremely high on EWF’s worst singles list.
You’ll find more traditional vocal arrangements on «Anything You Want», so this one doesn’t offend. «Daydreamin'» starts excellently with interesting keyboard arrangements, then fizzles. «Daydreamin'», along with «I’m In Love» and «Anything You Want» hint at past glories, and as such, are much more sincere than the rest of «Heritage».
«For The Love Of You» starts out in a way which seems to have possibilities, then immediately becomes like the rest of «Heritage». Regardless, one has to wonder why «For The Love Of You» didn’t hit the jackpot for EWF. It featured rapper M.C. Hammer (considered lightweight by his rapping peers) who was flying high at the time with his album «Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em» and its megasingle «U Can’t Touch This».
Still, «Wanna Be The Man» and «For The Love Of You» are paradoxical. EWF has always attracted the most sophisticated pop listeners. What made Maurice think that we were interested in Hammer’s take on his personal relationships?
The cut of most substance and most out of place on «Heritage» is «Welcome», but the real winner is «Gotta Find Out». Many fans were not aware of the existence of the latter until it appeared on the box set «The Eternal Dance» in 1992 – it appeared only as the B-side of «SOS» in the States. (I wish whoever makes these decisions would stop doing this to get me to buy CD singles.)
The electronic arrangements were in place throughout «Heritage», and «Welcome» is the only cut, unfortunately, featuring their new outstanding drummer Sonny Emory. As with «Electric Universe», EWF’s other bomb, the insipid synth drum arrangements are everywhere – even on some of the interludes, which brings me to the final point.
What’s lost here is the highest concentration of epic interludes, namely «Bird», «Body Wrap», «Close To Home», «Soweto» and «Faith». This dazzling collection is the only reason «Heritage» edges out EWF’s worst «Electric Universe». So, if mom only gave you enough money for only 28 of the 29 CDs in my review, then «Heritage» should be included! This marked the end of EWF’s Columbia career.
We were about to enter the dark era of EWF. There wouldn’t be any more solo projects until 1994. Even the most optimistic fan couldn’t expect EWF to bounce back from the «Heritage» torpedo, so it appeared they were finished for the second time in seven years.
Not just yet!
order of strength:
Total playing time: 39:50