Touch The World – 1987
Review by RJM – Rating:Maurice White and Philip Bailey reconnected for the 1987 Earth, Wind & Fire album, «Touch The World». Even though technology was in full force, this release was more electronic funk than the electronic pop-rock of the last EWF effort, 1983’s «Electric Universe». It is also the most political of the EWF legacy, hence representing some of their strongest lyrics. The sound of «Touch The World» and new look of the band was influenced by Larry Blackmon of Cameo fame («Word Up!»). «Touch The World» marked the beginning of Sheldon Reynolds’ EWF career, playing guitar on four of the ten cuts.
EWF was back on the map via the energetic «System Of Survival» («SOS»), the choice single on «Touch The World». This was their first cut to reach the top of the R&B charts since 1981’s «Let’s Groove». Most surprising is «SOS» made it no higher than #60 on the pop side. One can only wonder how this is possible – «SOS» is quality music, especially compared to the simplistic fodder of its contemporaries. Although the choral vocal arrangements are interesting on «SOS», it is somewhat musically simplistic. «SOS» starts out with radio sound bytes (one of which is TV journalist Pat Harper) which don’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the song.
Maybe it’s just a matter of radio DJ’s not playing it, demonstrating how important mega-hype is to pop success. Maybe it’s the (somewhat) controversial nature of the lyrics. Or possibly a fundamental core of EWF’s fan base were chased off by the electronic trend.
The questionable second release, flimsy bridged Vaughn product, «Thinking Of You», climbed almost as high as «SOS» on the charts. Whatever. The electronic percussion of «Evil Roy» is interesting, and the cut is hard to fault with good lyrics. In fact, there appears to be no reason for disliking it, but I can’t help myself. Ditto, but to a lesser extent, for «You and I» (not to be confused with the «You And I» from «I Am»). «Every Now And Then» is a respectable ballad, but not a revelation. «Here Today And Gone Tomorrow» should go hang out with its friends on «Chinese Wall».
I have no real beefs about the other cuts. However, the title track suffers, even with its powerful lyrics. I’m sorry, but the music just doesn’t fit the words. (What do you call this anyway, mid-tempo electronic dance funk gospel?). Please note a single I have not heard called «Writing On The Wall» was released in some issuings as the B-side to «SOS».
It’s disingenuous to credit «Touch The World» to EWF, a group which didn’t exist in 1987. Verdine White showed up for the album cover and videos, but does not appear in the musical credits. Ralph Johnson showed up only for the video of «Thinking Of You». Saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk only musically contributes to the excellent jazz interlude, «New Horizons», even though he appears in the video for «SOS». No other former member of EWF participated in «Touch The World».
This album should instead be credited to Maurice White, Philip Bailey, and a bunch of studio hacks. Not surprisingly, «Touch The World» sounds like they merged solo projects they’d been working on, and hence validates my inclusion of their solo albums in my review. Again, there are too many outside contributors featured in «Touch The World». Overall, it’s a decent album, and did well by scoring gold. «Touch The World» is substantially better than the last EWF effort, «Electric Universe», but it didn’t return them to the glory years of 6 consecutive double-platinum albums. Although EWF was no longer on the cutting edge, the faithful weren’t about to complain.
order of strength:
Total playing time: 42:34