Interviews

Published on September 8th, 2013 | by Gerry Galipault

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Back to basics for Earth, Wind & Fire

More than a year ago, Earth, Wind & Fire thought it had its first album in eight years all finished and ready to go.

Then Philip Bailey’s son, Philip D. Bailey, had a heart to heart with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer.

“We had just finished recording ‘Guiding Lights,’ which he had co-written,” Bailey said. “It was pretty emotional – for me and for him. He said to me, ‘This is who you are. This is how you sound.’

“He was right. It sounded like classic Earth, Wind & Fire, like something from our ‘Head to the Sky’ album (1973). Right then and there, I knew we had to go back to the drawing board. We needed all new songs that matched our original sound.”

A year later – on Tuesday (Sept. 10), in fact – Earth, Wind & Fire returns with its 20th album “Now, Then & Forever” (Legacy) and a whole new batch of back-to-basics EWF tracks.

Bailey admits EWF had strayed from its innovative mix of R&B, soul, funk, jazz and disco after leader Maurice White stopped touring with the band in 1994.

“He was such an integral part of the band, he was the architect of our sound,” he said. “You move that piece out and it’s bound to affect you. We pretty much carried on without him.”

After talking with his son, Bailey reassessed EWF’s direction. White, who has Parkinson’s Disease, left the keys to the band in Bailey’s hands, along with singer-percussionist Ralph Johnson and White’s younger brother, bassist Verdine White.

“Maurice is our guiding force, but we had to go through a little adversity to get back to who we are. I realized that our music is essential in people’s lives, the same as the Eagles and Stevie Wonder are. I would be pissed off if Stevie Wonder tried folk or if the Eagles tried to sound like Journey. We had to do what we do best.”

The 10-song “Now, Then & Forever” features the first single, “My Promise” (co-written by Siedah Garrett), “Guiding Lights” and “Sign On,” also co-written by Bailey’s son.

“Once we bought into it, it wasn’t so hard to get back on the right path,” Bailey said. “We’re so happy with this album, and we’re excited about getting it out to our fans.

“The momentum has not stopped for us. It’s such a blessing that we still get to do this after some 40 years.”

(Photo by Randee St. Nicholas)

 

 

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Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.



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