Earth, Wind & Fire – Gratitude
Sometime in the early ’90s I acquired a cassette tape with a homemade compilation of jazz music. I was familiar with much of the music, but the first track had me baffled for over a decade. It almost sounded like a big band, but not quite. I was desperate to hear more but not knowing who had made the compilation and with no track list things didn’t look good.
Something or someone, I can’t remember, got me to thinking that it could be Earth, Wind & Fire, but this wasn’t the slick Earth, Wind & Fire sound of the late ’70s and ’80s that I was familiar with. It must have been a little earlier, as the music had a distinctively raw feel. I eventually located the track on YouTube.
It comes from the album ‘Gratitude’ and the track in question is actually a combination of two tunes, Africano and Power, from former albums put together here in the live version titled Africano/Power. The music is full of ’70s jazz-funk energy, played by the nine members of the group plus a three-man horn section (trumpet, trombone and saxophone). Of particular note is Michael Harris on trumpet, who demonstrates his unique control and precision in the instrument’s upper register by consistently punching out high notes flawlessly. The overall sound is truly exhilarating so, eager to find out what the rest of the album was like I ordered the CD, and within just a few days I had it in my CD player.
Most of the album was recorded on the 1974-75 Gratitude tour before the digital revolution, sampling, and auto-tune. You hear real musicians playing real instruments to a very high standard – live. Two studio tracks, Sing a Song and Can’t Hide Love were added to complete the original album, and the 1999 re-release CD has bonus material taken from a taping of a 1978 TV variety special.
For anyone who enjoys the jazz-funk of the ’70s, mixed in with soul and r&b, and the slick sound of Earth, Wind & Fire, this album is for you.