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Of all the EWF compilations, this one is best for a new fan
on September 17, 2004
One thing is for certain about Earth Wind and Fire - There is no shortage of compilations of their greatest hits out there. From an initial scan of looking at their discography, I was able to come up 8 main ones - and I'm sure there are others in terms of imports and obsolete collections. Some of these greatest hits are specialized collections while others are dated. This CD, "Earth Wind and Fire Greatest Hits" is one of these 8. I'll discuss how this particular set stands out, but first I think it's appropriate to go through some of the other Earth Wind and Fire collections to make you aware of what is out there.
1."Earth Wind and Fire Greatest Hits Volume 1": This was a very popular set from 1978s. It features the debut of the classic song "September" and the release of Earth Wind and Fire's cover of the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life"
2."Earth Wind and Fire Greatest Hits Volume 2": This does feature songs from EWF that were released after Volume 1 as well as other songs not included on Volume 1. It also features the song "Fantasy" that was found on Volume 1.
3."Super Hits": A limited set 10 track set that isn't entirely devoted to the big time EWF hits.
4."The Essential Earth Wind and Fire": Notice how greatest hits albums are now being called "Essential". This is actually a pretty comprhensive 2 disc set. The first disc contains 20 studio tracks and the second disc contains 13 remixes.
5."Let's Groove": The Best of Earth Wind and Fire: A 17 track Collection that focuses on EWF's dance songs.
6."Elements of Love: The Ballads": A 14 track collection focusing on the softer, ballad songs of EWF.
7."The Eternal Dance": A Comprhensive 3 disc boxed set that contains also contains some unreleased and live tracks.
"Earth Wind and Fire: Greatest Hits" is one of the better compilations that has been released. It isn't as comprehensive as "The Essential" or "The Eternal Dance". However it is important to note that even those comprehensive collections are not all-inclusive of the material that is found on "Greatest Hits". The song "Gratitude" that is on "Greatest Hits" is not found on "The Essential" or "The Eternal Dance". "Serpentine Fire", "Kalimba Story", and "Can't Hide Love" (original studio version) are all found on "Greatest Hits" but not found on "The Essential". The dated "Volume 1" collection contains a song "Love Music" not found on "Greatest Hits". Therefore, it is safe to say that one collection isn't going to encompass everything.
However, although "Greatest Hits" doesn't include everything - it isn't a bad place to start. If a casual fan is looking to get started with Earth Wind and Fire - they are going to get 17 very good tracks that cover Earth Wind and Fire's peak period from the mid 70s through 1981. This collection doesn't contain any new studio cuts or remix variants, so what you are going to get are a nice selection of some of EWF's best works. One thing that does disappoint is the arrangement of the songs on the CD. I usually prefer my greatest hits CD to be in chronological order. In the case of "Greatest Hits", it doesn't go in chronological order and as a result this is a disappointment.
This collection does contain some older works by EWF - including the funkish "Kalimba Story" and the horn-based "Mighty Mighty". These songs are from the 1974's "Open Our Eyes" release. Also included are songs casual fan may not be as familar with: "Can't Hide Love"; "Gratitude"; "Serpentine Fire"; "Reasons"; and "Saturday Night". "Saturday Night" features some of the classic Philip Bailey vocals singing "London Bridge is Falling Down". These songs are also a part of this collection.
You will also hear some of the true EWF classics such as "Shining Star", "That's the Way Of the World", "September", "Fantasy", and "After the Love is Gone". Also included is the classic cover of the Beatles "Got to Get You Into My Life". EWF and this song were a part of the 1978 film "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and you will hear why many people consider this even better than the Fab Four's original. You will also hear some of the dance classics such as "Let's Groove", "Boogie Wonderland", and "Getaway".
Although this isn't a boxed set, the liner notes in this collection provide a wealth of information to learn all about Earth Wind and Fire". For starters, there is a four panel writeup (the liner notes fold out as opposed to be stapled) entitled "The Eternal Groove" by Mark Coleman. This tells the story of how Maurice White built the band - including why he brought Philip Bailey into the band. The writeup covers up until 1981. In addition to this writeup, there is an "Earth Wind and Fire Family Tree". This lists all of the permutations of Earth Wind and Fire - including the early days of Maurice's original band "The Salty Peppers". Kevin Goins and Leo Sacks provide annotations explaining all of the band changes. Also included is a list of all of the band credits - including many of the background studio and orchestral musicians. Finally, there is a terrific discography that lists all of the songs. Each song includes the album it came from, the year it was released, songwriting credits, arrangement credits, and how it charted.
In terms of selecting which compilation is the best one for you - look carefully at the content. While sets like "The Essential" and "The Eternal Dance" are deep, these are probably going to do a better job at satisfying the seasoned EWF fan. Seasoned fans may also look to "Let's Groove" and "Elements of Love" for more specialized compilations. In terms of a fan looking to start with EWF for the first time, "Greatest Hits" is a perfect place to start.