[The Power (Light) of Earth, Wind & Fire] -- In early February 1983, Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) released their 12th studio album, Powerlight. Longtime 80s-philes (do we have any of those following this blog?) might recall that I featured three tracks off that record for a 2/2/2018 Flashback post, but I highlighted only three tracks, two of which were singles. But now that Powerlight has turned 40 years old this very month, I'm going to feature the entire album. And I'll lean heavily on my previous post.
So, first off, I don't know if the kids these days remember, or even know, that back in the 70s and early 80s we had this little band called Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF). Of course, this little band wasn't really so little. I mean, here is the personnel listing for their eponymous 1971 debut album, and here is the list for their 1983 album, Powerlight. Building from a funk foundation, they blended R&B, soul, jazz, disco, and even early electronica among other musical styles into a force to be reckoned with. And they had a horn section, The Phenix Horns, that was the envy of the industry. For example, after catching EWF on tour, Phil Collins brought The Phenix Horns in for several Genesis and even solo tracks.
Speaking of EWF on tour, they were known for elaborate stage shows. I remember Earth, Wind & Fire in Concert, a 1984 TV movie that showed their Oakland Coliseum concert which had been filmed in December 1981. During the performance of "Jupiter" (the song starts around the 47:50 mark in this video), they staged a battle with an evil Darth Vader-esque entity. I don't think that video is quite the same show I watched – I seem to recall the evil entity entering the fray from the audience rather than already being on stage – but you'll get the idea.
But back to the this week's album, Powerlight. The record buying public responded positively to the album's release, lifting it to #4 and #12 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums and the Billboard 200 charts respectively. Three of the nine tracks were released as singles between November 1982 and June 1983: "If You Fall in Love with Me," "Side by Side," and "Spread Your Love." They were also the first three tracks on Side A of the vinyl and cassette releases, though the release order did not exactly match the track listing order. Back in 1983, I had the cassette release of Powerlight. "If You Fall in Love with Me" was not only the album's lead single, it was also the lead track on Side A of the cassette. That meant I could easily and quickly access it. And I often did. While "The Speed of Love" wasn't released as a single, it is burned into my music memory because it was the first track on Side B of cassette I owned. I honestly don't know if I still own that cassette. Maybe I'll do a little search and provide an update later.
Back to the singles, "If You Fall in Love with Me" was the lead single off Powerlight. It was released in advance of the album, in November, 1982. It reached #17 on the US Billboard Hot 100, #4 on the US Billboard Black Singles, and #31 on the US Billboard Hot Dance/Disco charts. It was also nominated for a Grammy. And, as far as I can tell, this was the only single to receive the music video treatment. That video pretty much features the band performing in the virtual reality of a retro-futuristic Egypt. While the video effects were close to cutting edge at the time, they now they remind me of late 1990s screen savers. "Side by Side," the album's second single, was released in April of 1983. It peaked at #15 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart. Billboard (April 9, 1983. p. 47) described the song as a "blending of jazz vocals and chords in the funk of a rhythm ballad." "Spread Your Love" was the third and final single released off Powerlight, hitting the airwaves in June of 1983. It peaked at #57 on the US Black Singles chart, but it really deserved a wider audience.
Seriously: The message of "Spread Your Love" – that human love is damn serious – is one that is still very much needed today.
Flashback: Powerlight (February 1983)
Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.
I'll see you in seven!
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