Classics: Earth, Wind & Fire – System Of Survival (Columbia)
Is this House Music? If not, it’s certainly not far then. But at least Earth, Wind & Fire have borrowed elements of Electronic Music. Could it be that ‘System Of Survival’ was an allusion to costs of recording / production already seen as to high back then? Strange as to how the lyrics keep on finding resonance nowadays. “The Human Race is runnin’ over me. I punch a clock at 9 and 5, just tryin’ to make a livin’. A plastic face on satellite TV says: “Life is filled with give and take.” He’s takin’ and I’m givin. So I dance…”
‘System Of Survival’ is certainly the best electronic representation of Earth, Wind & Fire one can think of. With production work by the likes of Maurice White along with Preston Glass. But also the presence of the late David Cole (C+C Music Factory) on keyboards. And remixing work courtesy of Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero.
“Everybody get up. Do your dance!”
Founded in Chicago by Maurice White back in 1971, Earth Wind & Fire stand as one of the most successful bands of the 20th Century. Their music is a unique blend of R&B, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Disco, Rock, Latin and African vibes. If ever we had to summarize them in a few words, the first ones coming to mind would be their obvious flamboyance, both on stage as musically speaking. But also the dynamic sound of their horn section which is a part of their signature. The beauty of their vocal arrangements. With thanks to the contrasting vocal performances of falsetto singer Philip Bailey and contralto Maurice White. Not to mention the presence of the Kalimba (what the Africans tend to call the “thumb piano”) being the icing on the cake)…
The impressive list of their classics speaks for itself. From ‘Shining Star’ to ‘Devotion’, and ‘Sing A Song’. But also ‘Fantasy’, ‘September’, ‘Boogie Wonderland’ or ‘Let’s Groove’. With ‘Be Ever Wonderful’ and ‘After The Love Has Gone’ standing as some of the most vibrant ballads ever produced. Not to mention ‘Can’t Hide Love’ which Masters At Work brilliantly remixed back in 2002. And ‘Getaway’ which The Salsoul Orchestra covered back in 1977. Meanwhile they would flirt with electronic vibes on the memorable ‘System Of Survival’ 10 years after.
Earth, Wind & Fire also happened to collaborate with a bunch of other artists. Beginning with their backing female singers, The Emotions. Therefore producing the memorable ‘Best Of My Love’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love’ for them. And they also crafted the vibrant ‘Free’ for Deniece Williams which Chanté Moore covered in the mid-90’s. Meanwhile their (first) horn section could be heard jammin’ along with Phil Collins. This back in 1985 on the firing ‘Sussudio’ from his ‘No Jacket Required’ album…