Earth Wind & Fire single-handedly re-affirmed my faith in the elderly this week. The band, now in their 41st year as a collective and with most of their core members peaking above the official retirement age, came to Sydney and proceeded to prove how little age matters when you’re dealing with talent. An all-singing, all-percussion, choreographed extravaganza, these guys know how to out on a real show, and reminded me how much better music has to be to be able to sound this fresh nearly half a century after it was recorded. It seems brutally unfair that we have both Kool & The Gang and Tower Of Power in these pages but have neglected perhaps the band that have had the most influence on Team Seidler’s creation and history as Kanye West. So today we are rectifying that problem.
‘Got To Get You Into My Life’, for those of you who usually win music trivia rather than heckle the ones who do, is indeed one and the same Beatles song from the tail-end of my favourite of their records, Revolver. Taking lead from the fact that it already featured a large brass section, Earth Wind & Fire took McCartney’s sexual longing and tuned it into the swinging, blues-funk sound of the ’70s. The result is a song that perhaps equals the original in terms of impact, if only because for the first thirty seconds, you have absolutely no idea what it is. There’s a frenzy of amazing trumpet blasts, rambunctious horn lines and soul harmonies that fly by so quickly it’s like being punched in the guts by the hottest girl on Earth. Inasmuch as Earth Wind & Fire are about vocals, and god knows they had about six of them in their prime, what really shines are the amazing players they have. Even for a recording this old, you can hear everything from the lead guitar to the tight-as bass and hi-hat sizzle in perfect alignment. For a band of this size, they had perhaps some of the best studio mixers in the world. Besides, the wrote ‘September’ which should probably archived for all eternity as emblematic of the human race
I always felt that McCartney was trying to push the straightness of his composition towards more of a swing feel, which is why this version sounds so natural and completely great. It certainly helps that you’ve got a bunch of super-talented African Americans singing in five-part, Motown harmony. Black disco was perhaps the apotheosis of the crossover potential of mindblowing performances with popular white styles, and Earth Wind & Fire ruled this space for longer than I’ve been alive. I know this because bouncing out of the seat next to me at the gig was my Dad, who was exactly my age when these guys first broke through. That music can span across this amount of time, such that both my Dad and even brother Z, who was losing his mind ten rows ahead of us, can enjoy the same thing, is perhaps the best endorsement I know. And yeah, choreographed dance moves and disco and funk and sounding great rather than deliberately sounding terrible are all things that aren’t considered makretable, but that’s until you see it. Not once in my professional career as a reviewing wanker have I been to a show where I thought an encore was a foolish idea, because I was so completely satisfied. Just look at the treatment they did of one of the greatest bands ever, where not only did they reinvent it into something sublimely entertaining but actually turned a great song into a smash hit in the US.
I’m apologising to nobody. Bring on the horns and the real razzle dazzle.
Earth, Wind & Fire – ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’