Archive for November, 2015

“We Just Wanna Give Gratitude…” by Charles L. Freeman, Jr

November 11, 2015

Gratitude Cover

Gratitude Inner Sleeve

Forty years ago today, on November 11, 1975, Columbia Records released what would become one of the finest live albums in the history of recorded music, Gratitude, by Earth, Wind & Fire.

Recorded during the band’s seminal summer USA tour in support of the #1 double-platinum, That’s The Way of the World (featuring the #1 gold single, Shining Star), the band’s first live album was released to fill the label’s demand for an immediate follow-up to That’s The Way of the World prior to EWF’s first European tour (as the opening act for label mates Santana).

Featuring three sides of live performance pulled from shows mainly on the East Coast and one side of material recorded in the studio (including the hit single Singasong,) Gratitude showcases a band rounding into peak form. Utilizing a horn section for the first time and featuring two drummers playing in tandem, Earth, Wind & Fire roared and soared in arenas and auditoriums across America along with opening acts Weather Report and Ramsey Lewis. (I saw the show in July at Moody Coliseum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX).

With illusions involving a rotating drum kit, a spinning piano and a levitating Verdine White, EWF took live concerts, particularly those by a black band, to a new level of creativity and performance presentation. Much of what is being done by current touring artists such as Janet Jackson, Madonna, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift has its genesis in EWF’s 1975 summer (and fall) tour.

To this day, one of the band’s concert highlights, night in and night out, is Reasons. Featuring the ethereal vocal performance of Philip Bailey and the late Don Myrick’s show-stopping saxophone solo, Reasons remains one of the band’s most enduring songs and I dare say, along with September, is one song that MUST be played at every performance, no matter what.

Here’s ‘Yearnin Learnin’ (frankly, I believe the version included on the subsequent Alive in ’75 is the superior track) which I think you’ll agree, showcases all the glory and power of a band at the start of its peak run on the charts and as a concert attraction.

The band:
Maurice White – Vocals, Timbales, Percussion
Philip Bailey – Vocals, Congas, Percussion
Verdine White – Bass, Vocals
Al McKay – Guitar, Vocals
Larry Dunn – Keyboards (Musical Director)
Andrew Woolfolk – Saxophones, Vocals
Johnny Graham – Guitar
Ralph Johnson – Drums
Fred White – Drums

The Phenix Horns:
Don Myrick – Saxophones
Louis Satterfield – Trombone
Michael Harris – Trumpet

The album:
Side One
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Introduction by MC Perry Jones” Perry Jones 0:21
2. “Africano/Power” Larry Dunn, Maurice White 5:56
3. “Yearnin’ Learnin'” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 4:16
4. “Devotion” Phillip Bailey, Maurice White 5:07

Side Two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “Sun Goddess” Jon Lind, Maurice White 7:41
6. “Reasons” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 8:23
7. “Sing a Message to You” Maurice White 1:19

Side Three
No. Title Writer(s) Length
8. “Shining Star” P. Bailey, M. White, L. Dunn 4:55
9. “New World Symphony” Maurice White, Verdine White 9:28
10. “Musical Interlude #1*” 0:15
11. “Sunshine*” M. White, Bailey, A. McKay, L. Dunn 4:24

Side Four
No. Title Writer(s) Length
12. “Sing a Song*” Al McKay, Maurice White 3:23
13. “Gratitude*” Bailey, M. White, L.Dunn, V. White 3:23
14. “Celebrate*” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 3:06
15. “Musical Interlude #2*” 0:27
16. “Can’t Hide Love*” Skip Scarborough 4:10