Top Artists – Earth, Wind and Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire – I Am

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this excellent EWF title from 1979; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you like Pop Music, Soul Music, or EWF’s groundbreaking hybridization of the two, you have to love these classic albums from the ’70s
  • “Maurice White makes music whose quality is as high as its market appeal, as accessible as it is innovative…” – Rolling Stone

Every track Maurice White ever produced was a testimony to his deep understanding and prodigious talent for crafting the perfect pop song, complete with arrangements for nine pieces as tight as the matching sequined suits the band wore. Fortunately for us analog types, EWF was an audiophile-oriented band, producing some of the best sounding ’70s multi-track recordings of the day. After the Love Is Gone is killer on this copy.

There may in fact be a few too many tracks, causing the typical copy of the record to get strident and congested in the loud vocal passages, contributing to the somewhat hot upper mids in most of the mixes (which may be the fault of George Massenburg, whose engineering on even his best days tends to be somewhat sparkly).

Even though we are not in the business of selling typical copies — what we offer are very good ones at the very least, and superb ones at the upper ends of our price range — we should be clear that these problems can be heard to some degree on even the best copies we auditioned.

What we are looking for is sound that is as rich, smooth, sweet, and tonally correct as we can find. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it really can’t be anyway. It just has to be the best we can find after going through a big pile of copies, because if we can’t find it I don’t know how anyone else could. It’s the same process no matter who does it, and who else does it but us? (more…)

Earth, Wind & Fire – Spirit

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  • Insanely good sound throughout with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades  
  • Both of these sides are doing everything right — big, clear, tubey, sweet ANALOG sound; we played it good and loud and it was ROCKIN’!
  • If you like Pop Music, Soul Music, or EWF’s groundbreaking hybridization of the two, you have to love these classic albums from the ’70s
  • “… the soul powerhouse didn’t let anyone down (either commercially or creatively) on the outstanding Spirit, which boasted hits ranging from the optimistic “On Your Face” and the passionate funk classic “Getaway” to the poetic ballad “Imagination”… even if one didn’t take EWF’s calls for unity, hard work, self-respect, and faith in God to heart, they had no problem with their solid grooves.” 

Every track Maurice White ever produced was a testimony to his deep understanding and prodigious talent for crafting the perfect pop song, complete with arrangements for nine pieces as tight as the matching sequined suits the band wore. Fortunately for us analog types, EWF was an audiophile-oriented band, producing some of the best sounding ’70s multi-track recordings of the day. Getaway is killer on this copy.

There may in fact be a few too many multi-tracks, causing the typical copy of the record to get strident and congested in the loud vocal passages, contributing to the somewhat hot upper mids in some of the mixes (which is no doubt the fault of George Massenburg, whose engineering on even his best days tends to be somewhat sparkly).

Even though we are not in the business of selling typical copies — what we offer are very good ones at the very least, and superb ones at the upper end of the range — we should be clear that these problems can be heard to some degree on even the best copies we auditioned.

What we are looking for is sound that is as rich, smooth, sweet, and tonally correct as we can find. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it really can’t be anyway. It just has to be the best we can find after going through a big pile of copies, because if we can’t find it I don’t know how anyone else can. It’s the same process no matter who does it, and who else does it at this scale but us? It may not take a village, but it at least takes a sizeable crew to sort through a dozen or more copies of the same album time and time again.

Fortunately we did manage to find copies in which the sound was big, wall to wall as we like to say, and on the best of them the presence of the vocalists puts them right in front of you. For the most part you can clearly make out each of the voices that make up the harmonically-complex choruses. What a sound! Nobody harmonizes better than these guys, partly because no other band has anyone remotely as talented as the preternaturally gifted Philip Bailey to sing the superhuman falsetto parts the way he does.

For audiophiles who like to play their music loud, the sound on the best copies can be GLORIOUS! (more…)

Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way of the World – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This BEYOND White Hot Stamper Two Pack has AMAZING SOUND for both sides, which makes it BY FAR the best copy that has ever hit the site! Side two (of record two) earned our highest and rarest grade, A++++. It went beyond any side of any copy we have ever played. When you hear “Reason” on this side you will be floored at how well recorded it is. Think about it: How many people on the planet have ever heard it sound this good? We hadn’t until this copy came our way, and we’ve been playing the record since the ’70s!

On top of that, side one of the other record in this two pack has A+++ sound. Simply put, this copy has the best sound for this album you will ever hear from first note to last, a claim we happily back up with a 100% Money Back Guarantee.  

Record Two – Side Two

We’ve been known to award a “Four Plus” A++++ grade to a record that goes far beyond anything we’ve heard before, and that’s exactly what we heard on this side two — sound that went well beyond our former benchmark copy. (more…)

Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way of the World – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

We’re pretty sure that the first track on side one, Shining Star, is made from a dub, a common occurrence with planned hit singles. The rest of the songs on side two are a step up in class; when you play the side, see if you don’t hear some veiling and smearing.

These are problems we hear in the sound of practically all the Heavy Vinyl pressings that, let’s be honest, we waste our time auditioning, which leads us naturally to conclude that they are not really made from master tapes, but high quality analog dubs or high-rez digital masters. Some of course sound better than others, but none will ever sound the way this copy does.  (more…)

Earth, Wind & Fire – Gratitude

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More Gratitude

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

OFF THE CHARTS SOUND on three out of four sides! Make no mistake: This is BY FAR the best copy of Gratitude we have ever played. No other copy in our shootout was the equal of this bad boy. This copy showed us a Gratitude we had no idea existed. Every once in a while you run across a record that has both sides mastered as good as they can be mastered, and this is very nearly one of those times — for this double album only one side fell short out of four, and that side still rated a very respectable A+ to A++. That’s ten and a half pluses all told. Nice job, Mastering Lab. You did Earth Wind and Fire proud. (more…)

Earth Wind & Fire – The Best Of EWF, Vol. 1 – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This original Columbia LP has AMAZING SOUND on BOTH sides. Side one was right up there with the best we have ever heard. Without ten side ones to play there is very little chance you will be able to beat it. Hell, you might need twenty to find a better side one, but since the first track on the album is Got To Get You Into My Life, you might just have a ball doing it. 

What a song. And it’s not on any other EWF album. Three points to make here: 1) It’s from the real master tape; 2) It happens to have DEMO DISC quality sound, which means: 3) You need this record in your collection. (more…)

Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way of the World

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More That’s The Way of the World

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  • An outstanding pressing of the band’s 1975 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Both sides are open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield and an energy level that’s off the charts
  • Includes EWF classics, Shining Star and, of course, That’s The Way of The World
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Earth, Wind & Fire has delivered more than its share of excellent albums, but if a person could own only one EWF release, the logical choice would be That’s the Way of the World, which was the band’s best album as well as its best-selling. There are no dull moments on World, one of the strongest albums of the 1970s and EWF’s crowning achievement.”

An excellent copy of this funk classic! That’s The Way Of The World starts off with great music that is, apparently, very difficult to reproduce. Most copies make “Shining Star” literally sound like a cassette, and a bad one at that! No highs, no lows, harsh vocals, and no real energy. When you hear it done right, you immediately remember why you love this song – the vocals are warm and present, the bassline is groovin’, and the energy makes you wanna grab someone and dance!

The title track gives you a much better feel for how transparent this copy is — check out the subtle triangle hits. The horns and strings need to be be dynamic and textured, and on this Super Hot Stamper they certainly are. (more…)

Earth, Wind, Fire and the Neverending Search for Balance

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises. As is usually the case when plowing through a big pile of copies, we learned pretty quickly that what makes the sound work is having these two qualities in balance:

1) Richness / Smoothness 
2) Transparency

When the vocals are thin and pinched, as they often are, the resulting edginess and harshness in the midrange take all the fun out of the music. Every track has group vocals and choruses, and the best copies make all the singers sound like they are standing in a big room, shoulder to shoulder, belting it out live and in living color.

The good copies capture that energy and bring it into the mix with the full-bodied sound it no doubt had live in the studio. When the EQ or the vinyl goes awry and their voices (and brass) start to take on a lean or gritty quality, the party’s over.

But richness and fullness are not enough. They must be balanced with TRANSPARENCY. (more…)