cream of the crate #20 : max merritt & the meteors – max merritt & the meteors

 

 

 This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site which was abandoned for its current site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site. 

“The World’s a Masquerade (Everybody, everybody wears another face”) may not be on everyone’s lips yet, but it is the stuff dreams are made of" - [RollingStone 1973].

cream of the crate #22 : earth wind and fire – head to the sky
[CLICK to enlarge]
 

 

Head To the Sky by Earth, Wind & Fire is review number 22 in the on-going series of Cream Of the Crate reviews, of albums from my collection that I believe are noteworthy for a variety of reasons.

 

 

The appreciation we have for “World Music” was nowhere near as great at the time this album was released as it became in years further on. 

In the early 70’s there was a move to bring to the forefront the sounds of Africa through an Afro-American fusion where the rhythms of Africa could be crossed with the sounds of both Jazz and R&B.

One of the pioneers of this ‘criss-cross” rhythmic fusion was Maurice White who was an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and arranger. 

cream of the crate #22 : earth wind and fire – head to the sky
Maurice White

It was he that conceptualised and bought together the group he called Earth, Wind & Fire.

In an interview he said – “I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before. Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music…which somehow ended up becoming pop. We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners’ spiritual content.”

Now although the band had its genesis in 1969, it wasn’t until 1971 that he band’s self-titled debut album, Earth, Wind & Fire was released reaching #24 on the Billboard Top Soul Chart.

These were followed by “The need For Love” (1971) and “Last days and Time” (1972). Both charted reasonably well.

However in 1973 the group released what i believe was their best album – “Head To The Sky“, which broke through the top 10 and reached #2 on the Top Soul albums, but in an indication of a far greater appreciation by music overs, it reached #27 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.

I have both the UK [CBS S 65604] and the Australian pressing [SBP234336].

cream of the crate #22 : earth wind and fire – head to the sky
Vinyl Label – [CLICK to enlarge]
The difference between the two pressings is minimal, a slightly different colouration of the covers, and some minor layout differences inside the gatefold although the UK pressing has a stronger (thicker) cover.

cream of the crate #22 : earth wind and fire – head to the sky
Left hand side of the gatefold cover – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate #22 : earth wind and fire – head to the sky
Right hand side of the gatefold cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

The lineup for this album is as follows:

 

TRACK LISTING:

SIDE 1.

  1. Evil
  2. Keep Your Head To The Sky
  3. Build Your Nest
  4. The World’s A Masquerade

SIDE 2.

  1.  Clover
  2.  Zanzibar
cream of the crate #22 : earth wind and fire – head to the sky
Rear Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

Let’s start with track 2 on Side 1 – Keep Your Head To The Sky. OK, so the track charted well on the Soul charts as a single and it’s easy to see why.

Written by Maurice White it is a beautiful crafted piece of music with a great story-line and hauntingly beautiful vocals.

It has often been said to keep your eyes up, not down – or you will miss the beauty and the world play around you.

In this song White adds an element of spirituality to those thoughts while Philip Bailey sings his heart out.

Master told me one day
I’d find peace in every way
But in search for the clue
Wrong things I was bound to do

Keep my head to the sky
For the clouds to tell me why
As I grew, and with strength
Master kept me as I repent
And he said

Keep your head to the sky
Keep your head to the sky

He gave me the will to be free
Purpose to live His reality
Hey, and I found myself never alone
Chances came to make me strong

So step right up and be a man
Cause you need faith to understand
So we’re saying for you to hear
Keep your head in faith’s atmosphere

Keep your head to the sky
So the clouds
Keep your head to the sky
So they can tell you why, Lord
Keep your head to the sky
Surely, the clouds are gonna tell you why

Verses repeat.

The final etherial choruses of “Keep you head to the sky” are the icing on what is a magic track.

Keep Your Head To The Sky

Track 4 is The World’s A Masquerade and it is often written about as the crowning track of the album. I don’t know if i agree with that statement but it is certainly a very classy piece of music.

In his review of the album for Rolling Stone in 1973, Vince Alletti wrote of this track – A dream last week: I was walking through a crowded marketplace in a city that seemed to be Paris although I’ve never been there. I was singing to myself and everyone I passed was singing the same song, softly to themselves. It was “The World’s a Masquerade” from the Earth, Wind & Fire album, especially the repeated final lines, “The world’s a masquerade/ Can the whole world be lying?” I thought to myself, “That must be a very popular song,” and then the dream moved on to other things. What does it mean, doctor? Was the dream doubling back on itself, the song commenting on its own apparent popularity? Can the whole world be lying?

We all have many faces we chose to wear from time to time, the problem is, that we can get to the point where we the wearers aren’t sure which is our real face, and the observer just gets totally bamboozled or worse, gets too many fake messages and the confusion compounds.  

Yes, the world is indeed a masquerade!

The track commences with a very Moody Blues like single tone before the piano kicks off into what is a ballad of challenge, can we show ourselves as we are?

Can this world be a masquerade
Are you really what we see on the outside
And hidin’ what what you really are on the inside
Pretending that you’re something you’re really not

Whole world is a masquerade
Everybody, everybody wears another face

Can’t you see what you really are
Pretending that you want the world to be a better place
Fightin’, makin’ war on your fellow man

So why wear this face
That makes it seem everything’s so great

Whole world is a masquerade
Everybody, everybody wears another face

The Whole Worlds A Masquerade

It certainly reminds us that there is a craft to writing a beautiful piece of music – something that is fast being lost today.

Before I move to the final track, I must mention that side 2 is almost completely taken up by quite a piece of music. Zanzibar runs for over 13 minutes and is quite a piece of what is, a strictly instrumental piece, although having said that, i will contradict myself by saying it does have some very appropriate backing vocals – where the voices are used as almost instruments – a kind of a jazzed up spacial choir!

It is without doubt the most Jazz oriented piece on the album and is quite and arse-kicker.

So, the final track for your aural edification is in fact the first track on side 2 – Clover.

Starting off with a single electric piano with reverb, the band kicks in behind what is an admix of Jazz and Latin American in a gentle but hypnotic rhythm.

It really is a track that would accompany a red wine in front of a fire just as well as a gentle, groovin’ track at a dance. The guitar break is quite smooooth with just a touch of that early 70’s psychedelic sound.

Clover

Sadly, Maurice White passed away in February of 2017 at the age of 74.

A final few words. In its 1973 review of the album, Rolling Stone said that one of the problems with the album was, that it wasn’t “grounded” enough!

cream of the crate #22 : earth wind and fire – head to the sky
Earth, Wind & Fire – 1973. [CLICK to enlarge]

Seriously, if ever an album deserved not to be tied down, not to be grounded, it is Head To The Sky.

The album is available in vinyl, secondhand, at very reasonable prices. With vinyl fast outselling CD’s, I would suggest that you get in and buy a copy before the prices start going through the roof.

It IS an album worth having and one, you are bound to enjoy immensely.

 


 

VIDEOS:

A few clips of Earth Wind & Fire live – focussing on tracks from this album.

Evil – 1973

 

Keep Your Head To the Sky