The Eternal Dance - 3 CD Box
Set - 1992
Review by RJM -
An Earth, Wind & Fire three CD box set released in 1992? Sounds like a wake after the previous album, 1990's "Heritage". I understand the need to have all the pop hits, but does the rest have to be pop also? The content of this compilation doesn't give an accurate depiction of just how jazz influenced EWF's music. What other reason can be given for not including the Grammy-winning
"The Eternal Dance" can't be considered new since the fellas hadn't gotten together to record it; instead someone cracked opened the EWF vault. The casual listener, who plans to buy only a few more EWF albums, might avoid it because it doesn't have a significant amount of new material. The decent, yet unremarkable, "Night Dreamin'" is the only single not heard of before.
A weak point of "The Eternal Dance", besides its pop theme, are the live cuts recorded around the time of "Gratitude" which, thank goodness, didn't appear on that album. Maurice did the right thing by shortening "Kalimba Story/Sing A Message To You" to just "Sing A Message To You" on "Gratitude". This live version of "Kalimba Story" is much weaker than the original studio cut, and only holds interest in the kalimba solo by Maurice. Likewise, "Mighty, Mighty" is substantially weaker than the studio original. The ending on both of these is forgettable. "The Eternal Dance" also shows us a live "Keep Your Head To The Sky" was the original prelude to the excellent "Gratitude" version of "Devotion". In any case, it is also inessential.
Also, "The Eternal Dance" is slanted towards their very early career. A smaller sample of this material would have sufficed. Disc one in this 3 CD boxset covers 1971 through 1974 - too much for this era. There are several very good cuts from the 1980s which should have been represented instead. If you're going to include the early stuff, why not more jazz, since they played more jazz early on?
Nonetheless, "The Eternal Dance" is definitely a collectors item for the serious fan. It contains almost four hours of music, but less than 45 minutes worth of material not contained on another album in my review. Also, this compilation has several very good-to-excellent interludes that aren't anywhere else, including the extended version of "Brazilian Rhyme".
Noteworthy here is the alternate take of "Shining Star", and the shining star of the "Heritage" wreck, "Gotta Find Out", which didn't appear on "Heritage" in the US. The real winner on "The Eternal Dance" is the live version of "That's The Way Of The World" from the 1982 HBO concert in Houston. It's hard to do justice to great music like the original, but this version meets the challenge.
Would it have been sacrilegious to add their solo material, simply because it wasn't called EWF? (As I explained in a previous review, I consider the 1987 EWF album "Touch The World" a work by Maurice & Philip.) Box sets should give a complete picture, and the solo material is crucial to their history. Furthermore, EWF has released additional material since 1992. For these reasons, this box set can be improved on; there's room for another try, and I predict someone will do it. (Editor's note: Like, maybe ... you?)
Total playing time: 230:56
US: Columbia 52439
EUR: Sony 472614-2
JAP: SRCS 6992/4
Re-released as 3-CD set (Not as
the large originally box-set) in 1998 (Sony 65410)