Al McKay - The Earth Wind & Fire Expreience (2006)

Al McKay
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As one of the most important soul music acts of the past three decades, Earth Wind & Fire means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Some folks were attracted by Maurice White and company's pioneering fusion of African beats and instruments with popular American soul, while for others the group's messages of unity and universality that were most important.  On The Earth Wind & Fire Experience, Al McKay's Allstars focus on neither, but instead emphasize simply that Earth Wind & Fire is a great party band with a killer catalog.

As one of the most important soul music acts of the past three decades, Earth Wind & Fire means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Some folks were attracted by Maurice White and company's pioneering fusion of African beats and instruments with popular American soul, while for others the group's messages of unity and universality that were most important.  On The Earth Wind & Fire Experience, Al McKay's Allstars focus on neither, but instead emphasize simply that Earth Wind & Fire is a great party band with a killer catalog.

McKay has assembled a terrific set of musicians for the album, which was recorded during a tour of Eastern Europe ("We love you Lithuania!").  Tim Owens, Claude Woods, Ed Wynne, Ben Dowling, Freddie Flewelen, Michael Shapiro, Bryan Loren Hudson, Michael Harris, Wendell Kelly, Joey DeLeon, Michael Rahmlee Davis, Devere Duckett and Bruce Conte come off as the ultimate cover band and put on a show that no doubt appealed to a European audience that grew up on the hits of EWF.  The disc's emphasis on the popular, crossover appeal of EWF is significantly different than last year's studio album by EWF alums Devoted Spirits, which was praised more for its faithfulness to the group's pre-pop sound and messages.  Fortunately, the legend of Earth Wind & Fire is big enough for both interpretations, and one can enjoy both the Allstars' great dance cover of "Boogie Wonderland" as well as Devoted Spirits raw take on "Mighty Mighty."

In the end, on Experience the Al McKay Allstars accomplish their mission of creating an album that captures the joyful side of the music of Earth Wind & Fire -- the part that may be less intellectually meaningful, but which got folks on the dance floor at clubs or basement parties for the better part of two decades.  And there's something to be said for that.  Recommended.

 by Chris Rizik

 
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