Christopher Williams | Syracuse, NY United States | 09/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I Am is point-blank one of the greatest albums ever released. It is a cornerstone album for Earth, Wind & Fire and represents their first complete crossover album from funk to R&B. Coming off the incomparable All 'N All, this album proved that EW&F's commercial success was not a fluke.
I Am immediately blasts off with the infinitely uplifting "In The Stone", in which (forgive me, Lord) I would not be surprised if God himself jacks this intro during his second coming. As great as this cut is, I still bet Verdine wants a do-over on the last portion. On "Can't Let Go", EW&F highlights their updated dance-worthy sound, which Maurice handles like a pro on the vocal end. Then, we have the bigger-than-life, chart-climbing, Grammy-winning "After The Love Has Gone", which is a brilliant ballad written by the well-known David Foster. And still somehow, I don't think I could hear anyone singing this song except EW&F. "Let Your Feelings Show", another boogie-stirring creation, features creative lyrics and even more outstanding instrument usage. The track cleverly metamorphosizes from a sharp R&B presentation to a virtual jam session. The guitar licks will remind you of "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life", which was released some time later. There is probably nothing I can tell you about the monstrous disco anthem "Boogie Wonderland" that you don't already know, but I will say that it simply outdoes and is more authentic than ANY disco song created by ANY actual disco artists. If nothing else, that masterpiece should serve as a license for EW&F to crossover at will. Any song following "Boogie..." sounds out of place, as I've learned listening to greatest hits and compilation albums, and "Star" has the undesirable burden of doing so on I Am. It's sort of a more mellow disco song, but high-profile in it's own right. Phillip turns in a respectable performance on this one. "Wait" is an underrated, tear-jerking love ballad, which features Steve Lukather of Toto on rock guitar, who complements the song perfectly. Maurice sings behind himself, adding significant substance to this forgotten gem. Put this on a tape and send it to your ex-girl for maximum appreciation of this song. "Rock That!" is EW&F's obligatory jazz contribution, and should be a staple at sporting events. Envision a marching band, orchestra, jazz band and rock group all playing at a basketball game simultaneously, and you have "Rock That!". The original album closer is "You And I"; a gorgeous R&B joint that could never have been made by R&B artists. This feels like a premonition of the neo-soul that is prevalent in current R&B radio.
The bonus track, "Diana", has to be one of my favorites on this 2004 re-mastered album. The arrangement is so perfect, that it takes a while before you realize that the bridge only contained one word: "Love". The album is rounded out with the dirty "Dirty", which is also featured on EW&F's 2003 release, The Promise (see my review). This song would not have gelled with the glossiness of I Am, but is a must-have regardless.
So, genius vocals, flawless music: Why 4.5 stars? Well, because the message of spiritual empowerment and personal uplifting has seriously waned on I Am. "In The Stone" and "Star" are it. Everything else is basically crooning to the women. This group could take their music anywhere, i.e. All 'N All, Spirit and Open Our Eyes, and they chose to limit themselves. Nonetheless, as R&B albums go, I Am is a crowning achievement that you shouldn't be without. And, for a band that was traditionally funk, they have accomplished the unheard of task of a successful crossover. EW&F FOREVER!!!!!"
More from the good old days!
Olukayode Balogun | Leeds, England | 02/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"EWF laid out an abundance of great classic albums during the 70s, 80s and even into the 90s but this one here's my favourite of them all. It's probably because it's the first EWF album I ever bought. I remember seeing all the happy people on "Soul Train" dancing to "In The Stone" back in the day and falling immediately in love with their sound. I got the record shortly after and have been an EWF fan ever since. 1979 was a really good year for music.
As I suppose most folk know already, back then, EWF were the quintessential band, complete with vocalists, rhythm section and horns. I just adore the sound of Maurice White's voice. Philip Bailey's I can take or leave but I do admit the two voices complement each other incredibly well. The album had quite a number of hits: apart from "In The Stone", there's "After The Love Has Gone" - the full-length version with its fabulous sax solos in the middle and at the end - and "Boogie Wonderland", the song they did with their backing vocal trio The Emotions - who already had a very successful career in their own right, if only for a minute. (Their 1977 classic Rejoice containing evergreens like "Best Of My Love" and "Don't Ask My Neighbors" is simply unmissable, IMHO)
Produced by White, every song on this disc is a winner. They are excellently produced and arranged, and they exemplify how an album is supposed to be made - all the songs flow nicely into one another - but I do have my favourites: "In The Stone", "Can't Let Go", "After The Love Is Gone", the instrumental "Rock That!" and "You And I". This is a great album to sing along to and it always cheers me up whenever I'm feeling down.
This is also the first of my EWF albums to go to compact disc and it was a real struggle - I've treasured my foldout vinyl copy for almost three decades now - but I needed to be able to play it in my car and sadly, the vinyl just had to go.
I understand there's an updated version of this CD available now, with new tracks but this is one occasion where I'm playing purist. I'm more than happy to stick with things the way they were intended to be."
This is the best one ever (well, one of the best)!!!!!!
Niccole A. Hatcher | New York, NY USA | 05/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have the album, but I got the CD because I wanted to burn the songs onto my portable MP3 player. I love the entire CD. From "In the Stone" to "You and I" (a personal favorite of mine), there are no songs that need fast forwarding. I can listen to this CD over and over again. Also, in the album, "You and I" was about 2 minutes and 58 minutes long, but on the CD, it's about 3 minutes and 30 seconds long (I guess it was a studio thing). They have everything on this CD, the love song (After the love, Wait), the instrumental (Rock That) and the positive motivational music (In the Stone, Let Your Feelings show). This CD is a must have for any EWF fan. It deserves more than 5 stars in my opinion. P.S. The cover art looks great on your desktop."
Music that stands the test of time
Dave Huber | Delaware, United States | 11/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What can be said? Maurice White and the Guys are beyond superb in this offering. Right from the start with "In the Stone," the band's melodious and kickin' grooves get your innards movin'. "After the Love Has Gone" and "Boogie Wonderland" enjoyed the most commercial success from this LP; however, each and every song stands alone and is genuinely enjoyable. "Let Your Feelings Show" begins as "After the Love Has Gone" wanes, and it's a total jam. Likewise, "Rock That" will get your whole body tapping up and down, up and down."
It doesn't get any better!
donsolaris | TORONTO, ONTARIO Canada | 07/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the Abbey Road album of a band that kept a generation of music listeners and other artists spellbound during their performances and magical releases.From catchy cover artwork with its subtle messages of mortality and spiritualism, to amazing production, sassy and slick vocals, R&B big band funk sound arrangements. Tastes might move on, but over twenty years later I can still blast it and bring back happy memories as a junior high school kid. My only dissapointment is how my fellow schoolmates at the time did not realise this band's greatness. No doubt they did later. Fifty years from now, this group will still be analysed and evaluated in terms of its influence on all ensuing artists.Words can not do justice!"