When life deals you lemons, you make lemonade. After the tremendous failure of The Fire's 1983 cosmic voyage, Electric Universe, the legendary band came crashing down to Earth. After a four-year hiatus and a few solo efforts, a reformed EW&F picked up the pieces and released Touch The World, which I consider to be their "down to Earth" album.
Just the fact that the group was willing to come back was enough to make me smile, but how is the album??? Well, I know you want to hear that all the original members came back with their instruments cocked and ready, and just blew the roof off the joint, but let's be real. Those Phenix Horns don't work cheap, and hey, wouldn't a drum machine be more economically sound than dragging Ralph Johnson back into the studio? No, the synthetics that dominated the last album are still there, but wait a minute. This actually sounds like R&B! Also, the album has a much more street feel than ever before, with much attitude and plenty of "boom-bap" in almost every cut. The joints to cue up here are "System Of Survival", which challenges everyday stress with dance; "Evil Roy", for those cats that stay doin' nuthin'; "Thinking Of You", another slick R&B cut; and "Touch The World", which features the Hawkins Family and is the first gospel joint from this group since "In The Stone" off their '79 album, I Am. This album stands out because of its era-appropriateness at the time of release.
No song on this album is truly wack, but the album does have its faults. One being the lost chemistry between Maurice and Phillip, possibly due to the already seasoned solo career of Phillip Bailey. Another being that there are virtually NO live instruments outside of synthesizers. Andrew Woolfolk saxes it up on "New Horizons", but then he's ghost. The group did an excellent job in redefining themselves, but even with only 5 members, you know there is just too much talent there for this to be the best they can offer. These negatives are, however, outweighed by many positives: Not only did this album put EW&F back on the map to gold status, but it also brought them back to their core R&B audience, and most importantly, Earthly subject matter. Overall, this is a trump tight budget album that brought a glimmer of hope to Earth Wind's future and truly touched the world.