The debut for the nine-member Earth, Wind & Fire was as assured as that of any rock band from the '60s and early '70s. Already fluent with the close harmonies of the classiest soul groups, the deep funk of James Brown, and the progressive social concerns and multiple vocal features of Sly & the Family Stone, the group added (courtesy of auteur Maurice White) a set of freewheeling arrangements, heavy on the horns, that made Earth Wind and Fire one of their finest albums -- the artistic equal of their later hits, if not on the same level commercially. Unlike the work of most early funk bands, the songwriting was as strong and focused as the musicianship; the record boasts a set of unerringly positive compositions, reflecting the influence of the civil rights movement with nearly every song urging love, community, and knowledge as alternatives to the increasing hopelessness plaguing American society. The stop-start opener "Help Somebody," the deep funk extravaganza "Moment of Truth," and the sweet ballad "Love Is Life" were unified in their pursuit of positivity, while even the potentially incendiary title "Fan the Fire" was revealed in a peaceful context: "The flame of love is about to die/Somebody fan the fire." And the instrumental closer, "Bad Tune," is hardly a cast-off; the furious kalimba work of Maurice White and wordless backing vocals combine to create an excellent piece of impressionist funk.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush