In the early '00s, Earth, Wind & Fire's hardcore followers were given a few more reasons to smile when various labels put out some previously unreleased live recordings from the soul/funk innovators' '70s/early-'80s heyday. One was Legacy/Columbia's That's the Way of the World: Alive in '75; another was Live in Rio, which came out on EWF's own Kalimba label in late 2002 and focuses on a 1980 appearance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In terms of packaging, Live in Rio isn't as strong as the Legacy disc. There are no liner notes (other than a short blurb by Maurice White), and no recording date is given. One has to visit EWF's website to ascertain that Live in Rio is a 1980 recording, although a serious EWF enthusiast could guess that it was recorded around 1979 or 1980 because of the selections and the lineup; most of the musicians heard on this 55-minute CD have long since left the band. But if Live in Rio's packaging leaves something to be desired, the performances are nothing to complain about. In 1980, EWF was very much on top of their game, and die-hard fans will be thrilled to hear live versions of hits like "Fantasy," "Boogie Wonderland," "Getaway," "September," and "Serpentine Fire." Observant listeners will notice that this CD sticks to EWF's post-Gratitude output -- that is, songs they recorded after their live album Gratitude, which came out in 1975. You won't hear "Shining Star," "Devotion," "That's the Way of the World," or "Reasons" on Live in Rio, although EWF probably performed some or all of those hits at this concert -- arguably, Kalimba Records should have offered the Rio set in its entirety and simply made Live in Rio a two-CD set. Nonetheless, the arrival of Live in Rio is still something to celebrate. The vast majority of EWF fans will agree that Gratitude remains the band's most essential live album, but Live in Rio is still a valuable -- if imperfect -- addition to their catalog.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson