Earth, Wind & Fire is known for many things. Being able to fit more people per square inch of stage than any other band in history. Bassist Verdine White is in possession of the Most Luscious Perm Ever award, and as I mentioned just a few days ago, Philip Bailey was, is, and always will be one of the greatest falsetto singers ever in music. Most casual fans know that Mr. Bailey has pursued solo ventures in between making EW&F records, even though his only real pop success was the Phil Collins-assisted “Easy Lover” back in ’85. However, “Chinese Wall”, the album “Easy” appeared on, was his second solo album. His debut solo, “Continuation”, was released in the summer of 1983. The first single from it, “I Know”, is pretty damn good. Shoulda been much bigger than it was.
In the wake of Bailey’s “Easy Lover” success, and also likely due to the fact that EW&F was no longer the commercial juggernaut that it had been half a decade earlier, bandleader, mega-producer and chief forehead in charge Maurice White released his OWN solo album. It’s sound was much closer to traditional EW&F than Bailey’s was, although (or maybe because of that), White didn’t achieve the same success. The first single was a modernized cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” (King’s original hit the Top 10 all over again just a few short months later thanks to the movie of the same name), and the second single was a soaring ballad entitled “I Need You”. On this song, Maurice reveals that Philip wasn’t the only EW&F member that could bust out the high notes.
A quick glance at the album credits suggests that “Maurice White” should have been bigger than it was (it peaked at #12 on the R&B albums chart). After all, it boasted plenty of contributions from in-demand songwriters Martin Page and Diane Warren. Those two could’ve farted on a record and made it into a hit in those days. It remains Maurice’s first and only solo record (and is still available through digital media), as EW&F reunited in 1987 after a four year layoff. They’ve recorded fairly regularly since, although White no longer tours with the band due to Parkinson’s Disease.
The album’s definitely worth checking out, at least to attempt to determine why an album that should’ve been a smash in theory only turned out to be a minor hit.