Earth, Wind & Fire – Sunday Morning (1993)
In a classic bit of Cassingle Vault good news/bad news, I give you, ladies and gentlemen, an Earth, Wind & Fire single!
(slow clapping, bewildered looks, scattered laughter)
Yes, gang, EWF was still kicking around the major-label pipeline in ’93. They had, in fact, recently left their longtime label home — Columbia — for a new deal at Warner Bros. This wasn’t entirely unexpected; since being coaxed back into action by the Columbia brass in the late ’80s, EWF had found itself trapped on the steady downward sales slope that helped convince Maurice White to disband the group in the first place.
Here’s how dire things had become for the kings of “September”: If I’m remembering this right — and no one is here to disagree with me yet, so let’s just say I am — the release of the band’s 1990 effort, Heritage, was kicked off with a Burger King promotional tie-in. Yes, during Black History Month 18 years ago, you could get an Earth, Wind & Fire cassingle with your Whopper.
Anyway, three years later, the band resurfaced on Warners, and led off its 16th album with the bright, horn-frosted slice of early ’90s funk that is “Sunday Morning” (download). Aside from being thoroughly awesome, it was the group’s best single in years, and the closest they’d bothered to come to their classic sound in a long, long time.
Was it a hit? No, not really, which is total bullshit, but what are you gonna do. “Sunday Morning” peaked at #20 on the R&B charts, and didn’t even make it into the pop Top 40. This unfortunate turn of events was a harbinger for the sales performance of the album, Millennium — Warners eked out a couple more singles, but they fared even more poorly, and before long, EWF was no longer affiliated with the label. Or any label. The ’90s were a terrible decade for Earth, Wind & Fire, actually — Maurice White was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Don Myrick was shot to death by the LAPD, and the band didn’t release another album until 1997’s In the Name of Love (which was distributed by Pyramid, and therefore does not count).
The 21st century has been kinder to Earth, Wind & Fire; though their new music is still largely ignored, they’ve become a reliable live draw, and earned positive notices for their two-year double bill with Chicago. It’s always nice ending these things on a high note, isn’t it? Here, take the non-album B-side, “The L Word” (download) — a song that, to my memory, is leagues better than most of the crap that ended up on Millennium. Enjoy!