While Earth, Wind & Fire delivered great early albums, it wasn't until their 1974 release Open Our Eyes that they were really noticed by the public. With a few chart topping hits on their fifth studio album, including "Kalimba Song," and the unforgettable track "Devotion," Maurice White's unorthodox take on soul and funk hit #1 on the R&B Charts and soon became certified platinum in America.
A commercial crossover success, Earth, Wind & Fire easily demonstrated how funk could come in different shades, and exemplifies their smooth style as a hybrid of funk that retains much of the edge and energy of the original format. Open Our Eyes drew an overwhelming response from both critics and music fans, and now is released as a Quad hybrid multi-channel SACD by Audio Fidelity.
Quad Remix Engineer Bruce Botnick has created an excellent enveloping 4.0 mix that places the listener in a sweet spot of vocal and guitar immersion. There is no shortage of parts to toss around the soundstage, all grounded with the bass and drums up front. It is the magnificent harmonies and counterparts that play so well in the quad space.
With no subs grinding out the bottom, there is a lightness that doesn’t way down the overall mix. This isn’t to say the bass and kick are weak, rather they fit in extremely well, unlike the 5.1 mixes of Blood Sweat and Tears first album also released several months ago on Audio Fidelity Records.
With harmony vocals singing from the rear channels, and primary keys and guitars hitting the chord changes up front, there is so much to like about the wide separation offered by this quad mix. I like how percussion plays from the back complimenting the drums up front and horns are spread across the soundstage hitting the listener from all sides.
I find the mids and highs to be clear and without noticeable distortion. There are some moments when I felt the disc was somewhat bright, and yet I really appreciated the punch that really helps drive the funky groove that is so well performed by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
The Steve Hoffman remaster of the stereo mix on SACD pulls back a bit on the highs compared to the Quad mix, with an added roundness to the bass too. While this won’t be my go to version, it’s wide stereo separation and clarity further exemplifies why SACD and high resolution audio are the only real way to listen to music.
Certainly a worthy addition to any surround sound collection and required for fans of Earth, Wind, and Fire, especially if you seek a hi-res offering in either stereo or quad, and we know you do!
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