http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/59536770bf9265b3c0664f5216a2c49959d7aeb9.jpg Head To The Sky

Earth, Wind & Fire

Head To The Sky

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
August 17, 1973

A dream last week: I was walking through a crowded marketplace in a city that seemed to be Paris although I've never been there. I was singing to myself and everyone I passed was singing the same song, softly to themselves. It was "The World's a Masquerade" from the Earth, Wind & Fire album, especially the repeated final lines, "The world's a masquerade/ Can the whole world be lying?" I thought to myself, "That must be a very popular song," and then the dream moved on to other things. What does it mean, doctor? Was the dream doubling back on itself, the song commenting on its own apparent popularity? Can the whole world be lying?

Been having a lot of music dreams lately but this one's not too surprising since I've been playing the Earth, Wind & Fire album pretty constantly for the past week, certainly beyond all expectations. With a cover like this one — the eight men in the group shirtless, the one woman all in white, surrounded by a starburst arrangement of cut flowers, repeated with slight variations in the centerfold — I'm surprised I even broke the shrinkwrap. And this group started in Chicago?

Then there are the lyrics, printed on the record sleeve. By the time I read them, I was already so taken with the purity of the music that the often cloying spirituality of the lyrics ("Maybe if we learn to pray, life would lend us sunshiny days"; "... a song in yo' heart/ Most every day, is what/ You need, along the way" could only be slightly dismaying. Their message is basically spiritual but if their lyrics are weak and, at times, awkward, the music and the voices-as-music are strong enough to convey that feeling with a minimum of words.

The vocals are breathy and soothing without being too ethereal; altogether, they sound like a cosmic choir and generate a Sly Stone effect. At its best, the music is fluid and enveloping, and most distinctive when Maurice White is playing an electrified kalimba — a small, hand-held African instrument, like a thumb piano — which produces delightfully liquid runs of notes that have become the group's trademark. Yet the sound is never so spiritual that it isn't firmly grounded — guitarist Johnny Graham, bass player Verdine White and drummer Ralph Johnson are particularly good — and tight enough to hit big with the new boom of soul discotheques (where "Power," a long instrumental cut from the group's last LP, Last Days and Time, was enormously popular).

Most of side two is taken up with a cut entitled "Zanzibar," an intricate, jazz-based composition that, while never dull, doesn't fully hold my attention except in states of altered consciousness when anything sounds fascinating. But the rest of Head to the Sky is quite satisfying. The title cut, with the gentle admonition to "keep your head in faith's atmosphere," has a luscious, luminous quality and "The World's a Masquerade" ("Everybody, everybody wears another face") may not be on everyone's lips yet, but it is the stuff dreams are made of.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Try a Little Tenderness”

    Otis Redding | 1966

    This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

    More Song Stories entries »