HO HO WHO: Most of us think of the elemental hall-of-famers of Earth, Wind & Fire as the ’70s soul stars behind “September,” who changed the game of black pop but stay on the Berlin-Wall side of history. Truth is, they’ve been bangin’ out R&B/funk/jazz/soul gold all through the ’90s and 2000s. This season’s Holiday album is their first foray into holiday music, though. And they kill it.
HERE TO STAY IS AN OLD BIRD: Holiday mostly consists of old Christmas classics funkified in the way you’d expect from EWF: up-tempo percussion, groove-keeping guitar, grandiose horns, and falsetto harmonies for days. But in two instances, the band’s just thrown a strand of twinkle lights over its own classics. “Happy Seasons” is based on “Happy Feelin’,” a track from EWF’s 1975 album That’s the Way of the World. And can you guess what EWF hit “December” is “based on”? Yup, they went there. Oh and by “based on,” the band means that one word’s been replaced throughout the song, with otherwise identical lyrics. At least in “Seasons,” the beat is stronger, the band’s added several instruments, and it’s all-around groovier. In “September”—-I’m sorry, “December”—-it sounds like the track’s producer used a low-budget TV-movie censor voiceover.
THE MOST WONDERFUL RHYME OF THE YEAR: The members of Earth, Wind & Fire may be plagiarizing themselves here, but that’s their copyright! And no matter how you spin it, the team’s still got it. All the elements are in play, and the 1975 lyrics of “Happy Feelin’” are generic enough to suit the holiday season: “Share the feelin’ with your brother/Don’t stop carin’ one another.” But EWF’s lyrics have always taken a backseat to its ability to transcend genres, play in tight sonic formation, and funk shit up. In “Happy Seasons,” and throughout Holiday, the band does just that.
CHEER FACTOR: 8/10, after docking two points for unoriginality and the cheapness therein. But the funk gods of yesteryear are here to prove they’re the funk gods of forever and always. If any album will get you in the spirit, I’ll be damned to the naughty list for life if it’s not this one.