CCM Classic Blog

Did You Know That Philip Bailey of Earth, Wing & Fire Crossded Over To CCM Music: by Philip Mayabb

There are few things that excite Christian music fans more than the stories about the artists who embark on a career in CCM after being in the mainstream, or secular market.  We have featured some of these artists on Vinyl Revival, such as B.J. Thomas, Joe English, and Leon Patillo, and now we are adding yet another name to that list.  This week we are featuring the 1984 classic "The Wonders Of His Love" by long time Earth, Wind & Fire member Philip Bailey on VR.  This is an album that was rather underappreciated, despite the fact that it is a very good LP, and can hold its own against any Christian recording from a mainstream artist.

Most of us know who Philip Bailey is, but for the benefit of anyone who might not, here is a brief history lesson...Philip joined the R&B supergroup Earth, Wind &Fire in 1972, as part of a group restructuring.  During his tenure with the band prior to 1984, they had become superstars in both the R&B and pop worlds, due to monster hits such as Boogie Wonderland, Shining Star, After The Love Has Gone, September, and many others. Group founder Maurice White was notorious for embracing many different religious philosophies, something not uncommon in the mainstream music industry during the 1960s and 70s.  The use of religious symbols we very prevalent in the imagery of the band, particularly with their album cover art.  Despite being in the environment with White, Philip Bailey did not seem fulfilled with the teachings that his band's leader was espousing, and after being invited to attend church services in Chicago during an EW&F tour, he realized that there was only one way to eternal happiness and peace, and it was not to be found on any of the avenues that Maurice White was pursuing...it would be found only through a relationship with Jesus.  Bailey dedicated his life to the Lord in 1975, but continued to work with Earth, Wind & Fire, while finding friendships with the likes of Andraé Crouch and The Hawkins Family, working with them in the studio as well.

By 1983, Philip was ready to try his hand as a solo artist, but decided to begin in the mainstream market, where his success had already been established.  He released an album called "Continuation" which hit a peak position of #19 on the Billboard R&B album chart right before Christmas, 1983.  By that point in time, Bailey had been considering doing a Christian music album for three years.  According to christianmusicarchive.com, he had been part of a show in 1980 called "Jesus At The Roxy" at the famed music club in Los Angeles, along with fellow Christians Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, and Deniece Williams, which not only was successful from a financial standpoint, but stories report that over 300 people committed their lives to Christ that night.*  So in 1984, Philip Bailey released two solo albums...his mainstream album called "Chinese Wall" was produced by a guy from England who was also named Phil - Collins.  That album produced the monster #1 pop hit "Easy Lover," which of course was a duet by the two Phils.  His second solo project of the year was the album we are listening to this week, and it was called "The Wonders Of His Love."  Released on Myrrh Records, "Wonders" was a great combination of pop and R&B influenced music, similar to the work Philip had been doing for years with Earth, Wind & Fire.  

Obviously the operating budget for "Wonders" was far less than "Chinese Wall" had been, and no big name producer was called in to handle the sessions, so Philip produced the album himself.  His years of musical experience did not let him down, and he did a fantastic job calling the shots on the album.  He was able to also utilize his status in the mainstream music world to employ several very well known musicians for the sessions as well, such as iconic jazz keyboardist George Duke, bass legends James Jamerson Jr., Abraham Laboriel, and Freddie Washington, and founding WhiteHeart guitarist Dann Huff.  By the time the final product was released, Philip had a Christian album that reflected his deep seated faith in Christ, and had some pretty sweet tunes on it as well.

The first single from the album, "I Will No Wise Cast You Out" is also the leadoff track, and it is a throwback to EW&F's Grammy award winning hit "After The Love Has Gone."  It's about the same tempo, has horns, and it features the soaring falsetto vocals that Bailey had rode to fame with EW&F.  The Christian music community nor the fans minded the similarities however, because the song peaked at number 4 on the CCM Adult Contemporary singles chart, establishing Philip Bailey as a solid force within the industry.  Before the end of 1985, this album would also produce another pair of top 30 AC hits...the title track would peak at #27, while "He Don't Lie" would cruise to a high chart position of #23. All in all, not a bad showing for an artist who had made his name in the mainstream music industry.  Even though most fans recognize Philip for the aforementioned falsetto vocals, he does utilize his natural voice on this album as well, with "God Is Love" being one of the best examples of this on the LP.  This song is straight up church music - one of those songs that makes you feel like you've been to church, and had a good time as well.  "He Don't lie" actually combines both Philip's natural voice and the falsetto, making a wonderful contrast in vocals, and it is no surprise to me that the song was a hit, because it has a slow jam R&B groove that soothes the ears.  The title track is a smooth, Caribbean type vibe, complete with steel drums that instantly transports you to the beach on a desert island, believe me, there is plenty to love about this track, in fact it kind of surprises me that it didn't go farther up the charts than it actually did, because it honestly is a really neat track.

One of my personal favorites from the album is "I Want To Know You," which I used to hear quite often on St. Louis' CCM station in 1985.  A funky little track, it features some outstanding synthetic bass work, along with those falsetto vocals that we all know Philip Bailey for.  Dann Huff's guitar playing adds some extra punch to the song, although I sometimes wonder what the track would've been like had they added a horn section to it.  I believe had they added horns, this song could've rivaled just about anything that Earth, Wind & Fire ever released.  Even without the horns, it's still a great song.  One thing I think everyone will discover as they listen to this album is that Bailey can perform just about any type of song, fast or slow, pop, R&B, or jazz, and turn in an equally impressive performance on any of them. Even songs such as "Safe In God's Love," which is accompanied by a piano, organ, and bass, are just as dynamic as any track on the album.  

In short, "The Wonders Of His Love" is an album that still appeals to the ears, even after all these years.  It is one of the recordings on which most fans will find multiple styles of music to enjoy, and maybe a new one to discover.  I wish it had been released on compact disc in the United States, but sadly it never was, because I would have bought it in a heartbeat.  Instead, I wore out a cassette of it in the 80s, and was fortunate enough to have a friend give me a digital rip of his vinyl copy, which is what I am sharing with our listeners this week.  Of Philip Bailey's three Christian albums (four if you count his greatest hits collection), "The Wonders Of His Love" is still my favorite, even though his second CCM album "Triumph," was his most successful, actually winning a Grammy award.  This is a recording that fans of any age, denomination, or skin color, can enjoy listening to, even now, some 35 years after it was released. Some of the music is dated (most albums from the mid 80s are), but it still has enough bounce, funk, spirit, or just about any other term you can think of, to make it a fun album to experience. So with that in mind, we here at CCM Classic invite you to join us on Vinyl Revival this week, as we all experience "The Wonders Of His Love," and remember just how good and versatile of a vocalist Philip Bailey was, and still is.

TRACKLIST

 

Side 1 - 

1. I Will No Wise Cast You Out

2. I Want To Know You

3. God Is Love

4. Sing A New Song

5. Safe In God's Love

Side 2 - 

1. I Am Gold

2. He Don't Lie

3. The Wonders Of His Love

4. Make Us One

* http://christianmusicarchive.com/artist/philip-bailey



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Comments

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