Columbia/Legacy's double-disc set The Essential Earth, Wind & Fire
lives up to its title by offering 34 tracks of the groundbreaking funk band at its peak. All of the hits, whether they're R&B or tunes that crossed over to the pop charts, are here, along with important album tracks that capture the range and depth of EWF
. Since this focuses on their peak of the '70s and early '80s, there's very little here that doesn't qualify as "essential," which makes it a better bet than their box set. The single-disc Greatest Hits
remains the choice for the casual and the curious listener due to its concise concentration of classics, but anybody who wants a thorough retrospective should choose this.