Maurice White may have been the de facto leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, but it was arguably Philip Bailey’s falsetto on the choruses of hits such as September, After The Love Has Gone and Let’s Groove that established the group’s signature vocal sound. With that in mind, it’s perhaps understandable that Bailey would attempt something different, more individual on his solo recordings.
Chinese Wall, from 1984, was given a profile boost by the inclusion of Easy Lover, the chart-topping duet with Phil Collins that was closer to the Genesis tub-thumper’s usual slick AOR than anything from Bailey’s own back pages. There are further diversions on the rickety techno dance of Photogenic Memory and the electro-funk of Time Is A Woman, but the singer is best when staying close to his comfort zone, as on the ballad For Every Heart That’s Been Broken.
Following a trio of gospel albums, Bailey returned to pop for 1990’s Nile Rodgers-produced Inside Out but, despite some taut underpinning Chic-like grooves, it’s let down by unremarkable generic dance tracks (Welcome To The Club, Back It Up). Again, Bailey succeeds best when the noise surrounding him is dialled down, such as on the bedroom soul of Long Distance Love, where his sweet voice and subtle phrasing gives Luther Vandross a run for his money.