Powerlight

No surprises here: Maurice White and company are still pumping out the same spiffy horn parts, bouncy bass lines and stacked-to-the-sky vocals that have made Earth, Wind and Fire a persistently platinum act. Unfortunately, the passion that showed itself in such EWF faves as "Fantasy" and "Shining Star" now seems hopelessly lost under the patina of the production values. For example, during the lamebrained "Something Special" ("Love is like something special"), White's vocals and the tame brass wind up sounding more like Chicago than the old Earth, Wind and Fire. A bit of the grit that surfaced on Raise! gives "Fall in Love with Me" a needed push, but it can't save such sluggishly paced exercises as "The Speed of Love" or "Spread Your Love." With the possible exception of White's good-hearted but goofy humanist platitudes, there's nothing on Powerlight that's so bad it makes you want to dive for your car radio. That this outfit is capable of better, though, can hardly be disputed. White has made noises lately about trying out a solo project; maybe that's what it would take to work the kinks back in.

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