With each new album, Earth, Wind and Fire remain relatively true to their original sound: elaborate, neatly orchestral funk, influenced equally by American and African sources. But the band also keeps its ear to the radio. Accordingly, Raise! reflects the current wave of street-gritty black pop, from Lakeside to Rick James. Most of the tracks crank up the bass and feature rattling percussion that scrapes against the beat.
In such songs as the hit single “Let’s Groove” and the fast, cutting “Lady Sun,” the horn section screams like a car running a red light. This is city music, a welcome departure from the somewhere-over-the-galaxy mooniness that group leader Maurice White has too often succumbed to in the past. On Raise!, White’s romanticism is slinkier, more seductive. The lyrics of “My Love” may prattle, but the guitars that frame the tune are light and sexy. Even at his dizziest — e.g., “Evolution Orange,” a variation on seeing the world in a piece of fruit — White roots his music in the earth.