On Illumination, the 23rd record of their extraordinary career, Earth, Wind & Fire collaborate with generations of appreciative artists that have gleaned profound inspiration from their work. The influence is crystal-clear when Black Eyed Peas leader Will. I. Am shouts "Jump up, freak or hustle/Do what you want, just move every muscle," then mimics EWF's peppery horn and kalimba lines on his rousing "Lovely People." The reverence is sun-gold in crooner Brian McKnight's fusion of key elements from EWF's ballads "You," "Love's Holiday," and "After the Love is Gone" to create his own epic, "To You." And the quality is as strong as ever, proven by the album's first single "Show Me the Way," which earned a 2004 Grammy nomination.
For Illumination's star-studded new single, EWF bounces to the ATL for the hip hop-laced party joint "This Is How I Feel," produced by Organized Noize, featuring rapper Big Boi of OutKast and singers Sleepy Brown and Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child in a duet with EWF lead singer Philip Bailey. Elsewhere, super producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, former members of the band the Time, tip their trademark hats in tribute to the horn-laced ensemble sound of the Fire with the gently uplifting "Pure Gold" plus the sexy flirtation "Love Dance." Acclaimed female poetry/soul duo Floetry bring their conscience cleansing balm to the soothing motivator "Elevated." R&B futurist Vikter Duplaix laces the joyously tropical instrumental "Liberation," which features tantalizing bursts of EWF's wondrous wordless vocal melodies. As a bonus, the pied piper of soprano sax Kenny G guests on a cover of OutKast's infectious, instant club classic, "The Way You Move." Finally, Raphael Saadiq, the producer/songwriter who is also the leader of Tony Toni Toné and Lucy Pearl, produced four songs on Illumination, including "Show Me the Way"--a duet he sings with EWF leader Maurice White. He also contributes the samba-rooted "Work it Out," a lovely showcase for Philip's falsetto titled "Pass You By," and the vibrant opening track "Love Together".
The seeds of Illumination's origin sprang from an idea Philip Bailey had of collaborating with a new generation of soul artists for his next solo album. However, reflecting on the success Santana had in collaborating with today's artists on his award-winning Supernatural album, it became clear that this was a golden opportunity to fortify Earth Wind & Fire's position in today's marketplace. "I was 22 when I joined Earth Wind & Fire in 1973," Philip shares. "I'm 53 now. It's the 22 year-olds' time now...Usher's time! What Santana did was a masterpiece, but it would not have gotten played the way it did without the guest artists that he had. Superstars are coupling with other artists because the playing field is so competitive now. Earth Wind & Fire collaborating with the new soul movement made sense because the thrust of their music is still about playing instruments and utilizing vintage sounds, only in today's setting."
show full notes
01. Lovely People feat. Will-I-Am of the Black Eyed Peas
02. Pure Gold
03. A Talking Voice Interlude
04. Love's Dance
05. Show Me the Way feat. Raphael Saadiq
06. This Is How I Feel feat. Big Boi, Kelly Rowland and Sleepy Brown