Legendary falsetto-voiced Earth, Wind & Fire vocalist Philip Bailey invites quite a guest list of smooth-jazz stars to this party, marking a strong adult-contemporary turn from his recent solo gospel recordings. Although Bailey never fails to keep his vocal textures front-and-center, each solid sax solo here is by another well-known star -- Everette Harp, Gerald Albright, Grover Washington Jr., and Kirk Whalum -- and guitarist Peter White and keyboardist George Duke spruce up many a harmony line. Randy Brecker even shows up, spinning his flugelhorn around the Latin-percussion textures for a bass-driven spin on Van Morrison's Moondance. When you're dealing with these kinds of voices - each distinct, and each familiar - obviously the recording's success rises and falls based on the material. Bailey mostly goes the passionate-ballad route - he also covers Bread's Make It With You and Pat Metheny's dreamy Something to Remind You - but his eager, clever, and sincere delivery help us forget that the album lacks variety. Erik Huber's vocal production, often contrasting Bailey's high notes with a lower vocal line before easing them together, is also sharp. While there's not much funk, two glorious changes of pace are Bailey's twist into Bobby Caldwell territory on the straightahead Masquerade Is Over and Are We Doing Better Now?, which sounds like classic EW&F meeting spacey, retro-soul-minded George Duke. A little more groove next time might be cool, but Bailey's still got enough of the old fire burning.
--- Jonathan Widran, JAZZIZ Magazine Copyright © 2000, Milor Entertainment, Inc. -- From Jazziz