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4.1 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 20, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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."


On Illumination, Earth, Wind & Fire take a hip-hop strategy and turn it on its head, working rhymes and beats into their still pudding-smooth harmonies and sun-warmed, ethereal soul. For other bands, it would have never worked, but Earth, Wind & Fire have always been masters at sophisticated genre-piling. If anyone has earned the right, it's frontmen Philip Bailey and Maurice White and the rest of the gang. Few other 35-year-old, eight-time Grammy-winning bands can claim as many followers or liberally-borrowing samplers. Where other old-timers might have let the young'uns--in this case Big Boi, Will.I.Am, and Kelly Rowland, among others--scribble their ultra-mod, find-it-here brand of cool all over the record, Earth, Wind & Fire are able to maintain their elemental excellence in the midst of the hip-hop boogie shuffle. Hear it on "The One," as well as the white-hot spectacle "This Is How I Feel" and the Raphael Saadiq smoothie "Show Me the Way." The Rolling Stones aren't the only Rock and Roll Hall of Famers to score an incredible new disc in 2005. --Tammy La Gorce

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Lovely People feat. Will-I-Am of the Black Eyed Peas
  2. Pure Gold
  3. A Talking Voice Interlude
  4. Love's Dance
  5. Show Me the Way feat. Raphael Saadiq
  6. This Is How I Feel feat. Big Boi, Kelly Rowland and Sleepy Brown
  7. Work it Out
  8. Pass You By
  9. The One
  10. Elevated feat. Floetry
  11. Liberation
  12. To You feat. Brian McKnight
  13. Bonus Track: The Way You Move feat. Kenny G

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 20, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sanctuary Urban
  • ASIN: B000B5QWK6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,493 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
As I was growing up, I wasn't introduced to Earth, Wind & Fire like most people were. My uncle was a DJ so he always had alot of old school LPs. One day he played "Let's Groove" and "Boogie Wonderland" for me and I was hooked. However, I was still listening to Boogie Down Productions, EPMD and others so I wasn't really listening to too much old school r&b at the time. One day I was over my friends house playing video games and he played this slow jam mix that he had recorded on a cassette. I heard "After The Love Is Gone" and that was one of the first reasons why I started listening to old school r&b and shortly my Smooth Grooves and old school r&b collection was started. The majority of my Earth, Wind & Fire collection includes greatest hits CDs but I had to purchase "Open Our Eyes" becasuse it had my jam "Feelin' Blue" on there and unless you buy the "Eternal Dance" greatest hits CD then that track is hard to find otherwise. My favorite Earth, Wind & Fire songs of all time include "After The Love Is Gone", "Can't Hide Love", "That's The Way Of The World", "Fantasy", "Reasons",

"Feelin' Blue", "Love's Holiday", "All About Love", "September" and "Devotion".

Around March of 2005, my old roomate downloaded some music for me and one of the tracks was a song with Earth, Wind & Fire and Raphael Saadiq. Instantly, the song became a favorite song of mine and went searching on amazon to see when Earth, Wind & Fire would release another CD. I soon learned that "Illumination" would be coming soon. Although, the release date was changed often, the CD finally came out a couple of weeks ago. Now, I understand if diehard Earth, Wind & Fire fans may not enjoy the entire CD.
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Format: Audio CD
EWF's new 'Illumination' is a nice CD for avid fans & new ones alike. The group updated their sound with contemporary elements, and while I also enjoyed the previous CD ('The Promise', which featured The Emotions & Angie Stone in 2003), 'Illumination' features guests who also seem to complement Maurice White's vision for the legendary band. This approach works well for the most part in that EWF doesn't sacrifice musicianship for an attempt at sales (like the 1990 EWF dud titled 'Heritage'!!).

'Illumination' has several quality tracks which 'got me' at first play including 'Love's Dance', 'Pure Gold', 'Show Me The Way' (ft.Raphael Saadiq), 'This Is How I Feel', 'To You'(ft.Brian McKnight), and the awesome 'Liberation', which is a tight instrumental showcase for Verdine White's skills on Bass. 'The Way You Move' is merely so-so, but I can't really accept this 2 year old song as a true bonus track (and then there's the issue of Kenny G..yuck!). Jimmy Jam / Terry Lewis, Raphael Saadiq, Brian McKnight, and the great Maurice White did an outstanding job with production. It's always special having Maurice White conribute as active member, and he sounds great considering his condition.

In closing, there are probably other editions of 'Illumination', but getting the original 13 track edition is fine for starters. HOWEVER, if you're a serious EWF fan, consider adding 5 BONUS TRACKS to create an EXPANDED EDITION of 'Illumination'.

Here's the tracklisting for my own special CD...

1. Love Together (ft.Roots Manuva & Raphael Saadiq)*
2. Lovely People (ft.Will.i.am)
3. Pure Gold
4. A Talking Voice - Interlude
5. Love's Dance
6. Show Me The Way (ft.Raphael Saadiq)
7. Autumn (ft.Musiq Soulchild)*
8. Let Me Love You (ft.Floetry)*
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Format: Audio CD
I have to admit; when I looked at the track listing for Earth, Wind & Fire's latest album Illumination and found that the guest roster includes the likes of Kelly Rowland and will.i.am, I was a little skeptical. I was even more worried when I noticed that the lyrics to the first song, "Lovely People", begin with: "Party people/Let's get together/Have a party". But this album turned out to be great and then some.

Before I go any further, though, I'd like to say something about the negative reviews for this album. I understand that everyone has a right to his/her own opinion, but I noticed that the one and two-star reviews don't really go into detail; they don't say WHY the album is bad. At the same time, though, I don't know if it would be fair to compare the songs on this album to smashes like "After the Love Is Gone" and "Devotion". (But if you want to hear some songs with that `70s feel, try "Work It Out" and "Pass You By" on for size.)

In contrast to how this formula usually works, the songs featuring the artists of the moment are actually the better songs, like Floetry on "Elevated" and will.i.am on the aforementioned "Party People". And while some people may think the cover of OutKast's "The Way You Move" (albeit with different lyrics) is unnecessary, I think it's good. Although Big Boi and Sleepy Brown aren't included on this version, they do appear on another highlight, "This Is How I Feel" (Philip Bailey and Sleepy Brown singing together? That even looks good on paper!).

The only song I really have a problem with is the Raphael Saadiq-assisted "Show Me the Way". Don't get me wrong; it's not that it isn't a great song, but it just drags on too much. I know that Raphael has a habit of making long songs sometimes, but after eight minutes, I kind of got the point. Still, Philip, Maurice and the rest of the crew did a wonderful job with this album because it illuminates just fine.

Anthony Rupert
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