Raise! - 1981
Produced by Maurice White, Verdine White, Larry Dunn, and Philip Bailey for Kalimba
Arranged by Maurice White, Jerry Hey, David Foster, and Bill Meyers
Review by RJM
The 1980's were a bad time for Black music as it evolved into its modern form. Pioneers in the fusion era such as George Benson ("Give Me The Night"), Al Jarreau ("We're In This Love Together"), Herbie Hancock ("Rock It!"), and Stanley Clarke & George Duke ("Sweet Baby") decided to follow the commercial trends of the early 80's. I guess they were tired of being poor.
This is bad enough, but what happens when a pop group goes commercial? Stung by the previous "Faces" reaching "only" gold status, Maurice White followed suit with the uninspiring 1981 release, "Raise!". Earth, Wind & Fire was in the spotlight again via the appropriately titled "Let's Groove", which made the third spot pop with its disco groove. The EWF electronic era had begun.
"Raise!" showed EWF was still proficient in instrument and voice. As always, you'll find quality horn and guitar arrangements. Philip Bailey gives a four-star vocal performance on "Evolution Orange". There are several nice moments on the Grammy winner "Wanna Be With You", especially at the end.
However, many fans were concerned EWF had lost their edge and were on the verge of selling out. The trend of bringing in outside contributors continued, with the addition of the Wayne Vaughn, so old band members hardly participated in songwriting on "Raise!".
This release must be considered consistently weak (for EWF, of course) because of the now constant beat, repeating simple chords, no significant tempo changes, and almost no jazz influence. "Kalimba Tree", the sole attempt at non-dance music, appeared merely as interludes on "Raise!". In 1974, EWF gave us the diversely brilliant "Open Our Eyes", and the shockingly homogenized "Raise!" just seven years later. This album is very formulaic, where every cut sounds more like the others than any other EWF work.
The obvious high point of "Raise!" is the rock cut, "The Changing Times". Roland Bautista, who rejoined EWF after a nine-year hiatus, impresses with the raw power of his guitar. Both Larry Dunn and Verdine White play through complex (for this album) rifts, and the vocal arrangements are top notch. Though it suffers the common evils of "Raise!", "The Changing Times" clearly distinguishes itself here. (Rating revised.)
Please note the special CD issue titled "Dance Trax" was released in 1994 (TriStar 35337 or Sony SRCS 6991), including extended takes of "Let's Groove" (with a keyboard solo) and "Boogie Wonderland", plus the full length "Kalimba Tree" and other material not on any other CD. (There's another, less desirable, version: Columbia/Sony 4630612 - see discography.) "Dance Trax" has worth to the serious fan, but be prepared to cough $45 here in the States - it's available only from importers.
order of strength:
1. The Changing Times
2. Kalimba Tree (Full)
3. Wanna Be With You
4. Evolution Orange
...and the rest:
5. Let's Groove
6. Lady Sun
7. You Are A Winner
8. My Love
9. I've Had Enough
Total playing time: 38:16