Earth Wind and Fire: Now, Then and Forever (Sony Legacy)

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Earth Wind and Fire: Guiding Lights
Earth Wind and Fire: Now, Then and Forever (Sony Legacy)

The infectious horn-driven sound of EWF changed the coordinates of black music when founders Maurice and Verdine White envisioned a band crossing genres from soul and funk to pop, rock and Afro-inflected rhythm'n'blues.

Early on they brought in singer Philip Bailey and later drew from disco and electro-pop. This, their 21st studio album since 1971 and eight years since their last, is the first without Maurice White although Verdine, Bailey, longtime drummer Ralph Johnson and keyboard player Larry Dunn are present.

Although tweaking their dance-funk template, their signature sound remains.

In fact on the disco-funk of My Promise and Night of My Life, and the weightless ballads elevated by Bailey's falsetto and breathy background vocals (Guiding Lights) we could be back in '79 at their boogie wonderland.

But they add touches of musical colour (acoustic guitar and moog on the warm instrumental Belo Horizonte; congas, snapping bass and stuttering guitar on Dance Floor; tabla drums and astral synths on the dreamy Splashes) so within their style EWF bring something extra and different.

Some copies seamlessly include half a dozen earlier hits after the 10 new tracks to make an impressive package. Get that one.

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