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Picks and Pans Review: Raise!

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Earth, Wind & Fire

In 1969, after a long apprenticeship playing drums for Ramsey Lewis, Maurice White (now 37) formed a band called the Salty Peppers. Under White’s unflinching leadership, the group changed its name and personnel, evolved stylistically and became one of the most innovative around. Its New Age songs are ingenious sonic tapestries that blend tribal chants, zesty horns, brilliantly varied percussion, funky-flavored guitar rhythms and 2001-ish synthesizer sounds. Here an instrumental called Kalimba Tree melds into the LP’s best cut, You Are a Winner, which has White’s lead vocals bobbing and weaving with Philip Bailey’s. The lyrics are mostly power-of-positive-thinking messages that might thrill Norman Vincent Peale but are no match for the music’s complexity. The biggest disappointment is Let’s Groove, yet another gotta-boogie tune with sentiments like: “Tell the DJ to play your favorite tune/Then you know it’s okay/What you found is happiness, now.”