Picks and Pans Review: Touch the World

updated 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Earth, Wind & Fire

The finest moments on this reunion project occur during a brief introduction to the instrumental New Horizons, when snatches of such classic EW&F songs as That's the Way of the World and Reasons are strung together in quick succession. The aural collage is a heady reminder of the outstanding contributions that this group has made to modern R&B, music unparalleled for its sheer ebullience. If this comeback album fails to match the joyful noises Earth, Wind & Fire generated in the '70s and early '80s, well, it's still a class operation and an attractive return. Touch the World is buoyed by great singing from Maurice White and Philip Bailey, now both solo stars, as well as the band's snazzy trademark choral effects. However, while there are a few other terrific songs, especially Money Tight and System of Survival, too many are merely formulaic. Earth, Wind & Fire overutilizes all the synthesizer technology that has come to dominate R&B music in the four years they've been away. While that mechanized feel may be unavoidable in today's musical climate, it's still disconcerting, especially when all those brazen, bigger-than-life bass lines trample through songs like juggernauts. Touch the World can stand on its own merits, but it's doubly welcome because it means the group will tour again, giving us another chance to hear those fabulous old songs. (Columbia)

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