Earth, Wind & Fire mastermind Maurice White was born and raised in Memphis, but he never had much in common with the gritty soul music produced at Stax Records by close friends such as Booker T. Jones.
White gravitated to slicker fare, and in that sense he was a perfect black-pop artist for the 1970s. At a time when jazz was flirting with radio-friendly fusion and R&B was espousing an Afro-centric, universal-brotherhood message, White found a way to tap into both trends with immaculately produced, perfume-scented, cosmic soul. Earth, Wind & Fire split the difference between Sly and the Family Stone and Weather Report, and if some cold calculation went into the creative process, that only slightly diminishes the pleasure produced by the band’s catalog.
All these years later, it’s clearer than ever that “Fantasy,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “After the Love Is Gone” are among the classiest radio tracks of their era, while “Let’s Groove,” “Sing a Song,” “September,” and “Shining Star” (the band’s most obvious Sly Stone cop) are indestructibly funky.
These days, White’s contending with Parkinson’s disease and no longer tours with EW&F. But the band’s slavish devotion to perfection remains as strong as ever. Sure, they’re an oldies group peddling nostalgia, but to paraphrase something Young MC once said about Hall & Oates, you could probably sing a dozen of their hits without even thinking about it. 8pm Fri, Jul 11, $50-$80, Majestic Theatre, 224 E. Houston, (210) 224-9600 (Ticketmaster)