Earth Wind & Fire

All The Elements

EWFEarth, Wind & Fire have influenced many of today's soul and hip-hop artists with such classic songs as "Keep Your Head to the Sky" and "Shining Star." Now, the group has enlisted several of the acts it has inspired for its new album, "Illuminations," due this week through Sanctuary Records Group. It features collaborations with Floetry, Raphael Saadiq, Brian McKnight, Big Boi of OutKast and Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child.

Philip Bailey says the group's approach to the album was inspired by Santana's 1999 smash, "Supernatural." "They were able to bring that record to radio," Bailey says. "So we decided that the neo-soul movement would be a believable collaboration for us, because the music is still intrinsically rooted from traditional soul music and it's a very conscious genre, philosophically."

Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am -- who wrote, produced and is featured on "Lovely People" -- says the chance to work with the group was amazing. "Earth, Wind & Fire has been the soundtrack to my life," he says. "I listened to them. I danced to them. I dreamed to them. Now, to have worked with them ... [it] just lets you know that your dreams do come true."

Asked why these collaborators made sense for the veteran group, member Verdine White says, "Raphael is a die-hard Earth, Wind & Fire fan, so he understood what was going on with us. Floetry kind of reminded me of the '70s, when urban music was really at its infancy. And [producers] Jimmy [Jam] and Terry [Lewis], in terms of typecasting, you'd never think of them with us because of their work with Janet [Jackson], but you have to remember they were in the Time, so they understood the dynamics of the band. So we were all not that far away from each other.