Leaving shallow social commentary aside is a good thing, as “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” pairs Graham and Prince to much better effect. This ballad sounds suspiciously like a Prince track from start to finish, with some great Santana-esque guitar playing. Prince’s prominent backing vocals are a very nice touch. “Movin’” features Prince on guitar only, with the vocals tossed around between Graham and the rest of the band. Among the vocalists are former Prince protégé Tamar Davis as well as former member of the touring version of Morris Day’s The Time, Chance Howard. It’s basically a jam, with lyrics about bringing danceable funk to people everywhere.
Elsewhere on the album, Raphael Saadiq cameos on the mawkish “One Day.” This naïve utopian vision is cut from the same cloth as “Imagine” or “We Are the World.” The difference is that this one is, I think, about the afterlife, rather than all the earthly troubles described in “Raise Up.” Much better to stick with the slammin’ cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” featuring a great Ashling Cole vocal that glides over Brian Braziel’s thundering drums. Also stellar is the elegant, heartfelt ballad “Hold You Close,” with a supple lead vocal by Graham.
Try to stomach the cringe-inducing lyrics that accompany a couple of tune, because Raise Up is an otherwise solid party album.