Maxed Well

By Ayanda Mnculwane

The only frustrating thing about Maxwell‘s  latest album, BLACKsummers’night, was the waiting and possibly the too few tracks on it. But soft-spoken, multi-platinum artist Maxwell, makes up for it all by quenching our dry longing for authentic neo-soul music. The mixture of soul, jazz, fusion and Rhythm and Blues music styles.

Grammy Award winning album, BLACKsummers’night, his fourth studio album and first in eight years, is a mature, sensual, courageous and emotionally open album that is made up of nine musical treasures. It is the first part of a trilogy Maxwell plans to unfold over the next few years. On this album, Maxwell picks up right where he left off after serving us award-winning songs such as “Sumthin’ Sumthin’,” “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” and “Whenever, wherever, whatever”; creating yet another timeless piece of work. Making the album definitely worth the wait.

Maxwell’s vocals move in conversation with these elements, growing into the space above and around them. BLACKsummers’night is the sound of an artist taking the commitment to his craft and the conversation with his audience that much further. He sings about relationships (many songs here are about a cherished but disappointing love affair).  On key tracks like “Pretty Wings,” and “Fistful of Tears” Maxwell uses those oh so recognizable falsettos and baritones, pushed along by a sturdy and incessant piano, to create the nostalgic and passionate emotions of the relationship. Then there’s the jazz thumping “Cold”, peppered by a funked up horn section. This fun, head bopping track finds Maxwell asking the eternal lovers question, “why do you like me like you do?” It’s very sexy stuff. A constant throughout BLACKsummers’night is its live and often raw sound.

Maxwell might have lost the signature afro 80’s silk-shirts, but he has certainly brought with him music that is close to perfection. No synthesizers, no duets. Even “Phoenix Rise” is a pure soulful-funk track that has no mixers and is perfectly carried out by the band, although it ends too soon. The album makes one wonder so many people have turned to computer sounds as opposed to learning to control the horn and carry a mash up without mashing up the song. Making is difficult not to credit to Maxwell and his co-producers’ approach to the creative process and the painstaking meticulous arrangement that requires true genius.

This is an album that will continue to grow on you and satisfy the craving of “real” music when you need a breath of fresh air from quick, substanceless hip-hop and pop music that pollutes the senses.
 
Pretty Wings Video

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