Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Maxwell, "BLACKsummers'night" (Columbia) [2.5 STARS]

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Many of the leading lights in the so-called "neo-soul" or "natural R&B" movement of the mid-'90s seemed to suffer from mid-career crises, withdrawing from the spotlight in the new millennium. Sade, Lauryn Hill, D'Angelo--all have been M.I.A. for the last decade or so, and the same was true of Brooklyn-born singer Maxwell, who has not released a new album since his third studio disc, "Now," in 2001.

Maxwell reportedly spent his lost years living as a "regular person"--"People tend to be so hell-bent on remaining famous that you become desensitized to the music industry to some level," he told Billboard--as well as falling in and out of love. The progressive emotions of that relationship--longing, devotion and finally regret--fuel much of "BLACKsummers'night," the first installment of what he says will be a trilogy. Yet if he still represents a welcome and more enlightened alternative to the bump 'n' grind cliches of too much modern hip-hop, overall, Maxwell's return is a sleepy affair.

Though they are gorgeously recorded, tastefully arranged and beautifully played in the old-school way by flesh-and-blood musicians eschewing digital tomfoolery, only a handful of the songs written with guitarist Hod David leave a lasting impact, chief among them the first single "Pretty Wings" and the anthemic "Help Somebody." Too much of the rest of the disc--the largely acoustic "Playing Possum," the opening atmospheric ballad "Bad Habits," the mildly funky slow jam "Stop the World"--never rise above the level of pleasant background music.

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You don't know nothing about R&B music. First of all, Sade wasn't a part of the Neo-Soul movement. She was in the 80's and was part of the Brit Soul Invasion which included Loose Ends,5 Star,and Terrence Trent D'Arby. Lauren Hill wasn't even include in the Neo-Soul movement either. Some of her song may have been in that vein but more into alternative R&B, Rap, and Pop. Now D'Angelo has been in jail for sometime but he will be coming back out with an album. The Neo-Soul beginnings were Maxwell,Rashaan Patterson,Erykah Badu to be followed by Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Raheem DeVaughn, and Jaguar Wright. The Neo-Soul never really dead. Real music have a way of coming back in vogue. And this wasn't made for you...but for the fans who waiting patiently for Maxwell to come back in full force. Definitely, he deserve more the pitiful 2.5 stars that you give him. I give him the highest mark (4 star)cause he is essential for your collection. Only for the grown and sexy!!

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on July 7, 2009 5:46 PM.

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