Review Summary: A product for reproduction and a chief contender for R&B album of the year.
Have you ever been friends with a person – or let’s say dated a really nice girl/boy - for a sufficient amount of time and then they had to go away, suddenly, for a long time? You don’t hear anything from them; no calls, no texts, no e-mails, no postcards…You push on with what you have left…memories. Fast forward to the now, where, lo and behold – you meet them again. And boyyy do they look…the same. But at the same time, you're glad because you remember what it was that made you like them in the first place.
The tragic part of being a talented singer is that your fans expect you to wow them out of this planet at every turn. Instead of being over-the-top experimental and abstruse, Brooklyn-born R&B and Soul singer, Maxwell, took the back alley and kept it simple with his latest release (after an 8-year break), BLACKsummers’night
. His attempt at keeping his art relatable and real can be seen even by glancing at his song titles. The songs are trimmed down to titles like “Cold
” or “Love You
” as opposed to his earlier work like songs found on his colon-filled 1998 release, Embrya
(i.e.: “Submerge: ‘Til We Become The Sun” or “EachHourEachSecondEachMinuteEachDay: Of My Life”). The album actually wraps itself up after nine songs, but the simplicity ends with those numbers and letters. The emotion? It’s completely intact.
Maxwell’s gap didn’t wane his artful capacity in the slightest. His voice is as vivacious and soothing as it was in his last album, Now
. He’s well-equipped with the power to lull you to sleep or heat up your libido. Marvin Gaye would be proud. Wind-chiming us into an interesting beginning, “Bad Habits
” is Maxwell finding a way to connect sexy and sad. Never before has it been so hot to ‘fancy’ your lover to forbidden attraction: “This is the highest cost/Take you and make you off/Live you and leave you lost/Will you forgive me?” Any girl would forgive you, Max.
It’s great to hear such a variety of feeling and grooves like when the album approaches “Cold
”. The title may not show it, the lyrics may not show, but the track is pretty funky. You might’ve expected a slower feel for a song about an ex-girlfriend torturing you, but over the hand-claps and horns, he sings: “You can't just leave this/You can't just think that you can quit this/She'll make you regret this/She's on top and she means business/As god as my witness, my summer's gone frigid”. Clearly his song-writing ability refuses to suck. You might want to make sure you’re with that special person when the beat drops in “Pretty Wings
”. Magic can happen. The beauty of the song also continues the album’s assumed theme of falling in love at an unseemly time. Maxwell confidently sends his voice out on the mission to arouse: “Oh you played me dirty, your game was so bad…”
If you haven't guessed, this is a smart investment for anyone interested in the smooth styles of Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke. There's no denying the great hook and ascendance of Maxwell's voice as he shows us in his impressive falsetto delivery in the acoustic "Playing Possum
" or the sensual verses in "Stop The World
R&B today has certainly declined in artistic value with artists punishing the scales from ‘uninspired’ to ‘embarrassing’. Maxwell is an island apart and not forgetting where his influence comes. The single major downfall, though, is the short number of tracks especially after a long gap between albums. This mixed with choice moments of his voice becoming too soothing where it’s impossible to keep track of time risks the album being excellent, but forgettable. This is soon forgiven though, as we learn this is the start of a trilogy (blackSUMMERS’night
followed by blacksummers’NIGHT
). When it comes to passionate bedroom music, BLACKsummers’night
soars to the top, almost knocking on the door to the Hall of Classics.