Brooklyn, New York native, Grammy winning American R&B singer and one of the pioneers of the neo-soul movement, Maxwell, has released his latest album and newest work in 7 years – BlackSUMMERS’night. Sequel to the 2009 BLACKsummersNight record which won the singer-songwriter 2 grammy’s, the artist returns in 2016 after a lengthy break with a record concentrating on sincere, earnest and most honest senses. Keeping the listener informed on his deepest and most inherent qualities, the venture employs a controlled rhythm and creative luminosity.
Maxwell’s vocal range is still as clean and in check as you could expect, instantly evident in the first track off the album – All the Ways Love Can Feel. It’s a slow-burning, broken-beat house music centred track – exercising the use of an echoed, dub-tinged guitar and Rhodes piano combo. Testing a few different hues in a colour palette, there’s a swaying mix of sub-genres, though the feel of the entire record mostly meanders around a very spontaneous nature. The chemistry with the session musicians and longtime adopted band members strengthens the entire vibe over the album. This is perhaps best portrayed over the record with Maxwell’s honest vulnerability presence in the songwriting and lyrics. Track’s like Listen Hear gravitate around profound messages of intimacy and reassuring connection; “Nothing is wrong, Nothing is wrong – everything’s right, We gon’ be strong/ We gon’ be strong”. Leading into throw-back sentiments are the ballads on the album. Specifically, the track 1990x is very evocative of the nineties era. Instrumental chimes and ethereal backup vocals steer this track into a nostalgic paradise both exuberant and sweet. An easy standout on BlackSUMMERS’night, Lost, comes in the pattern of a bluesy and heartbroken texture. Maxwell wrote the lyrics without hearing the instrumental first, designing the melody and recording the song in one take. The result is a vintage slow-tempo, soul-crushing number, working well with backing vocals and echoed guitar details – giving a nod to an inevitable Al Green/Marvin Gaye influence. The album’s last track Night settles with a field recording of waves crashing, symbolic of the feelings of contemplation and (neo) soul searching visited over the record.
Generally, after a seven-year hiatus, Maxwell verifies he can still make comforting, warm and stylish music all at once. Fresh and skilled band instrumentation and honest songwriting complete with binding backing vocals, resurrect this R&B singer into modern romanticism relevancy, as BlackSUMMERS’Night reminds us all that real R&B and neo-soul is alive and fine. Manoeuvring through windy passions, the record is a grouping of logical, full bodied and calming gems in a shimmering treasure chest of melodic radiancy.