|Maxwell - Now|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 21 August 2001|
Columbia Records, 2001
| Performance 8.5 | Sound 8.5 |
Do the words "tap dat ass" mean anything to you? If they do or if you like "slappin’ skins" as much as I do, then this Maxwell record could be just the ticket for you. Like a more soulful Lenny Kravitz with the heart (well without the cholesterol and blocked arteries) of Barry White, Maxwell is one of the hottest male R&B stars currently on the scene. His music is soulful, groovy and beautifully produced. The new record Now is Maxwell’s best work to date, with everything from radio hits to down-and-dirty slow jams.
The single from the record has old-school Prince influence dripping all over it. From the falsetto vocals to the phased-out keyboards to the way there is no mention of the song Itself, called "Lifetime," on the physical CD or liner notes – the tune just screams out with the signature of The Purple One. And if I may be so bold as to offer Maxwell some career advice… stick with the name and the funky jams but try to avoid anything to do with unpronounceable symbols.
Unlike the work of Lenny Kravitz, who Maxwell strongly resembles (to his good fortune), the more uptempo tunes on this record never go for the Jimi Hendrix blow-the-drivers-on-the-Marshall-amp effect with loud guitars and screaming riffs. Maxwell funks harder and adds more subtle chops. The use of horns in many of the songs does sound very Lenny like, but on the tunes like the lead-off track "Get To Know Ya," Maxwell brings more of a dance groove than a rock thang. One way or another, it is a catchy little tune that sounds spectacular on a good music playback system. Low bass, cool acoustic guitars and present vocals, all make for an impressive audio event.
"Noone" is a track that features an engaging beat and, once again, a Prince-esque vocal track, complete with the closely following female backup singer who provides more a duet than a background effect. You'll also find a great bass line and more clean guitar work. "For Lovers Only" is a Boyz II Men-style slow jam, complete with groveling and all of the other acoustic goodies that go along with that sort of tune.
Having grown up listening to Philly Sound tunes produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The Jackson 5, TSOP and many others), I am very familiar with the genre that shares much of the sound of many of the tunes on Now. In fact, the whole record sounds very comfortable, with subtle influences on each track that make it an easy listen, even the first time through. Do I mean that the record sounds like a rip-off? By no means. Maxwell has his own sultry sound that is easy to listen to and available to use to your romantic advantage. Trust me on this last as you would trust Billy Dee Williams. Much like Colt 45, Maxwell’s Now is a record that works every time. It is modern-day soul record that demands a trip to the record store. It is that good.