I want everyone to know this will be a biased review because I, along with so many others, have eagerly been waiting for Maxwell to release another album. It’s been over five years! His previous four albums (I’m counting MTV Unplugged too) were just so good. It’s no wonder that everyone has been craving for more. However, I think this unsatisfied hunger for Maxwell also makes me a harsh critic. If there’s something on his new album that I don’t like, the world will soon know about it…and there is. Fortunately, there’s also a lot more on the Black Puerto Rican’s latest release BlackSummers’night that I adore.
There are several changes that the soulful singer has recently made and one of them is so shocking that it may even disappoint fans: Maxwell has lost his locks! His lack of hair is sad as it was part of his appeal and a homage to his Afro-Puerto Rican roots. However, it’s just a look for now, and hair can always grow back. I believe his mane was a representation of neo-soul's birth, which he had a very large part in bringing to the forefront. In addition to this startling new look, there are also only nine songs on BlackSummers’night. If this isn’t enough for anxious die-hard fans, there is a special edition 2-disc CD/DVD available. Finally, none of the songs on BlackSummers’night have any hint of Spanish vocals like his past tracks did (let’s not forget the first verse of “I’m You, You Are Me And We Are You” and his singing of “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever”). This lack of flavor doesn’t mean he won’t sing them in Spanish live anytime soon. How awesome would it be for Latinos everywhere if Maxwell decides to debut an all-Spanish album?
When I first heard BlackSummers’night, I wasn’t instantly impressed. There are some staple sounds that are expected from an artist you eagerly await to hear from, and I’ll admit that the initial track did not offer that immediately. “Bad Habits” is the first song that features Maxwell’s hallmark high vocals. Yet the sound of “Bad Habits” borders on smooth meets rough, which can be difficult to digest, especially when Maxwell is nearly screaming at you.
While “Bad Habits” didn’t have the same magic that some of Maxwell’s older tracks possess, the remaining songs did rock my world. “Cold” is one of the fastest singles that BlackSummers’night offers and has a unique introduction made by brass and bass that’s sure to leave you breathless. “Cold” has led me to prophesize that this summer women all over the world will be chanting these lines: “She’s not to be played with. 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!” It’s a song you can sing and dance to beyond just listening to it at a lounge over dinner and drinks.
The third track from BlackSummers’night is “Pretty Things,” which is also the first song Maxwell has released to the media. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of songs that begin sounding like nursery rhymes, and that’s what the opening jingle remind me of. Once I bypass the childlike introduction and get over Maxwell’s hairlessness, I realize that he has stayed true to his signature smooth sounds, which continues to evolve. The fourth song, “Help Somebody” is also one of the faster songs on the album, which has hard beating drums and cymbals that accompany Maxwell’s voice well.
The next three songs, titled “Stop The World,” “Love You,” and “Fistful of Tears” are the most sensual on BlackSummers’night. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a baby boom by April 2010! “Stop The World” is all about how the universe comes to a halt when in the presence of his partner, which is something that every beau would appreciate! I especially love the verse “Let the world rage outside ‘cause when I’m here with you the world stops for me.” It’s slow, yet seductive, just how Maxwell should be. With all the commotion and war that is going on, this line seems all too familiar. “Love You” also has amazing lyrics, such as “Let me be anything you want me to be, I just want to love you.” The song is fast for such a declaration, but it works! “Fistful of Tears” is slower in tempo, but has the elements needed to make it the song on the album that has the “we got to work on this relationship” feel.
Wrapping up BlackSummers’night is the very slow “Playing Possum” and the all-instrumental “Phoenix Rise.” When it comes to “Playing Possum” I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that doesn’t have me falling in love. Perhaps his begging has something to do with it. Yet, the song has a hidden gem, the saxophone towards the end of the track. “Phoenix Rise” instantly reminds me of old school house beats layered with synthesizers and drums. There’s nothing like a melody that delivers fond memories, a talent few artists have successfully mastered.
If you need to up your game for getting some lip action, play BlackSummers’night when your potential lover is around! At the end of the album I was happy to say: Welcome back Maxwell.
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