Saturday, April 02, 2016

Maxwell's Welcome Return

In February I said I'd soon give an update on my favorite male singer-songwriter, Maxwell.

Well, today I'm happy to provide that update by sharing the news that "Lake By the Ocean," the lead single from Maxwell's forthcoming fifth studio album, blackSUMMERS'night, is scheduled for release next Friday, April 8. . . . Yay! (4/8/16 Update: To listen to Maxwell's "Lake By the Ocean," click here.)

No news yet, however, about the album's release date.

Still, the announcement about "Lake By the Ocean" is definitely good news, and to celebrate I share this evening the music video for "Fistful of Tears," the fourth single from Maxwell's last album, 2009's BLACKsummers'night.

But first, a little something about this particular album and how it's connected to the forthcoming one.

BLACKsummers'night, Maxwell's fourth studio album, was released on July 7, 2009 and received universal acclaim from music critics. The album was also a commercial success, debuting at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart in July 2009.

The album produced four singles: "Pretty Wings" (a number one hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart), "Bad Habits," "Cold," and "Fistful of Tears."

"Fistful of Tears" spent 24 weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, peaking at number 11. It charted at number 94 on the Hot 100 and at number 63 on the Radio Songs chart.

Maxwell received six nominations for the 2010 Grammy Awards, winning "Best R&B Album" for BLACKsummers'night and "Best Male R&B Vocal Performance" for "Pretty Wings." "Pretty Wings," which was written by Maxwell under his publishing moniker Musze, was nominated for the "Song of the Year" but lost to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)."

BLACKsummers'night is the first in a planned trilogy, and it was originally said that the second installment in this trilogy, blackSUMMERS'night, would be released in late 2012. That never happened. In December of 2014, Maxwell announced on Twitter that blackSUMMERS'night would be arriving sometime in the winter of 2015. That also didn't happen.

Then a few weeks ago, Maxwell announced that the long-awaited blackSUMMERS'night would be released sometime this year. Next week's release of "Lake By the Ocean," the lead single from the album, may well signify that the album will be arriving sooner rather that later. Let's hope so!

In the meantime, here's Maxwell with "Fisful of Tears," followed by an excerpt from Jon Pareles' New York Times review of Maxwell's February 14, 2016 concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Enjoy!

Maxwell’s Sensual R&B
Makes a Big Room Intimate

By Jon Pareles
New York Times
February 16, 2016

Seven years after releasing his latest album and five years after his previous New York City concert, Maxwell was ready to resume his career as one of R&B’s most elegant accessories to seduction.

It was a return, as if he’d never left, to a realm of slow-motion romance, a gospel of unhurried sensuality and sleek musical detail. “We’re about to stop the world tonight,” one song promised. He was wearing a rose-pink suit, and he worked the stage with the assurance that all eyes were on him. He strolled like a boulevardier, did some slow hip grinds and, more than once, dropped to his knees in limber gratitude.

When he emerged with Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite in 1996, Maxwell was categorized as neo-soul, signaling a rediscovery of soul singing in an R&B world that had been changed forever by hip-hop. Two decades later, the “neo” can go. The hip-hop elements in Maxwell’s music have receded, and his connections to 1960s and 1970s soul — the live instruments, the jazz harmonies, the undulating rhythms — have grown even stronger. He makes rich, straightforward soul music.

His voice was untarnished, steeped in Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Prince and full of knowing ease. He glided through long melismas, placing each touch of vibrato or grain neatly and moving in and out of his otherworldly falsetto. He dissolved the beat of some songs to turn them into free-floating teases — part sermon, part comedy, part come-on. In other songs, he rode the groove with nimble, airborne syncopation. And he made it impossible to guess exactly where improvisation met rehearsal. Often, as he seemed to be following spontaneous impulses, his backup singers and horn section wafted in for precise ensemble passages.

Maxwell brought two new songs on Sunday from an album to be released later this year: “Lake by the Ocean” and “Rose.” Both are ballads about love, but “Rose” — inspired, Maxwell explained, by the 2016 film The Birth of a Nation about the slave rebellion of Nat Turner — envisioned love as a way to transcend the suffering of slavery and racism.

– Jon Pareles
Excerpted from "Maxwell’s Sensual R&B
Makes a Big Room Intimate
The New York Times
February 15, 2016

For more of Maxwell at The Wild Reed, see:
Maxwell in the House
Rockin' with Maxwell
Maxwell's Welcome Return
Maxwell in Concert
The Return of Maxwell
Maxwell's Hidden Gem

Recommended Off-site Links:
Maxwell Answers Burning Questions About His New Album and Why It's Six Years in the Making – Charli Penn (Essence, February 4, 2016).
After Seven Years, Maxwell Will Release the Sequel to BLACKsummers'night This Year – Shenequa Golding (Vibe, February 7, 2016).
Maxwell: Organic Success in SoulNPR Music (January 29, 2010).
Maxwell Takes Soul Back To BasicsNPR Music (July 22, 2009).
A Review of BLACKsummers'night – David Drake (Pitchfork, July 10, 2009).

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