Maxwell | blackSUMMERS’night
Review penned by Brent Faulkner
In the music world, seven years can be likened to an eternity. The changes that occur in such a period of time tend to be monumental. During Maxwell’s seven-year hiatus between 2009’s Grammy-winning LP BLACKsummers’night and current LP blackSUMMERS’night, R&B has changed considerably. Neo- and retro-soul are firmly entrenched in the “old-guard,” while R&B sales are as “cool as a cucumber.” Making a successful second comeback in a period of fifteen years is arduous, but the supremely talented singer/songwriter pulls it off masterfully on blackSUMMERS’night. As with past albums, Maxwell collaborates with songwriter Hod David, as well as Stuart Matthewman.
More than previous albums, SUMMERS’ takes more risks, stretching beyond the bounds of an exclusive live/acoustic sound. Maxwell never compromises his artistry, but rather naturally evolves without “forcing the issue.” The results are marvelous – hits run abundant without miscues. The centerpiece of SUMMERS’ is first single “Lake By The Ocean,” a song that shines because it possesses the signature sound and quality of its artist. “Lake” is quintessential Maxwell, from the old school, refined to the killer falsetto. Romance never sounded more romantic than in the hands of Maxwell. This is a sentiment conveyed throughout SUMMERS’. Opener “All The Ways Love Can Feel” is a moment of evolution for Maxwell, hearkening back to 70s dance/disco music. He proves not only can he deliver sensual on thoughtful, chivalrous ballads, but also records with more groove and a quicker tempo. “All The Ways Love Can Feel” is drenched in falsetto, so much so that the sound and feel nearly supplant the lyrics themselves.
Beyond the spirited opener and the surefire promo single, plenty of other moments shape SUMMERS’ into an electrifying, memorable listening experience. On the lushly orchestrated “1990X,” Maxwell is lost in his infatuation, a prevalent theme throughout SUMMERS’ course. Similarly, on the elite “Hostage,” a vulnerable Maxwell proclaims, “You are the object / I get lost in, all in / I am fallin’ hostage.” Two songs – “Gods” and “Of All Kind” – find Maxwell elevating his love (infatuation) to the loftiest of heights. On “Gods,” Maxwell suggests that “she” controls the course of the relationship, while on “Of All Kind,” he proclaims her to be “like a cloud in my mind / you’re the highest of all kind.” Song after song, there’s more and more brilliance unveiled by SUMMERS’ whether it’s his desire for a “Michelle Obama Lady” on “Ill,” his extraordinary wordplay on “The Fall,” or the hope that the relationship will successfully materialize on “Fingers Crossed.”
All in all, blackSUMMERS’night is another awe-inspiring effort by Maxwell. Maxwell has never “dropped the ball” on an album. The latest tour de force both confirms and expands the consistency and magnificence of Maxwell’s craft. Vocally, Maxwell remains a force, flaunting both his chest (natural) voice and falsetto flawlessly. Furthermore, all 12 songs – 11 of which are full-length – are enjoyable, soundly written, orchestrated, and produced. For the most part, blackSUMMERS’night is devoid of flaw.
The Urban Music Scene