BLACKsummers'night (released July 7, 2009)
Maxwell always struck me as a strange dude. He seems like the type of guy who spent the past eight years locked in his basement working on his ceramic doll collection. This is the man, after all, who spent an entire video drooling while brushing his teeth and crawling under the bed to sniff his lady's old shoe. See?
You can't deny the man has a following and even though I was never a big fan, I can see why he gets so much love after checking out his latest release BLACKsummers'night. The album, while not as sensuous as his past work, really benefits from the upbeat, jazzy feel. Implementing a live band gives the music much more life than the canned synthesizers that run amok on the radio.
"Pretty Wings," or Prettay Wangs, to quote Maxwell, not only benefits from strong songwriting, but it's gentle without crossing over into boredom. "Bad Habits" starts out slow but kicks into high gear when those horns hit. I'm such a sucker for horns. Throw in some guitars on tracks like "Cold," and I'm set. The album's biggest standout might be the Prince-like "Fistful of Tears."
The tickling of the ivories combined with Maxwell's stronger-than-usual vocals are the perfect juxtaposition.
"Help Somebody" might be slightly preachy and "Playing Possum" never really gets going (it almost sounds unfinished) but my only major complaint is the album's short running time - it's barely 40 minutes. I've long spoken out against bloated albums, but at just nine tracks - which includes an instrumental that sounds like something from one of my old Sonic the Hedgehog games - it seems like Maxwell left us hanging.
Nonetheless, BLACKsummers'night is definitely worth checking out. Maxwell fans, rest easy. Samson didn't lose his strength when he cut his hair.
Best tracks: "Fistful of Tears," "Pretty Wings," "Bad Habits"
4 stars out of 5