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Maxwell

Our critics' picks in new releases

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In every generation of soul music history, there comes along a singer who's artistic expression epitomizes the art form and who re-energizes the music genre in the process. It can be said, without much argument, that Maxwell is this generation's leading soul artist.

Since his classic debut, the ultra-smooth and seductive Urban Hang Suite in 1995, the New York native has been at the forefront of the neo-soul movement that's taking place these days. A sensuous balladeer who can easily rock a thumping, bass-driven dance jam, Maxwell's versatility, stage presence and smooth, fluid vocals evokes memories of Marvin Gaye in his prime artistic years.

Many music critics considered Maxwell's second CD, Embrya, an example of the sophomore jinx, complaining that the artist had lost his way. Where Urban Hang Suite had a romantic appeal that was deeply sexual, Embrya embraced romanticism on a more spiritual level. Still, despite bad reviews, Embrya went platinum.

With his third effort, Now, Maxwell cleverly combines the sexuality of Urban Hang Suite with the spirituality of Embrya. Co-produced by Sade lead musician Stewart Matthewman (who produced Maxwell's previous two CDs), Now finds Maxwell heading in yet another musical direction--and it's still all good. Armed with mellow string arrangements, soulful horns and funky bass lines, Now introduces us to yet another stage of Maxwell's romantic and musical growth. Ever the optimist that believes that love eventually conquers all, Maxwell taps into relationships of all types, on all levels. There's the funky "Get To Know Ya," in which Maxwell attempts to woo a love interest. Or the romantically sublime "Lifetime," which finds the crooner holding on to love. Overall, the CD is a must-buy. Every track is a wonderful experience in love, romance, spirituality and sexuality. Basically, Now is typical Maxwell--and shows why he's ahead of the pack in the soul-music game.

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