Deep Album Cuts Vol. 67: Maxwell

This week Maxwell is releasing his 5th album blackSUMMERS'night, and he recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of his debut album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. A quick bit of simple math would tell you that that means he's not a very prolific guy -- the 7 years since his last album are only the 2nd-longest gap between albums in his career. But that pace seems to work for him, and to be honest I feel like he's only gotten better over time, I'd be willing to argue that each of these albums has been better than the last, which is why I'm so excited about the new one.

Maxwell Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Welcome
2. Love You
3. Everwanting: To Want You To Want
4. For Lovers Only
5. Help Somebody
6. Whenever Wherever Whatever
7. Drowndeep: Hula
8. NoOne
9. Dancewitme
10. Know These Things: Shouldn't You
11. W/As My Girl
12. Cold
13. No One Else In The Room (with Nas)
14. The Suite Urban Theme (Hush)
15. Mello: Sumthin (Hush)
16. Now/At The Party
17. Stop The World

Tracks 1, 6, and 9 from Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (1996)
Tracks 14 and 15 from MTV Unplugged EP (1997)
Tracks 3, 7 and 10 from Embrya (1998)
Tracks 4, 8, 11 and 16 from Now (2001)
Track 13 from Nas's Street's Disciple (2004)
Tracks 2, 5, 12 and 17 from BLACKsummers'night (2009)

"Whenever Wherever Whatever" has long been one of my favorite Maxwell songs, it surprised me that it was never a charting single because it's a song I've heard a lot on late night slow jam blocks on R&B stations. And the medley from his very excellent episode of "MTV Unplugged" includes a bit of the hit "Sumthin' Sumthin'" but it's more less transformed into a new piece. "No One Else In The Room" appeared on a Nas album, but it was pretty much the only new Maxwell music in the 8 years he was taking between albums, and is a really excellent track dominated by Maxwell, really one of my favorite things he's done.

Maxwell's often grouped in with D'Angelo and Erykah Badu as part of the 'neo soul' marketing trend, and Maxwell has been frank about the fact that Brown Sugar's success actually did help the long delayed Urban Hang Suite get a release date. But I think it speaks well of those artists that they've all gone in their own unique directions that make grouping them together into kind of a fool's game. Stuart Matthewman's role in Maxwell's albums helps place Sade as a reference point for his polished yet arty take on soul music. But the unusual instrumentation and song structures, the moody song cycles, he's really created his own world, Now is a pretty remarkable album.

Sometimes he gets a little pretentious -- Embrya has some of the most unwieldy song titles ever, but I appreciate that he's made a lot of left turns when he could've just been an old-fashioned R&B heartthrob. He's a great singles artist, but there are songs here that could've been as big as "Ascension" or "Fortunate" or "Pretty Wings," but he just chose to make them a little longer or throw in some odd arrangement choices to make a song like "For Lovers Only" more of a classic deep cut. There are a number of pretty cool instrumentals on his albums, and unfortunately I just ended up cutting them all from this playlist because I wanted to focus on Maxwell's tender, raspy voice and lush harmonies.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
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